Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Hat Head National Park

Overview

Hat Head National Park on the mid-north coast of NSW near South West Rocks is a natural paradise. Explore the lighthouse, camp by the beach and go fishing and swimming.

Type
Historic buildings/places
Where
Hat Head National Park
Price
Free
Entry fees
Park entry fees apply
Bookings
Guided lighthouse tours are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1pm – contact (02) 6566 6301.
Please note

It’s a short but steep climb to the lighthouse – be sure to wear sturdy shoes.

Standing high on a narrow headland, Smoky Cape Lighthouse is surrounded by the stunning coastal scenery of Hat Head National Park. The lighthouse itself is as beautiful as the views – check out its winding staircase and octagonal tower.

Built in 1891, this heritage lighthouse is one of the last designed by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet. Smoky Cape headland was so named by Captain Cook after he saw Aboriginal fires burning there in 1770. Guided tours of the lighthouse are available if you would like to find out more.

Smoky Cape is a fantastic spot for whale watching, birdwatching and picnicking, and you can stay overnight at the lighthouse keepers’ cottage. Don’t miss the views at nearbyCaptain Cook’s lookout.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/historic-buildings-places/smoky-cape-lighthouse/local-alerts

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Smoky Cape Lighthouse.

Getting there and parking

Smoky Cape lighthouse is in the Smoky Cape precinct of Hat Head National Park. To get there:

  • Take Arakoon Road from South West Rocks
  • Turn into Lighthouse Road and follow the signs to Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Road quality

  • Sealed roads

Vehicle access

  • 2WD vehicles

Weather restrictions

  • All weather

Parking

Parking is available at the nearby Captain Cook’s lookout.

Best times to visit

This park's sweeping beaches are extremely inviting during summer, but its wildlife and walking tracks make it a joy to visit all year round.

Spring

A birdwatcher's delight as the heath shrubland bursts into a kaleidoscope of wild flowers and birds come from all around, listen out for the guttural call of glossy black cockatoos.

Summer

Take the Connors track beach walk to experience wildflower displays amongst the banksias .

Winter

Spot humpback and southern right whales migrating to northern waters between May and July.

Weather, temperature and rainfall

Summer temperature

Average

19°C and 26°C

Highest recorded

41.7°C (1968)

Winter temperature

Average

13°C and 20°C

Lowest recorded

4°C (1997)

Rainfall

Wettest month

March

The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

343.7mm

Maps and downloads

Safety messages

Beach safety

Beaches in this park are not patrolled, and can sometimes have strong rips and currents. These beach safety tips will help you and your family stay safe in the water.

Mobile safety

Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency + app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

Prohibited

Pets

Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the OEH pets in parks policy for more information.

Smoking

NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

Learn more

Smoky Cape Lighthouse is in Hat Head National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

A long story to tell

Gap Beach, Hat Head National Park. Photo: Barbara Webster

The park is part of the traditional land of the Dunghutti people and remains a significant place. The sea, rivers and wetlands provided a rich source of food like fish and shellfish and the strong Aboriginal heritage is evident today. The park is culturally important to Aboriginal people as it contains ceremonial grounds, burial sites, shell middens and campsites.

A place to play

Views of the beach in Hat Head National Park. Photo: Debbie McGerty

Hat Head National Park protects an extraordinary amount of landscapes, birds and animals, but also offers countless opportunities for secluded relaxation, recreation and enjoyment. Sweeping beaches, rainforests, impressive dunes, and rocky headlands make it the perfect holiday or day trip for walking, swimming, hiking, bird watching and fishing.

  • Green Island walking track Green Island walking track goes through coastal heathland to a lookout with scenic views to Smoky Cape Lighthouse, offering excellent birdwatching and whale watching.
  • Smoky Cape Lighthouse Hat Head National Park on the mid-north coast of NSW near South West Rocks is a natural paradise. Explore the lighthouse, camp by the beach and go fishing and swimming.

Biodiversity

Glossy black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami), Hat Head National Park. Photo: John Spencer

Hat Head National Park is rich with birdlife such as black swans, egrets, herons, fantails, and honeyeaters. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a hawk, falcon or eagle soaring above the cliffs. During the spring, you might catch a rare glimpse of a glossy black cockatoo - listen out for the raucous call of this endangered species as it visits the park to feed on ripe she-oak fruit seeds. Resident wildlife at Hat Head includes red-necked and swamp wallabies as well as grey kangaroos and sugar gliders. You're bound to see butterflies fluttering past you in Hat Head National Park. One type, the regent skipper, is only found in Hat Head National Park and Limeburners Creek National Park. With black wings and a range of yellow and red dots and stripes, you might see the regent skipper feeding on tuckeroos in the park's rainforest.

  • Gap Beach walking track Gap Beach walking track is a challenging walk offering birdwatching, swimming, fishing, and scenic views in Hat Head National Park near South West Rocks.

Striking landscapes

Little Bay to Smoky Cape walk, Hat Head National Park. Photo: John Spencer

Some of the largest in New South Wales, the park's enormous sand dunes can't help but catch your eye. The dunes provide a buffer from the ocean, protecting the land from salty winds and waves. They are slowing growing and moving inland, gradually taking over the park's wetlands. See if you can make it to the top of the dunes - you'll get a bird's eye view and feel like you're on top of the world.

  • Little Bay to Smoky Cape Discover the beauty of the South West Rocks region on the Little Bay to Smoky Cape walk. Hike this 10km coast walk and enjoy sensational views.
  • Rainforest walking track The family will love this short walk in the northern precinct of Hat Head National Park. It offers scenic views, wetlands, wildlife and birdwatching.

Plants and animals you may see

Animals

  • White-bellied sea eagle. Photo: John Turbill

    White-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

    White-bellied sea eagles can be easily identified by their white tail and dark grey wings. These raptors are often spotted cruising the coastal breezes throughout Australia, and make for some scenic bird watching. Powerful Australian birds of prey, they are known to mate for life, and return each year to the same nest to breed.

  • Kookaburra. Photo: OEH

    Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)

    Of the 2 species of kookaburra found in Australia, the laughing kookaburra is the best-known and the largest of the native kingfishers. With its distinctive riotous call, the laughing kookaburra is commonly heard in open woodlands and forests throughout NSW national parks, making these ideal spots for bird watching.

  • Grey headed flying fox. Photo: David McKellar

    Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)

    The grey-headed flying fox is one of several threatened Australian animals and the largest Australian native bat, with a wingspan that extends up to 1m. Known to inhabit woodlands, rainforests and urban regions, these fascinating nocturnal mammals congregate in large roost sites along the east coast of NSW.

  • Echidna. Photo: Ken Stepnell

    Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

    One of only 2 egg-laying mammals in the world, the short-beaked echidna is one of the most widespread of Australian native animals. Covered in spines, or quills, they’re equipped with a keen sense of smell and a tube-like snout which they use to break apart termite mounds in search of ants.

Plants

  •  Black sheoak. Photo: Barry Collier

    Black sheoak (Allocasuarina littoralis)

    The black sheoak is one of a number of casuarina species found across the east coast of Australia and nearby tablelands. Growing to a height of 5-15m, these hardy Australian native plants can survive in poor or sandy soils. The barrel-shaped cone of the black sheoak grows to 10-30mm long.

  • Grass trees, Sugarloaf State Conservation Area. Photo: Michael Van Ewijk

    Grass tree (Xanthorrea spp.)

    An iconic part of the Australian landscape, the grass tree is widespread across eastern NSW. These Australian native plants have a thick fire-blackened trunk and long spiked leaves. They are found in heath and open forests across eastern NSW. The grass tree grows 1-5m in height and produces striking white-flowered spikes which grow up to 1m long.

Environments in this park

Education resources (1)

Smoky Cape Lighthouse, Hat Head National Park. Photo: David Finnegan/NSW Government