Hornby Lighthouse

Sydney Harbour National Park

Overview

The historic Hornby Lighthouse is near Watsons Bay in Sydney Harbour National Park. Walk the easy track to the lighthouse for magical views and great whale watching.

Type
Historic buildings/places
Where
Sydney Harbour National Park
Price
Free
Entry fees
Park entry fees apply

Hornby Lighthouse stands tall at South Head, near Watsons Bay in Sydney Harbour National Park. The iconic red and white striped tower is surrounded by magnificent views: Sydney Harbour to the west, Middle Head and North Head to the north, and the expansive Pacific Ocean to the east. It’s a great spot for whale watching in winter.

The lighthouse was built in 1858 following the wrecking of the Dunbar at the foot of South Head. Designed by colonial architect Alexander Dawson, Hornby Lighthouse was the third lighthouse to be built in NSW.

Hornby Lighthouse is accessible via the South Head heritage trail – an easy walk that leaves from Camp Cove at Watsons Bay, taking you past historic gun emplacements before reaching Hornby Lighthouse.

Take a virtual tour of Hornby Lighthouse captured with Google Street View Trekker.

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 https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/historic-buildings-places/hornby-lighthouse/local-alerts

Park info

  • in Sydney Harbour National Park in the Sydney and surrounds region
  • Sydney Harbour National Park is open sunrise to sunset but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.

  • Park entry fees:

    Bradleys Head carpark: $8 per vehicle per day. North Head carpark: $5 per vehicle per day. There are pay and display machines that accept cards and coins - no change given. Chowder Bay Road parking: Monday-Friday: $3 per hour, to a maximum of $16 per day. Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: $4 per hour, to a maximum of $20 per day. If you hold an NPWS All Parks or Multi Parks Pass, you can park free for up to four hours per day - additional time can be purchased. Car parks operated by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust or Mosman Council are not covered by your pass. Please check signs carefully.

    Other fees:

    Landing fee or tour fee applies to visit Sydney Harbour Islands. Fort Denison can only be visited on a tour. To visit Shark, Clark or Rodd islands Island, all vessels, including kayaks, need to pay a $7 per person landing fee. To arrange, please contact 13000 PARKS (13000 72757).

    Buy an annual pass (https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/sydney-harbour-national-park/visitor-info#Fees-and-passes).
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See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Hornby Lighthouse.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    Hornby Lighthouse is in the South Head precinct of Sydney Harbour National Park. To get there:

    • Drive along New South Head Road past Vaucluse to the end
    • Turn right into Robertson Road, then left into Military Road, which becomes Cliff Road.
    • Turn left into Short Street then right into Cove Street and right into Victoria Street
    • Continue to the end and leave the car at Camp Cove carpark
    • Follow South Head Heritage trail, which begins near Camp Cove Kiosk, to the lighthouse.

    Alternatively, the Eastern Suburbs Ferry from Circular Quay, as well as buses 324, 325 and 380, stop a short walk from Camp Cove. Check out the Transport Info website for more information.

    Park entry points

    Road quality

    • Sealed roads

    Vehicle access

    • 2WD vehicles

    Weather restrictions

    • All weather

    Parking

    Parking is available at Camp Cove carpark, including several designated disabled spots.

    Facilities

    Toilet facilities are located along the South Head heritage trail near Lady Bay Beach. Please be aware that Lady Bay Beach is a nude bathing beach.

    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.

    Please supervise children at all times due to rocky ledges, uneven pathways and surrounding harbour.

    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).

    Water activities

    Beaches, rivers and lakes in NSW national parks offer lots of opportunities for water activities. Please take care in the water and find out how to help your family and friends stay safe around water.

    Permitted

    Fishing

    A current NSW recreational fishing licence is required when fishing in all waters.

    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.

    Nearby towns

    Parramatta (54 km)

    Parramatta offers a fascinating insight into early colonial life in Australia. Don't miss a visit to Old Government House, now one of 11 Australian Convict Sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

    www.sydney.com

    Sydney City Centre (36 km)

    No trip to Sydney is complete without spending some time in the city’s beautiful parks. Whether it’s in central areas like Hyde Park or the Royal Botanic Gardens or further out in Centennial Parklands, there’s plenty of green space to go out and enjoy.

    www.sydney.com

    Watsons Bay (24 km)

    With stunning harbour views and gorgeous beaches, Watsons Bay is the perfect destination for anyone seeking the authentic Sydney experience. Visit Watsons Bay and take a stroll along the picturesque coastline, or eat fish and chips at one of Australia's most celebrated seafood restaurants, or soak up the sun at Lady Bay - a popular nude beach!

    www.sydney.com

    Learn more

    Hornby Lighthouse is in Sydney Harbour National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

    A world of history

    Fort Denison, Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

    Although British authorities first planned to set up their penal colony in Botany Bay, the First Fleet of convicts only stayed in Botany Bay for a few days and then set sail around the coast to Sydney Harbour, where the colony was established. Since then, Sydney Harbour has continued to play an important part in the development of the nation and a number of places in the park have strong links to Sydney's history. You'll find buildings constructed using convict labour, maritime and military fortifications, and the Quarantine Station which once housed new boat arrivals to Sydney, protecting Sydneysiders from infectious disease.

    • Beehive Casemate tour NPWS is conducting a series of guided tours of this historic fortification in Sydney Harbour National Park. We'll explore the rarely opened Beehive Casemate as part of this tour at Middle Head, near Mosman.
    • Convict kids - Goat Island Convict kids - Goat Island is a Stage 2 (Years 3-4) school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park, focusing on HSIE. History comes to life on Goat Island when you unexpectedly find yourself on trial for a crime you may or may not have committed. Students experience what life must have been like for Australia's first British settlers and how life could have been much easier if only they had had knowledge of the bush.
    • Fort Denison Fort Denison is a heritage fort on a Sydney Harbour island, once called Pinchgut. This former military site is the most complete Martello Tower in the world and a popular Sydney attraction. Fort Denison is currently closed for maintenance. 
    • Goat Island heritage tour Take a fascinating tour of Goat Island, an iconic Sydney landmark in Sydney Harbour National Park.
    • Japanese mini submarine tour: Fort Denison In 1942, 3 midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour to attack naval vessels docked there. What happened next? Find out on this great harbour tour into Sydney's history in Sydney Harbour National Park.
    • Military relics at Bradleys Head Discover Sydney's military history at the Bradleys Head Fortifications Complex. Bradleys Head is next to Tarongo Zoo in Mosman NSW.
    • South Head Heritage trail The short and easy South Head Heritage trail takes in scenic Sydney Harbour, views, historic gun emplacements and the distinctive red and white striped Hornby Lighthouse.
    • Three islands tour aboard the Gargarle Join an NPWS guide on the historic boat, Gargarle, for a fascinating tour of three islands in Sydney Harbour. The Gargarle was built in the 1950s to transport maritime workers to and from Goat Island.
    • Tour de Forts - Middle Head This excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park is for Stage 2 (Years 3-4) students and focuses on HSIE. Students will visit observation posts, searchlights, gun emplacements and other defensive structures at Middle Head.
    • Tour de forts Middle Head The tour de forts Middle Head school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park is for Stage 5 (Years 9-10) students which focuses on history as a KLA. The Middle Head forts complex covers 150 years of military history and contains one of the oldest surviving colonial fortifications, the 1801 fort above Obelisk Beach.
    • WilderQuest Convict kids on Fort Denison Take this exciting guided WilderQuest journey back in time on Fort Denison. During this fun school holidays activity you'll find out what it was like to be a convict transported to NSW.
    • WilderQuest Convict kids on Goat Island Do you love stories about long ago? If you do, this WilderQuest holiday adventure's for you. We'll take a trip to Goat Island and into Sydney's past.
    Show more

    Aboriginal heritage

    Arabanoo lookout, Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: John Spencer

    Before Australia became a British colony, the area around Sydney Harbour was occupied by the Eora, Guringai and Daruk Aboriginal Nations. Upon the arrival of settlers and convicts, land was cleared to make way for the developing colony, and Aboriginal people were forced further and further away from their traditional camping and hunting grounds. As the colony spread, more evidence of Aboriginal life and culture was destroyed. Today, despite the great spread of the city, you can find many Aboriginal sites like rock engravings and middens - examples of an ancient and enduring cultural heritage and a record of the Eora Peoples' connection to Country.

    • Aboriginal culture: Expanding contacts Arabanoo lookout Aboriginal culture expanding contacts Arabanoo lookout is a Stage 4 (Years 7-8) school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park which focuses on history as a KLA. Embark on a learning journey of Aboriginal culture from pre-colonisation to now.
    • Aboriginal culture: Expanding contacts Bradleys Head Aboriginal culture expanding contacts Bradleys Head is a Stage 4 (Years 7-8) school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park which focuses on history as a KLA. Embark on a learning journey of Aboriginal culture from pre-colonisation to now.
    • Aboriginal culture: Expanding contacts Nielsen Park Aboriginal culture expanding contacts Nielsen Park is a Stage 4 (Years 7-8) school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park which focuses on history as a KLA. Embark on a learning journey of Aboriginal culture from pre-colonisation to now.
    • Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head is named in honour of Arabanoo, the first Aboriginal man to live among European settlers. It's a great spot for whale watching, offering views over North and South Head and the Pacific Ocean.
    • Grotto Point Aboriginal engraving site Sydney Harbour National Park’s rock engravings immerse you in Sydney’s Aboriginal heritage. Head to Grotto Point at Dobroyd Head for historic rock art and scenic views.
    • Who's Arabanoo? This school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park is for Stage 2 (Years 3-4) students and focuses on HSIE. Walk down the track to Reef Beach with an Aboriginal ranger to hear about the cultural history of the area and learn about the European history of surrounding sites.
    • WilderQuest WildThings Come on a WilderQuest WildThings excursion for Stage 1 students, focusing on science and technology. We’ll investigate the living world in Sydney Harbour National Park, home to native birds and animals.
    • WilderQuest WildTracker Take a WilderQuest WildTracker school excursion for Stage 2 students, focusing on science and technology. Students will carry out investigations and explore the living world in Sydney Harbour National Park.
    Show more

    An island paradise

    Bradleys Head, Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

    The park protects five historic harbour islands. Discover the rich convict and maritime heritage of Goat Island, along with stunning views from all angles. Why not picnic at Rodd or Shark Island? Set aside for public enjoyment as early as 1879, both offer picnic areas, beaches and paths for you to explore. The park’s exceptional landscapes are the perfect setting for fishing, swimming, scuba diving and soaking up the views. Head to Clark Island for an Aboriginal cultural experience and enjoy the city lights as you dine on Fort Denison. Sydney Harbour National Park is beloved by landscape photographers, so why not bring your camera and take a few shots? 

    • Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head is named in honour of Arabanoo, the first Aboriginal man to live among European settlers. It's a great spot for whale watching, offering views over North and South Head and the Pacific Ocean.
    • Bradleys Head Amphitheatre Bradleys Head Amphitheatre is an exceptionally popular place within Sydney Harbour National Park. A fabulous lookout, it's also a great picnic area and fishing spot.
    • Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk Take the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk for beautiful views of Sydney Harbour. This easy walk takes you from Taronga Zoo to the beach and cafes at Chowder Bay, and there is a guided tour to download.  

    Diverse landscapes

    Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head, Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

    Immerse yourself in nature at Sydney Harbour National Park. Exploring its varied scenery, you'll find everything from sandstone cliffs and rocky foreshores to quiet beaches and bushland. Stand beneath gigantic Sydney red gums and Port Jackson figs or absorb the sheer size of the harbour from a headland lookout.

    • Bottle and Glass Point Bottle and Glass Point is an ideal picnic spot in Nielsen Park in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Enjoy lovely harbour views and go fishing, snorkelling, diving or swimming.
    • Manly scenic walkway Also known as the Spit Bridge to Manly Walk, Manly Scenic Walkway is among Sydney's best walking tracks. Enjoy bush, beach and beautiful views on this excellent day walk.

    Native birds and animals

    Water dragon (Physignathus lesueurii), Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: John Spencer

    You'll probably spot at least one of the park's 150 bird species on your visit, like a white-bellied sea eagle or a New Holland honeyeater. If you're near Manly, you may be lucky enough to glimpse an endangered little penguin as it is the state's only known mainland colony. If you happen to see unusual webbed footprints on a beach or shoreline, they may well belong to a native water rat looking for seafood in shallow water close to the shoreline.

    • Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk Take the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk for beautiful views of Sydney Harbour. This easy walk takes you from Taronga Zoo to the beach and cafes at Chowder Bay, and there is a guided tour to download.  
    • Fairfax walk The paved Fairfax Walk is easy, gentle and ideal for walking with children. Located at North Head in Sydney Harbour National Park, it's a great walk for whale watching.
    • Wet and dry environments - Bradleys Head This excursion experience has been updated and is now being delivered in line with the new NSW Department of Education Curriculum. We will be revising this excursion's name and information online soon. Contact your local national parks office for more information about the updated excursion.
    • WilderQuest WildThings Come on a WilderQuest WildThings excursion for Stage 1 students, focusing on science and technology. We’ll investigate the living world in Sydney Harbour National Park, home to native birds and animals.
    • WilderQuest WildTracker Take a WilderQuest WildTracker school excursion for Stage 2 students, focusing on science and technology. Students will carry out investigations and explore the living world in Sydney Harbour National Park.

    Plants and animals you may see

    Animals

    • Humpback whale breaching. Photo: Dan Burns

      Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

      The humpback whale has the longest migratory path of any mammal, travelling over 5000km from its summer feeding grounds in Antarctica to its breeding grounds in the subtropics. Its playful antics, such as body-rolling, breaching and pectoral slapping, are a spectacular sight for whale watchers in NSW national parks.

    Plants

    • 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.

    • Blueberry ash. Photo: Jaime Plaza

      Blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus)

      The blueberry ash is a rainforest shrub which produces blue olive-shaped berries and spectacular bell-shaped flowers, which often appear on the plant together. It is a tall slender shrub or small tree found in rainforest, tall eucalypt forest and coastal bushland in eastern NSW, south-east Queensland and Victoria.

    • Flannel flowers. Photo: Michael Jarman

      Flannel flower (Actinotus helianthi)

      The delicate flannel flower is so named because of the soft woolly feel of the plant. Growing in the NSW south coast region, extending to Narrabri in the Central West and up to south-east Queensland, its white or pink flowers bloom all year long, with an extra burst of colour in the spring.

    • Smooth-barked apple. Photo: Jaime Plaza

      Smooth-barked apple (Angophora costata)

      Smooth-barked apple gums, also known as Sydney red gum or rusty gum trees, are Australian native plants found along the NSW coast, and in the Sydney basin and parts of Queensland. Growing to heights of 15-30m, the russet-coloured angophoras shed their bark in spring to reveal spectacular new salmon-coloured bark.

    Environments in this park

    Education resources (1)

    School excursions (14)

    Hornby lighthouse and South Head. Photo: David Finnegan