The Cape Willoughby Lighthouse is at Cape Willoughby, a rocky point on the South East coast of the Dudley Peninsula. It is accessible by the Cape Willoughby Road. The Light and surrounds are managed by the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and visitors are welcome.

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Cape Willoughby Lighthouse

The first lighthouse constructed in South Australia was at Cape Willoughby on Kangaroo Island. Originally called the Sturt Light, after the explorer Charles Sturt, the lighthouse covered the approach to Backstairs Passage and Gulf St Vincent. It was illuminated for the first time on 16 January 1852.[1]

Cape Willoughby was visited and named by British explorer Matthew Flinders in 1802. In 1849, with traffic through Backstairs Passage fast increasing, a move was made to build a Lighthouse at the Cape, for safer sea travel. In 1851 Trinity House, Port Adelaide, was established by the South Australian Government as the overseeing body for lighthouses, lightships, buoys and other navigational aids.

Kangaroo Island locals Messrs Thomas, Clark, Bates, Bristow, Johnston, Perky, Tapley, Cheeseman, Seymour and Simpson provided the bullock teams, local materials and labour for the building of the light tower and the oil-burning light began flashing in 1852.

The first Head Lightkeeper at the Sturt Light was Capt. William Cook Cawthorne [2] who served from 1852 to 1862. In 1856 Trinity House recorded that the Second Lightkeeper was Nathaniel Thomas and the Third was William Seymour. Others who served were Messrs McArthur, Carter, Taylor, Franks, John Tapley and others. [3]

In 1853 the steamer Osmanli was wrecked off D'Estrees Bay and a lifeboat was rowed 40 miles to Cape Willoughby to seek help. Nat Thomas, Second Keeper, set out next day overland with supplies for the survivors.

In March 1856 the Trinity Board inspected the Sturt Light and found the stock of fuel to be: teaseed oil, 230 gallons; seal oil, 100 gallons and that there were only three spare lamps. Arrangements were made for a new order of 15 lamps. The Board also reviewed a complaint from the Master of the steamship Burra Burra who had not seen the light when passing only weeks before and claimed that the lamp could not have been lit. Journal entries by Capt Cawthorne and Third Keeper Michael Seymour confirmed that the light had been working from sunset to dawn. The Master of the Trinity Board made careful measurements and concluded that the light was not visible from some angles and an error had been made by the Captain of the Burra Burra.

The Board expressed "their satisfaction at the general good order, cleanliness, and discipline exhibited at the Sturt Lighthouse, and that the whole state of the establishment reflects great credit on the Head Keeper and the Under Keepers there stationed." [4]


  1. State Library of South Australia Archives
  2. South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Mon 1 Dec 1851 Page 3 LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL.
  3. Kangaroo Island Then and Now Kingscote Country Women's Assoc. c. 1955, Page 24.
  4. CAPE WILLOUGHBY—STURT LIGHTHOUSE, KANGAROO ISLAND. TUESDAY, MARCH 18. South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) Thursday 27 March 1856 p 3 Article

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