Celebrating 150 Years of the Lighthouse Tower | Southern Great Barrier Reef

Celebrating 150 Years of the Lighthouse Tower

Historic Bustard Head Lighthouse, situated just north of the Town of 1770, was established as the first coastal lighthouse tower in Queensland and it began operation on 26 June 1868 – 150 years ago.

Every evening since 26 June 1868, the light can be seen for over 20 nautical miles in the distance, performing its unique light sequence to ensure safe passage for vessels navigating Queensland’s dangerous rock and reef strewn coast.

The Bustard Head Light is a necessary coastal navigation aid for safe shipping and the vigil was consistently maintained by light-keepers until 1986 when the light was automated. For 118, years a light-keeper would climb the steps of the Bustard Head Lighthouse tower and light the lamp, throughout the night.

In 1986 the Bustard Head Lightstation was de-manned and the lighthouse tower automated. This unfortunately led to vandalism over the next 16 years and some buildings were almost destroyed. However not the lighthouse tower itself, which was constructed of prefabricated cast iron plates, and there is even an image on display at Bustard Head Lightstation today, of this tower erected in the Hennet, Spinks and Co yard in Bridgwater, England before it was flat packed and transported to Brisbane in April 1867.

Thankfully, in 2002, with the formation of the Bustard Head Lighthouse Association, restoration of this National and State heritage listed site began, and today all the buildings are in pristine condition and the lightstation’s tale of Australian history lives on through volunteer caretakers and guided tours.

1770 LARC! Tours played a significant role in the restoration, using their robust amphibian vessels to transport required building materials and volunteer labour to the Lightstation during the many months of hard work at the site.

The light-keepers’ cottages, the engine room and the lightstation cemetery have been regularly maintained and remain in immaculate condition since the major restoration project, with ongoing enhancements to the historical displays added regularly.

1770 LARC! Tours owner and operator Neil Mergard proudly provides guests with informative, guided tours to visit the Bustard Head Lightstation on his full day LARC! Paradise Tour. Highlights include the restored Head Light-keeper’s cottage with quality maritime artefacts and memorabilia such as lenses, bulbs, burners, model ships, scrimshaw on whales’ teeth, original oil paintings, historic photographs and the telescope of the first Superintendent of Bustard Head Lightstation; and the magnificent ocean panorama visible from the balcony of the Lighthouse tower. Bustard Head Lighthouse is in fact the ONLY operating lighthouse tower in Queensland that is open to the public.

The elements of enjoyment, education and intrigue provided on Neil’s tours are well and truly reflected by the growing number of guests who venture to the Southern Great Barrier Reef region of Queensland to immerse themselves in the history of the location; and by the volume of people who purchase the non-fiction books written about Bustard Head Lightstation – Lighthouse of Tragedy and Light of Their Lives.

Author Stuart Buchanan was once a Light-keeper at Bustard Head himself and subsequent visits in his yacht led him, with his late wife Shirley, to spearhead the restoration and the displays of today, which provide a vivid tale of the last 150 years at Bustard Head.

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