The Wadjemup Lighthouse, also known as Rottnest Island Light Station, was the first stone lighthouse constructed in Western Australia and the nation’s first to have a rotating beam. Overlooking the Perth coast, the lighthouse helped guide ships into the busy Fremantle Port. Constructed in 1849, the original lighthouse stood 65 feet tall (20 meters) and was made from local limestone. Rottnest Island had been used as a penal settlement for Aboriginal people since 1838. Aboriginal convicts were forced to construct the lighthouse over the course of nine years.
On January 18, 1849, Samuel Thomas was appointed the lighthouse’s first keeper, two years before the lighthouse was lit in 1851. Thomas used a system of flags and flares to indicate the arrival of ships. These signals were then seen from the lookout on the mainland at Fremantle.
The original lighthouse was knocked down and a larger tower was built in 1896. This light was connected to a supply of electricity in 1936 and eventually became fully automatic in 1990. It continues to be an essential navigation light for ships sailing to and from Fremantle, Perth.
The Wadjemup Lighthouse is now a State Heritage Listed building and is part of a small gathering of structures which includes the foundations of the original 1849 tower, the 19th-century lighthouse keeper’s cottage, and a World War II battery observation post.
Know Before You Go
There are guided tours which give visitors the opportunity to climb the 155 stairs of the Wadjemup Lighthouse.