It winks at us from dusk till dawn, we walk to it for exercise and the view, and it’s a must-do destination for visitors, particularly during the annual whale migration, but Cape Byron’s Lighthouse is also still an aid to navigation.
In 2021, Byron Bay’s iconic lighthouse has been named the Heritage Lighthouse of the Year by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA).
The Byron lighthouse, which is is the nation’s most powerful aid to navigation – equivalent to 2.2 million candelas – has stood over the town of Byron Bay as a local landmark for more than 120 years.
Coinciding with World Aids to Navigation Day, the Cape Byron Lighthouse received the prestigious global heritage award for its rarity, aesthetic characteristics, cultural significant, architecture and strong connection to the local community.
The lightstation is managed and operated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and is owned by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
First opened in 1901, the lighthouse was significant in the establishment of Aids to Navigation (AtoN) along the New South Wales coast and is important for its association with coastal shipping over more than a century.
AMSA Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley said the lighthouse remained a vital part of Australia’s AtoN assets, especially along the east coast. ‘Cape Byron Lighthouse continues to stand as a vital aid to navigation for mariners at sea after 120 years, using much of the original equipment and technology of the early 20th century.
‘AMSA is extremely proud that Cape Byron’s long contribution to maritime safety has been recognised by IALA through this prestigious international award.
‘The title of Lighthouse of the Year allows the tower’s historical, architectural, technical and social significance to be truly celebrated on an international platform. This is not just a win for Australia and Byron Bay – but for all lighthouses and AtoNs around the country, as their history and stories are etched into the psyche of many coastal communities.’
The lighthouse was named the 2021 winner over 29 other submissions from 18 IALA member nations. Three finalists were selected by the association’s Heritage Forum – including Lizard Lighthouse (England), and Palmido Lighthouse (Korea) – and Cape Byron was named as the overall winner.
Mr Kinley said the conservation of the Cape Byron Lighthouse was of the utmost importance and there are continuous efforts to ensure the preservation of the site and its heritage.
The historic lighthouse – including the popular museum housed inside – is regularly maintained and cleaned and is one of Australia’s most-prized tourist destinations, attracting more than 500,000 visitors each year.
AMSA is the custodian of around 480 AtoNs across 390 sites, including 62 lighthouses which all have valuable heritage significance.