Cape Willoughby Conservation Park


Cape Willoughby Conservation Park is home to South Australia's oldest operational lighthouse. This site is rich in maritime history; from the lives of the original keepers to the ships that wrecked off its scenic coastline. Take in the beautiful views that are Cape Willoughby.

Opening hours

Open daily. Closed Christmas Day.

Cape Willoughby Conservation Park Visitor Centre open daily from 10 am to 4 pm.

Guided Tours start from 10am, 12pm, 1pm and 3pm. Persons under the age of 4 are not permitted on the climb thelighthouse unless they are in an approved baby harness or backpack.

Site Entry Fee

$5.50 per adult, payable upon arrival in the retail section of the Visitors Centre.

Closures and safety

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may also be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

You can determine the current fire danger rating by checking the Fire Ban District map on the CFS website.

Check the CFS website or call the CFS Bushfire Information Hotline 1800 362 361 for:

Listen to your local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety.

Contact details

Visitor information, bookings and park management:

Cape Willoughby Visitor Centre & Cape Willoughby Tours
Phone: (08) 8553 4466

Cape Willoughby Commercial Tour Operators
Phone: (08) 8553 4466

Emergency contacts:

Medical, fire (including bushfire) and police emergency situations
Phone: Triple Zero - 000

Police Assistance
Phone: 131 444 for non-urgent police assistance

National Parks and Wildlife Service SA – After-hours duty officer
Phone: 0477 334 898

Injured wildlife:

Within the park
Please contact National Parks Wildlife Service South Australia Kangaroo Island office on (08) 8553 4444 or the after-hours duty officer on 0477 334 898.

Outside of the park
Please contact a local wildlife rescue group.

Marine mammals
If you find a sick or stranded marine mammal (including whales, seals, sea lions and dolphins), please contact National Parks Wildlife Service South Australia Kangaroo Island office on (08) 8553 4444 or the after-hours duty officer on 0477 334 898.

Getting there

Cape Willoughby Conservation Park is located 27km south east of Penneshaw, on Kangaroo Island. Access is via Cape Willoughby Road.

You can get to Kangaroo Island from mainland South Australia on the SeaLink ferry. This vehicle and passenger ferry operates daily (except Christmas Day) between Cape Jervis (two hours south of Adelaide) and Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island. The journey takes 45 minutes for the 16km crossing.

Visit the SeaLink website for more information and bookings.

Assistance dogs

Assistance dogs are permitted in most public places and are therefore welcome in South Australia’s parks and reserves. Assistance dogs must be appropriately restrained on a lead and remain under your effective control at all times while in a park or reserve.

As per the dogs in parks and reserves policy, if the dog is not an accredited assistance dog, they must be trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate that disability and meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for a dog in a public place. However, refusal may be given if the person with the disability is unable to produce evidence the dog is an assistance dog with the appropriate training.

Before taking your assistance dog into a park that does not normally allow dogs, it is highly recommended that you contact us so we can provide you with the latest information on any potential hazards within specific parks that may affect your dog. Please contact the park via the contact details provided under the contact tab or contact the visitor service centre via email or on Facebook.

Dogs not allowed

Dogs are not permitted in this park.

Discover which parks you can walk your dog in on our find a park tool or read 12 dog-friendly walks in Adelaide Parks by Good Living for inspiration.

Drones not allowed

It is an offence to fly drones (remotely piloted aircraft) in South Australia’s national parks, conservation parks, game reserves, recreation parks or regional reserves and marine park restricted access zones without a permit. Permits are considered for scientific research and commercial filming only.


  • Information centre
  • Retail Section
  • Toilets
  • Accessible toilets
  • Paid Guided Tours available in this park.

Useful information

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited. Dead wood plays a vital role in providing shelter for animals and adding nutrients to the soil.

Traditional owners

Aboriginal peoples have occupied, enjoyed and managed the lands and waters of this State for thousands of generations. For Aboriginal first nations, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state.

There are many places across the State that have great spiritual significance to Aboriginal first nations. At some of these places Aboriginal cultural protocols, such as restricted access, are promoted and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of Traditional Owners.

In places where protocols are not promoted visitors are asked to show respect by not touching or removing anything, and make sure you take all your rubbish with you when you leave.

Aboriginal peoples continue to play an active role in caring for their Country, including in parks across South Australia.

European history

Cape Willoughby once played a vital role in the shipping trade of the young colony of South Australia before the advent of efficient forms of land transport.

Cape Willoughby Lighthouse was built to assist the safe journey of ships passing through the treacherous stretch of water known as Backstairs Passage during a time of rapidly expanding coastal shipping trade between the eastern colonies and the colony of South Australia.

The lighthouse was originally known as the Sturt Light after the explorer Captain Charles Sturt. The tower took over two years to construct and the workers lived in tents during this time. South Australia's first lighthouse was officially opened in January 1852, and manned 24 hours a day by 3 lightkeepers who lived here with their families.

Cape Willoughby Lighthouse was constructed from locally available granite and lime mortar. Quarrying is evident near the lighthouse atop the cliffs of Devils Kitchen. It is thought holes were hand-drilled into the rock in the quarry and filled with wood. This was kept wet and the expanding wood would crack the rock which was then shaped prior to construction. The result was a circular tower of roughly dressed granite masonry.

The walls of the lighthouse are 1.4m thick at the base and taper to 0.86m thick at the top. The tower, from the base to the balcony, is 20.5 metres high (67 feet and 3 inches) and is round for wind resistance. The interior base of the tower is one of the widest in Australia and the lightkeepers and their families were even known to have hosted parties and dances here.

The original Deville Lantern room housed optical apparatus (light) consisting of 15 multiple wick oil burner lamps. This was reflected intermittently by revolving reflectors powered by a weight driven motor, and appeared as a flashing light. Its greatest intensity was every 1.5 minutes and in clear weather could reach 24 nautical miles.

In 1925 the lantern room and light were replaced by a more modern and powerful Chance Brothers system. The light consisted of a pressurised incandescent kerosene lantern with a three ton revolving Fresnel lens. The lens floated in a bath of mercury to reduce friction when turning. It was driven by 146lb weights which had to be wound up every 2.5 hours working on a system similar in principle as a grandfather clock. The mercury proved to be a health hazard to the lightkeepers.

In 1959 the lighthouse was electrified by two diesel powered generators installed at the station.

The lightstation became fully automated in 1974-75 when 240 volts main power was connected. A standby diesel generator and battery bank provided backup during power failure. The lantern house was also removed and was replaced with new fibreglass lantern housing. The original housing was later installed atop a stub tower in the Kingscote Museum, where it remains to this day.

The original wooden jarrah spiral staircase was also replaced with a steel structure due to wet rot and continual use.

Cape Willoughby Lightstation was one of the last manned lighthouses in Australia. It was officially automated (unmanned) in 1992.

In 2003, the lightstation was downgraded when a ML300 beacon was installed, consisting of a 35 Watt 12 Volt lamp, which is visible for 11 nautical miles. In March 2011, this was replaced with a Vega LED beacon. It is powered by two 12 Volt batteries, and the battery float is charged from the mains.

See and do

Lighthouse climb

Lighthouse Access is only available on a tour. Persons under theage of 4 are not permitted on the climb unless they are in an approved babyharness or backpack.

Historic Lighthouse Tour (45 minutes, includes lighthouse climb)

A walking tour of the Cape Willoughby light station starting in Cape Willoughby’s visitor centre. Our guides will walk you around the site while giving you the fascinating history of Cape Willoughby from the time of the original settlement up to current day. You will see a First Order Lantern; an interactive experience, and finish with a climb to the top of the lighthouse.

When: Daily at 10 am and 1 pm

Cost: adult $17, concession $14, children $11.

Express tour (20 minutes, is a lighthouse climb)

Starting at the base of the lighthouse, our guide will climb the102 steps with you to the top of South Australia’s oldest lighthouse. Take inthe breathtaking views from the top while listening to history of thelighthouse.

When: Daily at 12pm and 3pm.

Cost: $10.50per person

Access to the lighthouse balcony may be restricted duringextreme weather conditions. Access involves climbing stairs. Children under 4are not permitted to use the stairs unless they are in an approved baby harnessor backpack.

Rangers recommend

We have picked the brains of our park rangers to find out what they would recommend you see and do whilst visiting this park.

  • Joining a guided tour of the lightstation. Enjoy spectacular views across Backstairs Passage from the top of the lighthouse. From here you can occasionally see large schools of salmon, or humpback, southern right and killer whales.
  • Gaining an insight into the working and living conditions endured by the early light keepers in this harsh and remote environment along the Cape Willoughby Lightstation Heritage Hike.
  • Visiting the Cape Willoughby park visitor centre which features a museum with a collection of old photographs of the lightstation, as well as equipment that was once used at the site.
  • Staying in one of the lighthouse keepers cottages is a must!


Bushwalking is a fantastic way to connect with nature, keep fit and spend time with family and friends. South Australia's national parks feature a range of trails that let you experience a diversity of landscapes.

Moderate hikes

  • Cape Willoughby Lightstation Heritage Hike (1 hour, 1.9km)

    This hike will take you into the sheltered gully of the early 1853 settlement. It will give you an insight into the early light keepers' lives and how their demanding routine and sense of isolation was heightened by the distance between their homes and the lighthouse.

    A self guided walking trail brochure is available at the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse Visitor Centre. It gives information about the original lightstation settlement at points of interest along the trail.

    Access: this return loop hike begins and ends at the visitor centre.

    More information and maps can be found in the Parks of Kangaroo Island guide.

Whale watching

Between mid-May and late October whales migrate from sub-Antarctic water to the comparatively warmer waters of the South Australian coast to calve and mate. While our whale visitors are mostly southern right whales, we also have sightings of sperm whales, humpbacks, blue whales and the occasional orca.

The Cape Willoughby Lighthouse is an ideal vantage point to see these majestic creatures, so if you are visiting during whale season, keep an extra keen eye on the ocean.

Mountain biking

There are no designated mountain biking trails in this park.



There has been 29 different types of whales recorded in South Australia. The most common are the southern right whale, humpback whale, sperm whale, blue whale and orca whale (killer whale). Of these you are most likely to spot a southern right whale along the South Australian coast.

Southern right whale
Every year, between May to October, southern right whales gather along the southern coastline of Australia to mate and calve, before returning to sub-Antarctic waters to feed.

The southern right whale is a large whale which can grow up to 17.5 metres and weigh over 80 tons. The vast majority of southern right whales are black in colour with distinctive white patterns on their heads that are calluses formed by small crustaceans known as 'whale lice'. The patterns are visible at birth and are unique to each whale allowing researchers to identify individual whales.


Want to help?

To find out how you can help in this park or nearby, please visit Natural Resources Kangaroo Island – Volunteering.

Want to join others and become a Park Friend?

To find out more about Friends of Parks groups please visit Friends of Parks South Australia.

You could join others to help look after a park. You can take part in working bees, training and other events.



The international Trail Users Code of Conduct is to show respect and courtesy towards other trail users at all times.

Ensure that you:

  • when hiking, wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen
  • be aware of weather conditions and avoid walking during the hottest part of the day
  • make sure you have appropriate weather proof clothing
  • carry enough water to be self-sufficient
  • please be respectful of other users at all times
  • stay on the designated trails and connector tracks for your own safety, and prevent the spread of declared weeds to other areas in the park
  • ensure someone knows your approximate location and expected time of return
  • take appropriate maps.
  • Walk, hike or trek - what's the difference?

Driving on Kangaroo Island

If you plan to drive on Kangaroo Island roads:

  • Be aware that the condition of gravel and dirt roads is unpredictable. Slow down.
  • Avoid driving from sunset to sunrise to avoid collisions with our wildlife.
  • You must stop your car off the road before you take photos.
  • If you are visiting from overseas, remember we drive on the left in Australia!

To learn more, check out 'Expect the Unexpected' safety video courtesy of Kangaroo Island Council and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. The video shows you what to expect on Kangaroo Island roads and how to drive safely while visiting. The video is available in English, Italian, Chinese, French, German, Hindi and Indonesian languages.

Whale watching

Maintaining the legal distance from marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals is important, both for our safety and that of the animals.

The animals may be seriously injured if they are struck by a vessel or frightened young may become separated from their mothers. Even if there is no contact, coming too close can disrupt feeding, breeding and migratory behaviours.

Regular water users should make themselves familiar with all the rules for interacting with marine mammals by viewing the National Parks and Wildlife (Protected Animals – Marine Mammals) Regulations 2010.

In the Water

  • Prescribed vessels (high-powered craft such as jet-skis, hydrofoils and boats used for water skiing or paragliding): Never closer than 300m.
  • Other vessels (for example, cabin cruisers, yachts, ‘tinnies’, inflatables, kayaks, wind surfers and kite surfers): No closer than 100m.
  • Other vessels within 300m of a whale: No anchoring; maximum speed 4 knots; maximum time 60 minutes.
  • Swimmers (including surfers and boogie boarders): No closer than 30m.

On Land

  • No closer than 30m (or 50m if the whale is distressed, stranded or entangled)

In the air

  • Planes and remotely piloted aircrafts (drones) must be at least 300m from any whale or other marine mammal (additional Civil Aviation Safety Authority restrictions apply).
  • Helicopters and gyrocopters must be at least 500m from any whale or other marine mammal.

Special rules exist for:

  • whale calves: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m
  • distressed, stranded or entangled whales: all vessels and swimmers – no closer than 300m


Can I have a fire or barbecue?

  • Wood fires and solid fuel fires are prohibited throughout the year.
  • Gas fires and liquid fuel fires are permitted, other than on days of total fire ban.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

Closures and safety

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may also be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

You can determine the current fire danger rating by checking the Fire Ban District map on the CFS website.

Check the CFS website or call the CFS Bushfire Information Hotline 1800 362 361 for:

Listen to your local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety.

Know before you go

Every national park is different, each has its own unique environment, it is important to be responsible while enjoying all the park has to offer.

Please ensure that you:

  • leave your pets at home
  • do not feed birds or other animals, it promotes aggressive behaviour and an unbalanced ecology
  • do not bring generators (except where permitted), chainsaws or firearms into the park
  • leave the park as you found it - there are no bins in national parks, please come prepared to take your rubbish with you.
  • abide by the road rules (maintain the speed limit)
  • respect geological and heritage sites
  • do not remove native plants
  • are considerate of other park users.
  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited. Dead wood plays a vital role in providing shelter for animals and adding nutrients to the soil.



Entry fees

Entry into the park requires a per person fee.

Site Entry Fee:

$5.50 per Adult

Tour Fee:

Historic Tour (includes lighthouse climb): Adult $17, Concession $14, Child $11, Family $)

Express Tour (Lighthouse Climb) $10.50 per person

Park pass

Purchase a Kangaroo Island Tour Pass which offers you 12 months access to Flinders Chase National Park and Seal Bay boardwalk/lookout, as well as admission to the following Kangaroo Island tours:









The Kangaroo Island Tour Pass can be purchased at selected Parks Pass Outlets.

Other fees and permits

There are no other fees or permits associated with this park.

Kangaroo Island Tour Pass

Visiting Kangaroo Island? Purchase a Kangaroo Island Tour Pass for 12 months access to:

  • Seal Bay guided tour, boardwalk and lookout
  • Flinders Chase National Park entry
  • Cape Borda Lightstaion self-guided tour
  • Cape Willoughby Lightstation tour









Stay five nights in one of National Parks South Australia heritage accommodation places on Kangaroo Island and receive a free Kangaroo Island Tour Pass for all guests for the duration of your stay!

For more information about passes, read the FAQs or contact our National Parks and Wildlife Service Visitor Service Centre on (+61 8) 8207 7700.