Palm Beach is a northern beachside suburb of Sydney located 41 km north of the Sydney Central business District. It is a very popular beach and home to the famous Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club and the Cabbage Tree Club. It also houses the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse which was designed by colonial architect James Barnett and erected in 1881 and still functioning today.
Designed by NSW colonial architect James Barnet, its construction cost £13,695, plus £2,210 for the lamp. At an elevation of 113 m, it is visible to a distance of 19 nautical miles (35 km; 22 mi) out to sea.
A customs station was established in 1843, as the Headland marked the entrance to Broken Bay and Pittwater – considered to be the back door to Sydney for smugglers. The first report of any lighted beacon on the headland was in 1855, when a fire was raised in a basket to assist mariners during storms. Broken Bay and the Pittwater were a safe haven in storms to vessels carrying coal from Newcastle to Sydney. Similarly, barges carrying food down the Hawkesbury River were a key food source for Sydney, and would harbour in the bay, awaiting favourable weather before making the 14 km journey to Sydney.
Later, in 1868, two wooden lighthouses known as the Stewart Towers, were built at either end of the headland to guide ships in. The need for a permanent light led to the construction of the current lighthouse.
The current tower is unpainted, and built of the rich-coloured local sandstone. The original lighting apparatus was a fixed red dioptric of 700 candlepower with 4 oil wick burners. In 1900, an explosion followed by a fire destroyed the ornamental roof on the adjacent oil house. The flames were subdued before reaching the tower.
In 1932, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation with the installation of an acetylene Dalén light of 6,000 candlepower. It was turned off and on by a Sun valve. Although the acetylene gas apparatus was efficient, access to the tower for re-supply presented problems, so in 1972 the lighthouse was converted to electric operation, with a new lamp capable of 75,000 candlepower.