Fingal Head

Fingal Head was first sighted by James Cook about 17:15 EST 15–16 May 1770 (log date). The area and small town is often just called Fingal. It is located on the Far North Coast of New South Wales in Tweed Shire, about 5 km south of the New South Wales and Queensland border, and south of the Gold Coast. At the 2006 census, Fingal Head had a population of 575 people.


The Tweed River, (discovered by John Oxley in October 1823) on the north coast of New South Wales runs northwards close to the coast for about 6 km before reaching its mouth just south of present day Point Danger. A spit about 500–800 metres wide called "Letitia Spit" (named after the first ship to enter the river in July 1840) runs south for 2 km to Fingal Head.

The headland itself was made form the magma flow from the extinct volcano, Mount Warning. There are walking tracks all over this area. About 500 metres offshore from the headland is Cook Island, a rocky uninhabited island first charted by James Cook in 1770. The stretch of water to the island is called the "Giants Causeway". Cook Island was made a marine reserve in 1998.

Fishing is prohibited in the waters nearby.


There has been controversy over the naming of Fingal Head by James Cook in May 1770 for many years. Strong evidence suggests that Fingal Head was in fact; the point, James Cook named Point Danger.

In 1823 John Oxley took shelter from Southerly winds, while sailing North near Point Lookout

John Uniack and later Oxley went onto the island, where they found some sea turtles and called the island "Turtle Island". In 1828 Henry John Rous (Captain of HMS Rainbow) surveyed Oxley's Tweed River, the name used today. A chart published in 1831 by the Master of the "Rainbow" showing the island as "Cook's Isle" and the river named the "Clarance River" - the unnamed headland, North of the river was named Point Danger. However the off-shore reefs East of the Island where not marked.

The local aboriginal people were the Minjungbal, but the impact of white settlement meant they almost became wiped out by 1900.

Fingal Head Post Office opened on 15 March 1912, uprated from a telegraph office opened in October 1911.


A provisional light station was established on the head in 1872 and in 1878 a proper lighthouse, built as a sandstone construction in a round design, was inaugurated. It was part of a series of five such lighthouses established between 1878 and 1880. The tower only stands 7 metres high, but that suffices since the headland itself adds additional height. Thus the focal plane of the lightsource is situated at 24 m above sea level. In 1920 the lightsource was changed from kerosene to acetylene and became automated. It was electrified in 1980. The light characteristic is a single flash every five seconds. Depending on the bearing, red light is shown in the east sector while the other sectors show white.


Since 1996 Fingal has hosted an annual surfing competition for indigenous surfers. The first year attracted 90 surfers from across Australia. In 1999, SBS television commissioned a documentary called Surfing the Healing Wave about that competition, as part of an Unfinished Business - Reconciling the Nation series. It won Best Australian Documentary at the 2000 Real Life on Film Festival.

Fingal is not particularly noted as a surf spot as such. The headland does not form a point break on either side, so it is just beach breaks that occur there, but the southern side is one of the few places near the Gold Coast with any protection from northerly winds.