Up until 10 December 1859, the colony of New South Wales extended as far north as Cape York Peninsula. In 1859, the new colony of Queensland acquired over 5000 kilometres of coastline which had few safety features in place, and became responsible for all navigation lights and harbours along this coastline. At the time the only lighthouse which existed had been built at Cape Moreton  by the New South Wales Government in 1857.
By 1862, the Queensland government had appointed a Portmaster, Commander George Poynter Heath and had passed the Marine Board Act 1862. In the two years following, due to a lack of funds to spend on marine safety, activity concentrated on dealing with pilots and harbour lights, The issue of coastal lights was not taken up until 25 May 1864, when Members of the Legislative Assembly moved that a Select Committee be appointed to enquiry into and report upon the state of the harbours and rivers in the colony. The Committee consisted of Messrs Macalister, Douglas, Sandeman, Cribb, Challinor and Bell and convened for the first time on 27 May 1864. The Committee widened the terms of reference to include..the question of the necessity of additional lighthouses on the coast of Australia, within the colony of Queensland.
A Select Committee was also appointed by the Legislative Council with the more specific field of reference to enquire into and report upon the requirements of this Colony, under its increasing trade and commerce, as to the provision of additional lighthouses for its coasts and harbors.
The reports of both Select Committees were in agreement regarding the necessity of a light at Sandy Cape. Other points where it was considered that lighthouses were required were at Cape Capricorn on Curtis Island, Point Danger or Cape Byron and Bustard Head . Lady Elliot Island  and Double Island Point were also among the sites which the Committee indicated as possible suitable sites.
Formal approval for a lighthouse on Cape Cleveland was granted in April 1878 and the Departmet of Public Works called for tenders for the construction of lighthouses on Cape Cleveland and Dent Island in May 1878. By the closing date, 14 June 1878, three tenders for each of the proposed lighthouses with two lightkeeper's cottages had been received.
The prefabricated lighthouse was designed by the office of the Queensland's Colonial Architect Construction was initialy undertaken by WP Clark and completed by John Clark and James Wiseman. Clark agreed to complete the lighthouses and cottages on Cape Cleveland and Dent Island within seven and eight months respectively, however, his contract was eventually transferred to John Clark and James Wiseman, who were to carry on the work under the title of Clark and Wiseman. Following a series of delays, the construction of the tower and cottages on Cape Cleveland and Dent Island were eventually completed in December 1879. A report to the Marine Department's Treasure dated 30th June, 1895, states the initial cost of constructing the Cape Cleveland Lighthouse was £3000, with annual maintenance costs of £279
The original cottages at Cape Cleveland have been replaced in 1953 with timber framed and weatherboard clad buildings. The original lens was replaced in 1956.
Cape Cleveland Lightstation was destaffed in 1987.Place Description
The Cape Cleveland Lightstation is located on the northern point of Cape Cleveland, c20 kilometres east of Townsville. The eastern half of the Cape contains the Cape Cleveland National Park, an area of 7810 hectares. The lighthouse was established to mark the northern point of the Cape, and the entrance to Cleveland Bay.
The lighthouse precinct stands at the summit of a steep rocky hill, the plan of the site and the residence fitting in with the undulations of the site. To the north, west and east of the site is the water, with an accessible beach approached by road in a bay to the east of the lightstation. The Cape has a sandy beach, rocky cliffs and areas of lush vegetation in high parts.
The 10.7 metre high lighthouse is circular in plan, with riveted iron plates cladding an internal timber frame. The lantern room is constructed of iron. The domed copper cupola is painted red. The balcony is of cantilevered iron construction supported on brackets with a simple iron railing; several solar panels and antennae have been installed on the balcony.
The two keepers' quarters are timber framed, clad with timber weatherboards, corners and openings are trimmed with timber battens, external timberwork is painted pale green (walls), white and dark green. The door and window frames are timber with paired sash windows, mostly with metal flyscreens. The hipped roof is clad with corrugated fibro cement sheeting with stainless steel gutters and downpipes adjacent to tanks.
The old power house is a reinforced concrete bunker-like building with a rectangular opening and an asphalt-covered roof. A small extension to the east has a shallowly pitched galvanised-iron gable roof, and contains a second entry point. The extension has recently been used as a fowl-house. The new power house with a large metal door to the north-western well.
The garage/workshop is a timber framed building, lined with painted fibro cement sheet It has a gable corrugated fibro cement roof with metal gutters and downpipes. The building has timber-framed louvre windows, timber door frames and doors and timber floors. The workshop/store is of the same type of construction as the garage.
The lightstation also contains several tanks, an observation deck, a helipad, and a tram track, a flag pole, a solar hot water system, concrete foundations of other buildings, a roadway and weather recording equipment.