The first North Head Lighthouse on the northern side of the Saldanha Bay entrance, in South Africa, was a 300mm AGA acetylene gas lantern mounted on a square concrete pillar, installed on December 7, 1939. It had a small diaphone fog signal.
As the harbour began receiving larger vessels in the export of iron-ore, it became important to upgrade the lighthouse.
In 1969 it became an electrical lighthouse on a steel lattice three-panelled pedestal, virtually identical to its sister lighthouse, the South Head. Since August 2005 a concrete tower that stands 21 metres high, painted in white and black diagonal stripes dominates the seascape. The steel lattice is still there but diminished in stature by the new concrete version. The new look is more in keeping with the 'idea' of lighthouses people have in their mind's eye.
The official vessels' arrival line for Saldanha Bay is the straight line connecting the centres of the two lighthouses - North Head and South Head. Should a boat of any description cross this line, it is considered to have 'arrived' within the bay.
Seen from a little way down the coast, the lighthouse is particularly striking, perched as it appears to be right on the very rocks that are daunting to ships, the old lighthouse still visible slightly behind it. Today the lighthouse is fully automated and monitored at Cape Columbine lighthouse. It lies within the property of the Saldanha naval base and a nature trail takes one past it.