The cape’s first light, a thirty-one-foot (9.4 metre) steel skeleton tower with an acetylene lamp, was built in 1941, after the Pilots Corporation petitioned the Department of Marine and Fisheries for an aid at the point to assist navigators who increasingly favoured the north shore channel. The tower was located near the jagged shore where the current information centre stands, and Esdras Beaulieu served as the light's caretaker.
Cap de Bon Désir Lighthouse is a sister to those at Cap au Saumon, Cap d’Espoir, and Cap Gaspe, which were all built during the same period. A DCB-10 dioptric system, consisting of a 500-watt electric bulb sandwiched between two ten-inch Fresnel lenses, was in the lantern room when the station became operational on October 10, 1958. Starting in 1971, a 250-watt mercury-vapor bulb was used as the light source. A lighting apparatus with a 175-watt halide lamp that only requires maintenance once a year was put in place in 1999. A rotating mirror installed at a forty-five degree above the light source reflects the light toward the horizon, producing a white flash every six seconds. Standing on its rocky perch, the light has a focal plane of 146 feet and can been seen for up to eighteen nautical miles.
When needed, the station's type-F diaphone fog signal produced five-second blasts in every forty seconds using air compressed by diesel engines. The amount of fog experienced at the station varied widely. In 1967, the fog signal was active for 1832 hours and 37 minutes, while three years earlier it was in operation for 919 hours.
The diaphone fog signal was replaced in 1971 by an electric foghorn, located just seaward of the lighthouse, that sounded for four seconds each minute. The station no longer has an active fog signal (it was deactivated in 1997), but one must wonder what the whales thought of the periodic foghorn blasts. The duplicate engines, compressors, and tanks used by the diaphone can still be seen in the fog signal building.
Bon Désir Lighthouse only had two head keepers. A veteran of World War II, Gilbert Fraser served at Íle Rouge before being made the first head keeper at Cap de Bon Désir. Fraser was wounded by a mine in the Battle of Normandy in July 1944 and ended up losing an arm. Assisted by Léonid Lavoie, Lucien Dionne, and Charles-Eugéne Bouchard, Keeper Fraser served at the station from 1958 to 1975, when Marcel Ouellet was appointed head keeper.
New equipment was installed in 1972 as the first step in the automation process. This equipment included a videograph, which measured visibility and activated the fog horn if necessary, along with a generator and an array of batteries in case power was lost. Assistant Keeper Bouchard was transferred to Île Rouge in 1975, but Marcel Ouellet remained as the station's sole keeper until it was de-staffed in 1982.
Cap de Bon-Désir is currently managed by Parks Canada, in collaboration with the Corporation Touristique de Bergeronnes and Explos-Nature. From the end of June to early September, the public can enjoy guided walks and observe the mysterious animals living at the bottom of the estuary that are brought up by naturalist-divers. Or you can just lounge around on the rocky shoreline and see how many of the various marine mammals you can spot.
An excellent interpretation centre with displays on lighthouses and marine life is housed in the head keeper's dwelling, while a small gift and souvenir shop is found in the assistant keeper's residence.