8 Great Lighthouses


New Zealand has 23 operational lighthouses operated by Maritime New Zealand. And while you won’t be able to enter the lighthouses, here are eight that you can get close enough to enjoy a good look at

8 great lighthouses Waipapa Point Lighthouse - The Catlins - Anke Ruwette - NO CREDIT (1).jpg
Waipapa Point Lighthouse - The Catlins

Tiritiri Matangi

This lighthouse sits on Tiritiri Matangi Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. It is the oldest lighthouse still operational in New Zealand, and the first to be built by the government – back in 1865. The site was chosen by Lieutenant Governor William Hobson. In the 1960s, former Auckland mayor and philanthropist, Sir Ernest Davis paid to boost the light to 11 million candlepower. The light was then the brightest in the southern hemisphere, visible 80 kilometres out to sea and illuminating, at 15-second intervals, the bedroom walls of homes on Auckland’s North Shore. Tiritiri is a wildlife sanctuary administered by DOC and is a popular day trip from Auckland.

Castle Point

Castle Point Lighthouse is situated on the Wairarapa Coast, about 70 kilometres east of Masterton. Close to the Castlepoint Township, it was known as the "holiday light". The 23-metre high lighthouse was one of the last manned lights to be established in New Zealand. Before it was built, the area had a number of wrecks, notably the White Swan in 1862, which was carrying a load of politicians from Auckland to Wellington, and the Sovereign, wrecked at Mataikona in 1894. The government saw the need for a navigation light on the coast and chose Castlepoint reef as the site of the last of the ‘watched’ lighthouses to be built in New Zealand. The lighthouse can be reached on foot from the Castlepoint township.

8 great lighthouses Nugget Point in the Catlins
Nugget Point in the Catlins

Nugget Point

Nugget Point Lighthouse stands near the south-east corner of the South Island, near the mouth of the Clutha River. Over the years, Nugget Point earned a reputation as being dangerous for ships. Most shipping casualties were small vessels travelling to the Clutha River. The nine-metre lighthouse began operating in 1870 and was originally powered by oil illumination. In 1948 the light was converted to diesel-generated electric power and then later connected to mains electricity. In 1989, the lighthouse was automated, and the last keeper was withdrawn. In May 2006, the original light was replaced with an externally mounted LED beacon which is powered by mains electricity backed up by battery power. The original lens in still in place today. Nugget Point Lighthouse can be reached on foot from the nearby road-end.

Waipapa Point

Waipapa Point is located at the southern end of The Catlins on the South Island’s south coast. The area was the scene of New Zealand’s worst civilian shipwreck. On 29 April 1881, 131 people drowned when the passenger steamer Tararua was wrecked on a reef off the point. The ship was on one of its regular trips between Otago and Melbourne, via Bluff. After the shipwreck, it was recommended a light be erected on the point. A light was ordered from England immediately, and work began on building the wooden tower and houses for three keepers and their families. It was the second-to-last wooden lighthouse tower built in New Zealand. The light was lit for the first time on New Year’s Day in 1884 and was automated in 1975.
Waipapa Point Lighthouse is located approximately 10 kms from Fortrose and is a short walk from the carpark area.

Cape Egmont

Cape Egmont Lighthouse is located on the southern Taranaki coast about 50 kilometres southwest of New Plymouth. Originally erected on Mana Island, it was moved to Cape Egmont in 1877. The light shone at Cape Egmont for the first time in August 1881. For the first six months an armed constabulary was stationed on the first floor of the lighthouse because of the Taranaki land wars. On 14 July 1956, the vessel Calm grounded off the cape during a gale. As a result, a permanent keeper was placed back on the station. Keepers remained at Cape Egmont Lighthouse until the light was automated in 1986. Cape Egmont Lighthouse can be reached on foot from the end of Cape Road.

East Cape

East Cape Lighthouse is located on the east coast of the North Island. Situated on the Eastland peninsula, it is the most easterly lighthouse in New Zealand. The lighthouse was originally located on East Island, just off the tip of East Cape, but this location proved very troublesome. A government steamer capsized while bringing tower construction materials to East Island, and four men died. The island was very unstable, and the cliffs were constantly being eroded and slipping into the ocean. By the 1920s these slips were coming close to the lighthouse, and the decision was made to relocate it to the mainland, with construction beginning in 1922. East Cape Lighthouse is accessible to the public. It can be reached on foot from the car park at the end of East Cape Road.

Katiki Point 

Katiki Point Lighthouse sits on the southern tip of the Moeraki peninsula, about 80 kilometres north of Dunedin. Construction of the lighthouse began in 1876 but was delayed because of bad weather. Just before the light was first lit, the lighthouse was struck by a storm which shook the tower so violently the lamp glass broke. The light then had to be replaced and the tower strengthened before the light could finally be lit in 1878. The station was automated, and the last keeper was withdrawn in 1975.
The Katiki Point Historic Reserve is administered by the Department of Conservation. The reserve and lighthouse can be reached on foot from the car park on Lighthouse Road. Turn off State Highway one at Moeraki Township.

Cape Foulwind

Cape Foulwind is situated south of Westport on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Cape Foulwind was first considered as a site for a light in 1874, however, it was not until 1876 that the light was first lit. The original tower, built of rimu, suffered from rot. In the mid-1920s, a new concrete tower was built behind the original tower. The light in the new tower was first lit in 1926. The original beacon has now been replaced with an LED beacon mounted on the tower balcony and powered from battery banks charged by solar panels. Cape Foulwind Lighthouse can easily be visited as part of the Cape Foulwind walkway.


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