9 November 2010
Lighthouses have long been the muse of many a children’s author or nursery designer. They hold an intangible appeal for both young and old – but how many people have had the chance to get up close to them? We’ve discovered New Zealand’s most accessible lighthouses that welcome a visit:
At the top of the North Island, this iconic lighthouse provides one of the first lights for ships arriving from the Tasman Sea and North Pacific Ocean. This was the last watched lighthouse to be built in New Zealand yet had little use for the first few years it was built due to wartime blackout restrictions. Now, around 10,000 people visit it each year for an impressive sight looking out to where the Tasman and Pacific oceans meet.
Tiritiri Matangi Island
A day-trip from Auckland, you can explore the natural beauty of the open wildlife sanctuary Tititiri Matangi and see the oldest lighthouse still in operation in New Zealand.
The most easterly lighthouse in New Zealand, the East Cape lighthouse on the North Island had a troublesome history right from the start. It was built on very unstable ground with eroding cliffs and the government steamer bringing tower construction materials capsized. Today, it has been moved to a much safer location on the mainland.
On the Wairarapa Coast, about 70km east of Masterton, Castle Point lighthouse was known as “holiday light”. It was one of the most popular lighthouses for keepers with easy access to shops and schools, but some keepers longed for the solitude of a more remote posting. This is a popular day-trip from Wellington.
Situated on the south eastern side of the Wairarapa coast, a couple of hours drive from Wellington, Cape Palliser lighthouse features prominently in Maori history and the legends of Kupe. It’s one of only three lighthouses in New Zealand to be painted with red and white stripes, rather than the usual all-white.
Located on the southern tip of the Moeraki peninsula, about 80km north of Dunedin, Katiki Point lighthouse was once struck by a storm so fierce that the lamp glass broke. The small quarters were home to two families with small children – imagine keeping them inside on a stormy day trying to be quiet while their lighthouse-keeper fathers slept. It’s no wonder one keeper offered to pay for a second house to be built on the land.
Kahurangi Point Lighthouse stands on the northern end of the Karamea Bight on the north-western tip of the South Island. Building lighthouses was never an easy task and sandy Farewell Spit offered a unique set of challenges. The light station stood on a very windy beach and one night the stormy weather whipped up the sand, completely covering a pile of bricks. They were never found, and a new lot had to be shipped to the station. It’s now a wildlife sanctuary and access is only available as part of a tour.
Unfortunately, in New Zealand, you can’t enter any of the lighthouses or stay overnight. But if a visit doesn’t satisfy your young lighthouse aficionados, you can always plan a trip to one of the many lighthouses in Australia, America and the UK that have overnight stays available in remote locations around the coast.
Images courtesy of Maritime New Zealand