Nugget Point Lighthouse. © Graeme Murray

Seven lovely lighthouses to visit around New Zealand

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Lighthouses are intriguing places. Rich in history, they are pinpoints that mark wild and often remote spots around New Zealand’s coastline. We’ve picked seven lighthouses to discover around the country…

1. Pōuto Point, Northland

At Pōuto Point on Northland’s west coast you’ll find New Zealand’s oldest wooden lighthouse. Once a busy passage during the logging of the region’s kauri forests, the lighthouse stands at the tip of the 55km-long Pōuto Peninsula, and offers commanding views over sprawling sand dunes and freshwater lakes. The peninsula is bounded by water, with the wild Tasman Sea on one side and the tidal Kaipara Harbour on the other. The entrance to the harbour is notoriously treacherous, with fast tides and strong currents and has been the site of many historic shipwrecks. 

2. Cape Campbell, Marlborough

Marlborough’s Cape Campbell lighthouse has featured on the big screen. The star of the Hollywood period drama The Light Between Oceans the distinctive black and white striped lighthouse, situated on the eastern coast of the South Island, about 50 kilometres from Blenheim,marks the southern approaches to Cook Strait. Sitting atop the pale cliffs that rise from Clifford Bay, the lighthouse can be reached on a day walk along Marfells Beach, but only at low tide. 

3. East Cape, Gisborne

Climb the 700 steps to the historic East Cape Lighthouse on Ōtiki Hill at East Cape, the most easterly point on mainland New Zealand and the world's most easterly lighthouse. The lighthouse, originally built on a small offshore island, East Island, was relocated to the mainland in 1922. It was manned by three lighthouse keepers until 1985 when it became fully automated. To get there, follow the 22km mostly unsealed no-exit road along the coastline from Te Araroa.

4. Akaroa, Canterbury

The six-sided wooden lighthouse in Akaroa township was first built on a rugged headland at the entrance to the harbour on a site was chosen in 1875. The specific design of the lighthouse was developed by engineer John Blackett to suit New Zealand’s unique conditions, and there are several similar lighthouses elsewhere around the country. One hundred years after the light was first lit in 1880, the lighthouse was relocated to Akaroa township, after being replaced by an automated light.

5. Pencarrow, Wellington

New Zealand’s first ever permanent lighthouse sits at the wild, rocky entrance to Wellington Harbour. You can reach the Pencarrow Lighthouse on a four-hour return walk, or 1.5 hour bike ride from Eastbourne. Not only remarkable historically, the Pencarrow Lighthouse was also operated by New Zealand’s first and only female lighthouse keeper – Mary Jane Bennett – who lived in a nearby cottage with her husband George.

6. Cape Egmont, Taranaki

Another of New Zealand’s nomadic lighthouses, the Cape Egmont Lighthouse was first erected on Mana Island, near Cook Strait in 1865. However, the light was often confused with the Pencarrow light, so it was dismantled, transported to Cape Egmont and rebuilt at its current site – the westernmost point of Taranaki – in 1877.

7. Nugget Point, Otago

The iconic Tokatā Lighthouse at Nugget Point not only has spectacular views, but also seals, penguins and other seabirds that can be spotted alongside the walking trails nearby. It’s a short 10 minute walk from the carpark to the lighthouse, built in 1869. Alternatively, the Awakiki Track takes you through an outstanding example of lowland tōtara forest, or explore Kākā Point Scenic Reserve.

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