Who doesn’t love a good lighthouse right? As well as serving as a warning to mariners of dangerous shallows and perilous rocky coasts, lighthouses are also beautiful structures in their own right.
As a country completely surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that New Zealand has more than its fair share of lighthouses. From Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island to Waipapa in the Deep South, you’ll find them dotted all around New Zealand’s stunning coastline. In total, we have 23 lighthouses dotted around the coastline of New Zealand and each one has its own story.
For those of you who love a good trip to a lighthouse, strap on your best hiking boots because ours are often pretty remote thanks to our high coastline. We do have some absolute crackers though and they pop up in many an Instagram feed all year round.
We thought we’d take a deeper dive and find out which of our spectacular lighthouses are the most photographed and give you a bit more info so you can go and hunt them out yourself!
1. East Cape Lighthouse
Marking the most easterly point in New Zealand, the lighthouse at East Cape is one of the first and best places in the world to watch the sunrise. If you are looking for a romantic spot, this is up there with New Zealand’s finest! The lighthouse at East Cape is a bit of a trek to get to – there are 800 steps that will take you up to the lighthouse but it’s well worth the effort. We would recommend heading up there early to catch the sunrise and don’t forget to let everyone know that you were one of the very first people to see the sunrise that day.
2. Castle Point Lighthouse
Castle Point Lighthouse is located in the Wairarapa region, north of Wellington. There is a great return walk that will take you down a boardwalk and over a reef where you can look for fossil shells. It’s pretty spectacular and is understandably well photographed. There is access to the beach as well so you can make a day of a trip out to Castle Point – especially if you have made the drive from Wellington which will take you around 2.5 hours.
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3. Cape Reinga Lighthouse
Cape Reinga is perhaps New Zealand’s most photographed lighthouse thanks to its relatively easy access. Located at the very northern tip of the North Island, Cape Reinga attracts thousands of visitors every year who flock to the see the colliding of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean – a remarkable sight, especially on a stormy day. The reason we say that access is relatively easy is that it’s a long drive to get to the northernmost tip of New Zealand, especially if you are day-tripping from popular spots like Paihia in the Bay of Islands. Once you get there, it is a more straightforward stroll with a few steps to tackle that will get you on the way back up!
4. Waipapa Point Lighthouse
Arguably New Zealand’s most southerly lighthouse, Waipapa Point lighthouse was built after one of New Zealand’s worst shipwrecks in which 131 passengers lost their lives. Located in the Catlins at the eastern entrance to the Foveaux Strait, you can pay your respects to those who lost their lives at the nearby cemetery as well as finding out more about its history. The lighthouse at Waipapap Point is also a great spot for stargazing and if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) thanks to the low levels of light pollution.
5. Stirling Point Lighthouse
Stirling Point Lighthouse is another one located in the deep south in Bluff and is often considered the southernmost point of the South Island. It marks the endpoint of SH1 which runs the entire length of the country and has the twin sign, listing a whole host of destinations worldwide, to the sign you will find up at Cape Reinga. The walkway to get to the Stirling Point lighthouse is easily navigable making this one of the more accessible in New Zealand.
6. Cape Palliser Lighthouse
One of the most iconic lighthouses in New Zealand thanks to its traditional red and white stripes, Cape Palliser marks the southernmost point of the North Island and guards the site of over 20 ships’ resting place. A trip to Cape Palliser from Wellington is well worth the drive and you will be rewarded not only with this fantastic lighthouse but also with the fur seal colony that sits beneath.
7. Farewell Spit Lighthouse
The lighthouse at Farewell Spit is a little bit different from your typical lighthouse which is what makes it so well photographed. Public access is restricted as it sits in a wildlife sanctuary but if you join one of the guided tours, you can still get up close to this iconic lighthouse as well as checking out some of the amazing wildlife.
8. Nugget Point Lighthouse
If you are a lighthouse enthusiast, you need to get yourself down to the southern coast of the South Island where the photogenic lighthouses come thick and fast! Another one located in The Catlins, Nugget Point is quite possibly the most spectacular lighthouse in New Zealand, perched high on the ‘nuggets’ of rock that split the sea below. A must for anyone road tripping down in these parts.
9. Cape Egmont Lighthouse
It’s hard to tell what people are focusing on when they take pictures of Cape Egmont lighthouse because of the stunning Mt Taranaki that sits in the background. It’s perhaps the only one on the list where the surroundings are more spectacular than the lighthouse itself. A must do if you are road tripping on Surf Highway 45.
10. Akaroa Lighthouse
Akaroa is a spectacular place to visit and the drive to get there is pretty breath-taking. As you would expect from such a spectacular location, it deserves a beautiful lighthouse and it definitely got one. It’s an imposing, six-sided wooden lighthouse that looks at home on Cemetery Point but this was not its original home. It was moved back in 1977, piece by piece and beautifully restored, keeping guard over the wonderful harbour at Akaroa.
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So there you have it – 10 of the most photographed lighthouses in New Zealand. Is there any we’ve missed off our list? We’d love to see your awesome photos from lighthouses around New Zealand so send them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Updated: 3 December 2021