Lighthouse frequently asked questions

Lighthouses fascinate people all around the world. Here are answers to our most frequently asked lighthouse questions.

Are there any manned lighthouses in New Zealand?

No. The lighthouses in New Zealand are all fully automatic. A computer in Wellington monitors the operation of the main lighthouses. Some countries still have lighthouse keepers.

When was the last lighthouse de-manned in New Zealand?

The last lighthouse to be de-manned was Brothers Island in 1990. The first lighthouse to be de-manned was Bean Rock Lighthouse, which was de-manned in 1912.

How do the lighthouses operate without someone there to run them?

For the past few years most of New Zealand's lighthouses have been monitored remotely from Wellington. The lighthouse engineer uses a computer link to check any faults remotely. For example, the engineer can tell whether or not any doors have been opened in any of the lighthouses, how much power is stored in their batteries, when the generators need to be run and when lights have malfunctioned. Many of these things can be attended to by computer from Wellington.

How often are lighthouses maintained?

Every 6 months contractors carry out routine maintenance on our lighthouses. Sometimes (especially for island or very remote lighthouses) helicopters or boats are used to get to the lighthouses. The rest of the time they can be reached by 4WD vehicle.

Which lighthouses can I visit in New Zealand?

You can visit all of these lighthouses in New Zealand:

  • Cape Reinga
  • Tiritiri Matangi Island
  • East Cape
  • Castle Point
  • Cape Palliser
  • Pencarrow Head
  • Somes Island
  • Nelson Boulder Bank
  • Akaroa Head
  • Katiki Point
  • Nugget Point
  • Waipapa Point
  • Farewell Spit
  • Cape Egmont
  • Cape Foulwind.

Can I get inside any lighthouses in New Zealand?

No. Maritime New Zealand does not allow people to enter any lighthouses. This restriction is to protect people from harm (falling down stairs, etc) and secondly to protect sensitive equipment.

Can I arrange to stay in a lighthouse?

No. Very few New Zealand lighthouses had accommodation inside the lighthouse. Separate houses were usually built nearby to house the lighthouse keepers and their families. These houses are not available for rent or holiday use because of health and safety responsibilities and land ownership.

Which is the tallest lighthouse in New Zealand?

Dog Island at 36 metres high, built in 1865, is New Zealand’s tallest lighthouse. It was built on a very low-lying island and needed to be tall so that it could be seen from ships located far away.

How far does a lighthouse's light-beam shine?

The distance that a light-beam shines depends on the power of the light-source and size of the optical apparatus. Most lights shine 27 nautical miles (50km).

The most powerful light-beam ever in New Zealand was from the Tiritiri Matangi Island lighthouse when a xenon light source was fitted in 1956. It had an output of 11,000,000-candle power, making it one of the most powerful lights in the world at that time. Its range was 58 nautical miles (107km).