East Cape

Get technical and historical information and resources about East Cape lighthouse.

Due to slips and track damage from several extreme weather events, Maritime New Zealand have closed the access to East Cape lighthouse until further notice. Please do not attempt to access the lighthouse.

East Cape 1
Maritime NZ
A shot of East Cape lighthouse and surrounding homestead.
View larger image [JPG: 2272x1074, 96ppi, 2.7MB]


Lighthouse overview

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.

Lighthouse feature: Details
Location: latitude 37°41’ south, longitude 178°33’ east
Elevation: 154 metres above sea level
Construction: cast iron tower
Tower height: 15 metres
Light configuration: rotating LED beacon
Light flash character: white light flashing once every 10 seconds
Power source: mains electricity
Range: 19 nautical miles (35 kilometres)
Date light first lit: 1900
Automated: 1985
Demanned: 1985


Getting to East Cape Lighthouse

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.

There is no public access to enter the lighthouse

From the East Cape Lighthouse, visitors can look out onto East Island where the lighthouse was originally located.

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The history of East Cape Lighthouse

The lighthouse at East Cape was originally located on East Island, just off the tip of East Cape. The East Island light was first lit in 1900. This location was very troublesome right from the start.

The government steamer capsized while bringing tower construction materials to East Island, and four men died.

East Island was also 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 the lighthouse to the mainland.

The light on East Island was extinguished in April 1922. The tower and all the buildings were relocated to the mainland. The East Cape Lighthouse began operation in December 1922.

Operation of the East Cape light

The light was originally illuminated with a paraffin oil burning lamp, however, this was later replaced with an incandescent oil burning lamp.

In 1954 the light was converted from oil to diesel-generated electricity. In 1971 the lighthouse was connected to mains power.

The station was automated and the last keeper was withdrawn in 1985.

The original light was replaced in February 2002 with a modern rotation beacon, illuminated by a 50 watt tungsten halogen bulb. The original light can be viewed in the base of the tower.

The new light is powered by mains electricity and has a backup battery in case of a power failure.

The light is monitored remotely from Maritime New Zealand’s Wellington office.

Visible in the base of the lighthouse are the old lenses that were removed when the new beacon was installed.

Life at East Cape light station

Life at East Island Lighthouse was practically hard for the keepers. The clay soil made it hard to grow vegetables or keep stock.

When the light station was relocated to the mainland life improved. Keepers could travel into town for supplies and their children could attend the local school. They were also able to grow vegetables and keep stock.

The lighthouse at East Cape was originally a three keeper station but this was reduced to two keepers and then just one keeper, until the last keeper was withdrawn in 1985.

Today little remains to indicate that there was once housing and associated buildings for three keepers on this site.