Sunday, 24 October 2021

Cape Palliser


It has been a year now since I made a Road Trip around the Wairarapa with my brother, his wife, and a friend.

We had an awesome time, visiting different places as we travelled as far south as Cape Palliser, and as far west as New Plymouth before heading home again.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting Cape Palliser, at the far south-east (bottom) part of the North Island.

This particular stretch of coastline is very hazardous and resulted in several shipwrecks before the lighthouse became operational.

The venerable old Cape Palliser lighthouse is constructed of cast iron and has stood on these cliffs since being erected in 1897.  Standing 18 metres tall, it is sited 78 metres above sea level and is the only New Zealand lighthouse to be painted in red and white stripes (designed to make it stand out from the surrounding hills).

The light, which flashes twice every twenty seconds, is visible out to sea for 26 nautical miles. 

It was a lonely life for lighthouse keepers and their families, with supplies arriving by ship once every three months before road access was created.  Keepers were finally withdrawn from service in 1986, nine years after the light had been switched to mains electricity operations (with a diesel generator for backup).

It is possible to climb up the 253 steps to see the view, but not to enter the lighthouse itself.  I left the step-climbing to my more active companions! 

This photo, looking back down the steps, was taken by my sister-in-law.

One can imagine how difficult it must have been for early keepers to carry oil up here for the light.  It must have been worse for the first fifteen years, before steps were finally constructed to replace a steep muddy path.

This area is also home to the North Island’s largest fur seal colony, and seals are frequently seen on or near the beach.  They should never be approached as they can become quite dangerous if they feel threatened.

It was a memorable day and an enjoyable visit – and probably a place I will never get to visit again because of its remoteness.  But you never know, who can tell what the future may have in store?

Smile, it makes life better 😊




  1. 253 steps? I would also have left them to others more active than myself. I can't imagine the lonely life lighthouse keepers and their families had. A great place to visit though.

  2. Doesn't time fly - it does not seem a year since you went on that trip. I had a good friend whose husband was a Lighthouse Keeper. She had three young children. It would have been a tough life.

  3. Margaret, F simply has to go there now. You have made her add it to her 'bucket list' - whatever that is. The way the world is i don't expect she make there to climb those steps with me in a backpack. Your SILs photo is amazing, and yours from the distance puts it all in perspective. Purrs to Mittens. xxx Mr T

  4. What an amazing place Margaret - those steps would challenge me too, and I'm not sure I would take the challenge - definitely not at the moment... It hardly seems like a year since your road trip.
    Stay safe

  5. You couldnt pay me enough to climb those steps! It sure is a pretty lighthouse, though.

  6. Make a concerted effort to return. It looks very worthy of a second visit. Go into training beforehand so that this time you can climb the steps. Take a breath every twenty or so and before you know it you'll be at the top!

  7. A smile to you 😘
    Afraight of heights I´d stayed down there, too!! But, oh, it all looks so wonderful.

  8. Can hardly imagine life, as keeper(s) of this lighthouse, wayyyyy back when!!! Everything about it, was hard, hard, hard. -sigh-

    So great that you got to go there and see it.

    I can't imagine the effort it took, to climb those steps!!!!!!!!! Your family must be young and healthy!

    Great memory....

    Thank you for sharing...


  9. I love seeing all the different places in your wonderful country. I wouldn’t fancy having to climb those steps. B x

  10. Marvellous!! I remember Cape Palliser from a trip almost 50 years ago. Wonderful to travel again with you

    1. Doesn't seem to take long for that time to pass, does it? :)

  11. You brought back memories for me Margaret. In 2014 I took a visiting American friend out there. He was used to 4 lane highways and completely mind-blown by the state of the road! He's an avid photographer, and nearly got caught by a seal lion that he hadn't noticed as he approached the shore to take some photographs! It was much too close a call for comfort!
    Actually, I was pretty gobsmacked by how bad the road was, too. My husband didn't come, and on subsequent trips to the Wairarapa I have emphasised the state of the road whenever he's thought about going over there - he is not a keen traveller!
    I'm smiling - thank you!

    1. The road was pretty shocking last year as well. I don't mind a gravel road, but this one was very rough and narrow in places. We also went through a ford, and drove in an "active slip area" which was a bit scary as it obviously was not stable. Great adventure! :)

  12. Your sister-in-law's photo of those steps reminds me of why I didn't make it to the top of those stairs. Those lighthouse keepers were a rare breed, I think. The area is beautiful but I don't think it would make up for the harshness of life.

  13. I love lighthouses and have stayed in one in Scotland once. My two children went to Your country with their wife and husband. My daughter went on honeymoon for three weeks in a camping car. My daughter in law approached a seal and had to run away! My son filled it. This is very dangerous , but I think they did not realised how scary it was. They sometimes make stupid things!


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