Waipapa Point Lighthouse New Zealand


Waipapa Point Lighthouse is a lighthouse located at Waipapa Point, Southland, New Zealand. It was first lit on 1 January 1884.






Lighthouse overview

Waipapa Point is located at the southern end of the Catlins region. This is east of Invercargill on the South Island’s south coast.

Lighthouse feature: Details
Location: latitude 46°40’ south, longitude 168°51’ east
Elevation: 21 metres above sea level
Construction: wooden tower
Tower height: 13 metres
Light configuration: flashing LED beacon
Light flash character: white light flashing 5 times every 20 seconds
Power source: batteries charged via solar panels
Range: 9 nautical miles (16 kilometres)
Date light first lit: 1884
Automated: 1975
Demanned: 1975


Getting to Waipapa Point Lighthouse

Waipapa Point Lighthouse is easily accessible to the public.

There is no public access to enter the lighthouse.

Find this on the map: Waipapa Point

Constructed 1883
Construction wooded tower
Automated 1975
Height 13 metres (43 ft)
Shape hexagonal tower with balcony and lantern
Markings white tower, red trim, grey lantern dome
Power source solar power
Operator Maritime New Zealand
Heritage Heritage New Zealand Category 1 historic place listing
First lit 1884
Focal height 21 metres (69 ft)
Range 9 nautical miles (17 km; 10 mi)
Characteristic Fl(5) W 20s.


The History of Waipapa Point Lighthouse

Waipapa Point marks the scene of New Zealand’s worst civilian shipwreck. On 29 April 1881, 131 people were drowned when the passenger steamer Tararua was wrecked on a reef off the point. Tararua was on one of its regular trips between Otago and Melbourne, via Bluff.

The sad tale of the wreck, in which only 20 of the 151 on board survived, is explained in Ingram’s New Zealand Shipwrecks.

“A particularly heavy sea swept over the forepart, and nearly a score of people were washed overboard. Only one person, the chief cook, succeeded in reaching the shore safely, after making a gallant but unsuccessful attempt to save a lady passenger. Towards evening those still surviving were forced to take refuge in the rigging and on one occasion were heard cheering by those on shore; it was supposed at the sight of the steamer Kahanui steaming from the Bluff. Up till 11pm lights in the rigging were occasionally seen, as though matches were being burned. At 2.35am on April 30 the closing tragedy in the disaster occurred. Those on the beach heard the piercing shrieks from the doomed people on the Tararua, and a voice, said to be that of the captain, calling for a boat, which could not be sent, as the Chief Officer’s boat was damaged when it capsized, and could not be repaired. At daybreak the steamer had sunk almost out of sight, and bodies were coming ashore.”

After the shipwreck a Court of Inquiry, investigating the loss of the Tararua, recommended a light be erected on the point. A light was ordered from England immediately, and work began on building the wooden tower and houses for three keepers and their families. It was the second to last wooden lighthouse tower built in New Zealand. The light was lit for the first time on New Year’s Day in 1884.

Two other recommendations submitted by the Court of Inquiry were put into effect, marking an important turning point in New Zealand’s maritime safety procedures. From 1882, lifebelts had to be provided for every person on board a ship, and crews were to regularly practice life-boat evacuation procedures.

Not far from the tower is a small plot of land known as the Tararua Acre. It is here that many of the bodies recovered from the wreck are buried.

Operation of the Waipapa Point light

The station was automated and the last keepers were withdrawn in 1975.

In 1988 the site was converted from mains to solar power and a modern filament lamp beacon was installed.

In December 2008 a new LED beacon was installed externally on the balcony of the lighthouse. The new light is powered by battery banks charged by solar panels.

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

Life at Waipapa Point light station

The light station at Waipapa Point was located close to the port town of Fortrose which meant the families were able to get supplies and attend church and send their children to the local school.

Despite the relative closeness of Fortrose, Waipapa Point was still an isolated location. The isolation may have contributed to one of the keepers taking his own life in 1903. This keeper had been in the lighthouse service for 25 years, since he was 21.


The lighthouse was built in response to the wreck of the passenger steamer Tararua on reefs off Waipapa Point on 29 April 1881, with the loss of 131 lives. With its sibling, the retired Kaipara North Head Lighthouse, this was one of the last two wooden lighthouses built in New Zealand.

The lighthouse was automated and keepers were withdrawn in 1975. It has been solar-powered since 1988. A new LED beacon was installed externally on the balcony of the lighthouse in December 2008. Restoration work conducted in 2008 ensured it was weatherproof and secure from vandalism.

See also


  1. ^ Rowlett, Russ. “Lighthouses of New Zealand: South Island”The Lighthouse DirectoryUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  2. ^ Rowlett, Russ. “Lighthouses of New Zealand: South Island”The Lighthouse DirectoryUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  3. ^ Waipapa Point Lighthouse restoration project Archived 14 November 2010 at the Wayback MachineMaritime New Zealand. Retrieved 14 October 2010.

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