5 things to know about the Cape Palliser Lighthouse

It inspired Lighthouse Gin and is considered a local treasure, but what’s the story behind the Cape Palliser Lighthouse in New Zealand? Here are five facts to give you the full story:

Cape Palliser Lighthouse New Zealand

1. It’s Birmingham-built

As a fellow island nation and one of New Zealand’s closest allies, it makes sense that the UK would lend their former colony a hand when it came to the construction of its lighthouses. The Cape Palliser lighthouse was built in Birmingham and shipped over to New Zealand in pieces. On arrival, it was hauled to the peak with a crane and painstakingly pieced back together by local workmen.

2. It’s been standing for more than a century

The hardworking Kiwis who assembled the Cape Palliser Lighthouse finished in 1897, which means this beautiful structure has been warning ships away from the rocks for more than 100 years. While it’s impossible to know how many ships have been directed away from the craggy shore, the lighthouse has no doubt earned its reputation as a literal lifesaver.

3. It used to be isolated – to say the least

No road existed to the Cape Palliser Lighthouse until 1941, and for a long time there weren’t even steps up and down the cliff. That meant the lighthouse keepers – and their families – lived an incredibly isolating existence. These days, you can drive to the Cape and climb up more than 250 steps to reach the structure itself – and admire the breath-taking views.

4. Its design is incredibly unique

The Cape Palliser Lighthouse is instantly recognisable thanks to its lovely pattern of red and white stripes. Just two other lighthouses in New Zealand have this same motif: the Cape Campbell Lighthouse and the Dog Island Lighthouse, though these two are painted in black and white rather than the cheery red of Lighthouse Gin’s namesake.

5. The controls are further away than you think  

Cape Palliser’s lighthouse was originally fuelled by oil, then in the 1950s the oil lamp was replaced with an electric light. In the 1980s, the lighthouse was fully automated. These days, despite looking as romantic as ever, no lighthouse keeper is living at Cape Palliser. Rather, it’s controlled from an office in Wellington, more than a two-hour drive away.