While people who know an unusual amount about Harry Potter or Friends are generally known as quirky and fun, start sprouting off about lighthouses and you’re bound to get a couple of those sideways, dropped eyebrow looks that would have you admitted to an asylum. But lighthouses are cool, and some people devote themselves to travelling around the countryside, or even the world, ticking them off their list.
Here are a few we thought were worth a look. And with one exception, you don’t need to go out of your way to see them.
1. Cape Columbine Lighthouse, Paternoster
The Cape Columbine Lighthouse lies within the nature reserve of the same name, just 5km from Paternoster up the Cape West Coast. It was erected in 1936 as an answer to the many shipwrecks that had occurred along that stretch of coast between Saldanha Bay and Stompneus Bay in the preceding decades. Standing on a massive boulder called Castle Rock, it is one of the last manned lighthouses in the country and a favourite tourist attraction as well as a popular picnic site. It is one of only four lighthouses in the country that offers overnight accommodation
2. Green Point Lighthouse, Cape Town
If you’re a Capetonian, you’ll no-doubt have seen our next lighthouse.
The Green Point Lighthouse is located in Mouille Point and was the first solid lighthouse structure on the South African coast and the oldest operational lighthouse in South Africa
First lit on 12 April 1824, it has had a few improvements made over the years – just as well really, as its light was only visible for 11km at first. These days it’s nearly four times that and, much to the annoyance of locals, has a foghorn which sounds in times of thick fog. This has earned it the nickname ‘Moaning Minnie’.
3. Robben Island Lighthouse, Cape Town
It was Jan van Riebeek who first had the idea of a lighthouse on Robben Island, although strictly speaking, his idea was more to have a massive bonfire built that burnt through the night, every night. And so that’s what they did. It wasn’t until a few centuries later that the Robben Island lighthouse was built, in 1864. It is 18 metres high and is the only South African lighthouse to utilise a flashing light instead of a revolving light. The light is visible from about 44km out to sea. Strangely enough, the lighthouse is the only area on the island that is not an official heritage site.
4. The Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, Cape Agulhas
‘Where the southernmost tip of Africa be, thar should a lighthouse be,’ said well known sailor, Piratey Sailoreyson in the book… of… pirate… things. Yes, that’s a real person and a real book.
Well, he’s right. The third lighthouse to be built in South Africa, the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse is the second-oldest still operating after Green Point. It is located on the southern edge of the village of L’Agulhas, in the Agulhas National Park.
Built in 1849, the lighthouse consists of a round tower 27 metres high that is attached to the keeper’s house, which now contains a museum and restaurant. The light has an range of 56km out to sea. This region is known for shipwrecks, mostly caused by strong winds and high seas.
5. The Cape St Blaize lighthouse, Mossel Bay
Quick lesson: the fact that mussels were so plentiful here that they named the town after them (Mossel = mussel) is evidence that this was a hard coastline to navigate along. Fittingly, the area erected a square, white tower lighthouse on the cliffs, 20 metres high, in 1862.
The view from the lighthouse tower is well worth the trip and you can visit to climb the steps. It is open to the public between 10am and 3pm every day between April and October.
Because the visiting Governor Wodehouse laid the foundation stone for the project, there had been talk of the lighthouse taking his name. This was not popularly adopted however and instead, it takes its name from the cliffs on which it sits.