5 lighthouses to see in South Africa
People from all over the world travel thousands of kilometres to see monuments, animals and plants which can only be found in certain destinations, or ancient landmarks which cannot be explained to this day. But there is one group who must travel to the edges of the world to find what they’re looking for: pharophiles.
What is a pharophile? A person who is fascinated by lighthouses. There is something romantic about these coastal beacons that were once the most important landmarks for those who travelled by ship. They fascinate us with the historic stories that surround them as well as their beautiful, yet often lonely, settings.
These are some of the lighthouses in South Africa you should visit:
Green Point Lighthouse, Cape Town
The Green Point Lighthouse in Mouille Point was the first lighthouse structure to be lit in South Africa in 1824. It soon became a beacon of light to captains and explorers sailing across dangerous currents. Today it’s used as the head office of the Lighthouse Services that owns and maintains 45 lighthouses on the South African coastline. Visitors can take a self-guided tour inside the red and white candy-striped tower any weekday between 10:00 and 15:00.
Umhlanga Lighthouse, Durban
The Umhlanga Lighthouse was first lit in 1954 and, believe it or not, it only took four days and 19 hours to build this 21 m high tower. There are 95 steps to the top, but sadly it isn’t a lighthouse you can explore from within. You will, however, be able to take some killer selfies on the beach with the lighthouse forming a lovely backdrop. This iconic landmark also stands guard to some of the most treacherous waters of South Africa and not only warns ships of the hidden dangers, but welcomes them into the safety of the Durban harbour as well.
Great Fish Point Lighthouse, Port Alfred
The Great Fish Point Lighthouse, also known as ‘the short, red-headed fellow in the tuxedo’ by many Eastern Cape locals, is well known for its distinctive black and white stripes and its red rooftop. It’s also one of the country’s smallest lighthouses, standing at just 9 m tall. A revolving electric light flashes once every 10 seconds and can shine for up to 59 km out to sea. It’s also one of four lighthouses to offer visitor accommodation in South Africa. This beacon might be small, but it towers on its hill 76 m above the sea.
Cape Point Lighthouse, Cape Town
There are two lighthouses at the Cape Point Nature Reserve. The first one was built in 1860 and was situated at the highest point on the rocks at the tip of Cape Point...which turned out not to be the best spot to have a lighthouse. Things came to a head in 1911 when the Lusitania, a Portuguese liner, was sunk after it hit Bellow’s Rock ‒ a treacherous submerged reef 3 km south of Cape Point. The main reason for the disaster, during which four people died, was that the lighthouse had been shrouded in low-hanging clouds. It was then that the decision was made to build a second lighthouse in a lower position, 87 m above sea level at Dias Peak. The second lighthouse was a manually-lit paraffin torch, but was later electrified in 1936. At 19 million candlepower, it became the most powerful light in Africa – and it still is to this day!
Cape Columbine Lighthouse, Paternoster
This fortress-like lighthouse is situated just outside of Paternoster. It stands on a huge granite boulder known as Castle Rock and is named after the Columbine ‒ a ship which was wrecked just north of the lighthouse. It’s also the first lighthouse to be sighted by ships coming from South America and Europe. This lighthouse was one of the first along the South African coastline to receive three navigational safety devices, which were a foghorn, a radio beacon and a lens designed for use with incandescent light bulbs. So, the next time you find yourself on that side of the world, be sure to take a trip up the spiral staircase and enjoy the stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean.