If you are a pharophile like me, you are passionate about lighthouses. Fortunately, there are about 45 lighthouses in South Africa to explore while travelling through South Africa. This article explores the lighthouses in South Africa, their location, and when they were built and started operating.
You can visit many of South Africa’s lighthouses while doing one of the best South African road trips.
The History of Lighthouses in South Africa
The ocean around South Africa is stormy and dangerous. From about the 1400s to the 1900s, about 2000 ships wrecked along the South African coastline of 3 000 kilometres.
These shipwrecks resulted in the first wave of South African lighthouses in the 1800s. After a large steamer, the Kakapo, shipwrecked near Noordhoek, the government of the time built the Slangkop Point Lighthouse near Kommetjie. Likewise, after the major shipwreck of the Birkenhead, they built the Danger Point Lighthouse near Gansbaai.
In 1902 Harry Claude Lee Cooper came from England to improve South Africa’s coastal navigation services. At that time, about 17 functioning lighthouses.
Cooper designed custom lighthouses to withstand South Africa’s harshest weather. He also appointed the lightkeepers and their families to keep up the lighthouses.
Currently, most of the lighthouses in South Africa are automated, and only a few still have lighthouse keepers to service and maintain them.
To make it easy for ships to identify lighthouses during the day, they are painted differently from each other. They also have different flash patterns to make them distinguishable at night.
The Lighthouses in South Africa
The lighthouses of South Africa are scattered along the coastline, starting from Port Nolloth in the West to Cape Vidal in the East. The following map shows the location of the lighthouses for lighthouse lovers to explore.
Let’s explore the best-known lighthouses of South Africa. This is not a complete list, as there were many lighthouses I could not find any information on.
Hondeklip Bay Lighthouse
The original Hondeklip Bay Lighthouse was an 8-metre high lattice tower near Hondeklip Bay in the Namakwa district of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. It became operational in 1956.
The Lighthouse’s purpose was to send a lit warning and fog signal to warn ships that pass south of Port Nolloth on South Africa’s west coast.
In 2006, a white tower replaced the original Lighthouse structure.
In the 1970s, a nearby factory’s staff members had to manage the fog signal, which was ineffective.
Shelly Point Lighthouse
The Shelly Point Lighthouse, also known as Stompneus Point Lighthouse, was completed in 1920.
A lighthouse enthusiast built the Lighthouse near the Cape St. Martins peninsula west of Saint Helena Bay in South Africa’s Western Cape Province.
You can visit the Lighthouse without entering the tower.
Cape Columbine Lighthouse
The Cape Columbine Lighthouse stands on a granite boulder called Castle Rock in the Columbine Nature Reserve outside Paternoster. The Lighthouse’s name is from the Columbine ship that wrecked north of here in 1829.
It is one of only a few lighthouses in South Africa with a dedicated lightkeeper.
The Lighthouse’s construction was completed in 1936, making it one of South Africa’s newer lighthouses.
Visitors can climb the Lighthouse’s spiral staircase for stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Britannia Reef. The Lighthouse is open from 10:00 to 15:00 on weekdays. You may need a reservation to visit from May to September. You can phone +2722 752 2705 for more information.
The Lighthouse’s property features a conference centre, self-catering cottages and a camping terrain.
The Lighthouse’s light flashes every 15 seconds. For several years, this light was one of the brightest in South Africa.
For ships from Europe and South America, the Cape Columbine Lighthouse’s light is the first South African Lighthouse they encounter.
If you love kayaking and fishing, visiting the Columbine Nature Reserve is worth it. From August to September each year, you can view the beautiful wildflowers the area is known for.
Dassen Island Lighthouse
Dassen Island is located west of Yzerfontein in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The island’s name is from the many hyraxes on the island. There are large populations of penguins on the island.
The Dassen Island Lighthouse is on the southern and highest point of the island. It is the most isolated Lighthouse in South Africa.
The Lighthouse became operational in 1893.
You can visit the Lighthouse but need to obtain a special permit beforehand.
Its light flashes twice, with a 10-second break, every 30 seconds.
Robben Island Lighthouse
John Scott Tucker designed the permanent Lighthouse for Robben Island. His design was for a tapered octagonal tower with seven floors. When construction started in 1863, they built the tower with a round shape instead. Joseph Flack completed the Lighthouse in 1864. They delayed its inauguration because of renovations to the Green Point and Mouille Point lighthouses.
The Lighthouse’s first day of operations was 1 January 1865. The lighthouse tower is 18 meters (59 feet) high. It is painted white with a vertical black “navigation” line on the eastern side. Its dome and lantern are red.
What sets the Robben Island lighthouse apart from other lighthouses is that its light is blocked to make it appear to flash. It uses two lights: a white light towards the northwest with a 5-second duration and a 2-second eclipse, and a fixed red navigation light towards the southeast.
They electrified the Lighthouse in 1938. It currently uses LED lights.
To get to Robben Island, choose from one of these tours:
- Robben Island Half Day Tour with Pre-Booked Tickets.
- Robben Island Nelson Mandela’s Prison Museum and Table Mountain Plus All Tickets.
- Robben Island Tickets, Penguins, and Private Cape Point Tour
- Cape Town: Robben Island Ferry Ticket and Townships Tour
Green Point Lighthouse
The Green Point Lighthouse was the first built on South African soil in Cape Town in 1824, making it the oldest solid structured Lighthouse in South Africa. Initially, the original lanterns used a single-wick Argand lamp fuelled by sperm whale oil. Unfortunately, its light was weak and could only be seen 6 miles away.
In 1865 the lighthouse tower was extended and electrified. They replaced the lantern with a flashing light visible for 25 nautical miles.
If you spend a night in Mouille Point, you can still hear the foghorn warn ships.
The Lighthouse is now the head office of the Lighthouse Services in South Africa. This Lighthouse has bold white and red candy stripes. You can visit the Lighthouse and do a self-guided tour on weekdays between 10:00 and 15:00. For more information, contact the Lighthouse at +2721 449 2400.
Mouille Point offers many attractions for visitors. Why not visit Green Point Park or the V&A Waterfront while visiting the Green Point Lighthouse? A walk along the sea point promenade is one of the must-do activities in Cape Town, especially during sunsets.
Mouille Point Lighthouse
After the Green Point Lighthouse, they built the Mouille Point Lighthouse in Cape Town in 1842.
Even with the Green Point Lighthouse, many vessels were shipwrecked upon entering Table Bay Harbour. The Port Captain, Mr Bance, recommended building another lighthouse at Mouille Point to guide ships through. They constructed the Mouille Point Lighthouse next to the Mouille Point Battery. It had a pyramid shape with a single white light. The Lighthouse was commissioned on 1 July 1842.
Its light was weak, and ships confused it with other lights onshore.
They then decided to build a new cylindrical brick lighthouse with a height of 11 meters (36 feet) with an octagonal lantern from Paris. They painted it red and white. The Lighthouse was commissioned in January 1865.
Unfortunately, the new Lighthouse was also ineffective. The Lighthouse Commission of 1890 recommended that it be switched off after they completed the Granger Bay Breakwater as it had a navigational beacon. The Lighthouse was decommissioned on 15 April 1906. It was later partially demolished.
The circular hollow base remains at the site today at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Granger Bay Campus. The University uses it to store gardening equipment.
You can request the security personnel at the Campus to allow you to see the structure.
Cape Point Lighthouses
There are two lighthouses in the Cape Point Nature Reserve, including the Old Lighthouse and the New Lighthouse. The Old Lighthouse is not operational anymore. It is now a monitoring point for South African lighthouses. The New Lighthouse is operational and one of Africa’s most powerful lighthouses.
The old Lighthouse became operational in 1860 and was located at the peak of the Cape Point rocks. Its location was not ideal for a lighthouse. The Lusitania shipwrecked in 1911 when it hit Bellow’s Rock near Cape Point. The Lighthouse had not been visible because of low-hanging clouds. They then decided to build a lighthouse at Dias Peak, a lower location.
The new Lighthouse was electrified in 1936. Its light flashes three times every 30 seconds.
You can hike and swim in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Take the Flying Dutchman at Cape Point for a unique experience.
This Lighthouse’s name came from the Slangkop (Snake Head) mountain peak behind the Lighthouse. It is the tallest cast-iron Lighthouse in South Africa at 34 metres high and 33 metres in circumference. The Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, Sir Francis Hely-Hutchinson appointed a commission in 1906 to establish the Lighthouse. Still, it was only commissioned in 1919 after the First World War delayed its construction.
You can visit the Slangkop Lighthouse and climb its spiral staircase on weekdays between 10:00 and 15:00. It closes from 12:00-12:30 for lunch. During the Summer, the Lighthouse is open on weekends but closed during public holidays. Phone +2721 783 1717 for more information.
This Lighthouse’s light flashes four times with a four second-break every thirty seconds.
You can find the Slangkop Lighthouse in Kommetjie in the Table Mountain National Park. Kommetjie is a gateway to kite surfing, birdwatching and surfing.
They automated the Lighthouse in 1979. It is one of the few lighthouses in South Africa that still has a lightkeeper.
Roman Rock Lighthouse
The Roman Rock Lighthouse is near Simon’s Town and Kalk Bay in the False Bay Harbour Basin. It is built on a single rock in the ocean – the only one in South Africa and the Southern Hemisphere.
The Lighthouse became operational in 1861. Its construction took 4 years.
Renovations of the Lighthouse required helicopters to fly supplies to the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was electrified in 1992 when the lights from the nearby towns reduced the Lighthouse’s visibility.
The Lighthouse flashes its light every 6 seconds.
You cannot visit the Lighthouse itself, but the Simon’s Town Museum displays a part of the 1914 lighthouse mechanism. You can visit the museum on weekdays between 10:00 and 13:00.
The surrounding areas of the False Bay area have many attractions for visitors. Try excellent fish and chips in Kalk Bay at Kalkies. Simon’s town offers Boulders Beach with its penguins and several museums.
Click here for accommodation options near Simon’s Town and Kalk Bay.
Cape Hangklip Lighthouse
They built the Cape Hangklip Lighthouse in 6 days. It has a cylindrical concrete tower with a height of 22 meters high.
The Lighthouse has been operational since 1960.
In 1986, they installed a telemetry system to allow Cape Point to monitor the Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse flashes its light every 10 seconds. It is visible for 25 nautical miles.
Danger Point Lighthouse
The Danger Point Lighthouse is south of the Walker Bay Nature Reserve near Gansbaai. Its construction started after several significant shipwrecks, including the HMS Birkenhead, in 1852, when more than 440 people died.
Over 140 ships have shipwrecked on the dangerous reefs between the Danger Point and Cape Infanta Lighthouses.
The Lighthouse has an octagon shape and started operating in 1895.
Its light flashes every 40 seconds.
Visitors can climb the 18,3 metres to the top of the Lighthouse. Its opening hours are from 10:00 to 15:00 on weekdays. You may need a reservation to visit from May to September. You can phone +2712 449 2400 for more information.
Gansbaai is known for whale-watching and shark-cage diving.
Cape Agulhas Lighthouse
Cape L’Agulhas is the southernmost point of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. The Cape Agulhas Lighthouse is in the Agulhas National Park. It is still operational, making it the second-oldest operational Lighthouse in South Africa. It provides a beacon of light to ships sailing through the Cape of Storms.
The Lighthouse’s design resembles the Faros Lighthouse in Pharos, Egypt. It became operational in 1849 and was South Africa’s third Lighthouse.
In 1962 the Lighthouse was condemned, and the residents decided to take over its upkeep.
The Cape Agulhas Lighthouse flashes its white light every 5 seconds.
You can visit the Lighthouse and climb its 71 steps during the week from 9:00 to 17:00, but it closes from 11:30 – 12:00. It is also unique in that it houses South Africa’s only lighthouse museum featuring ancient fish trips from the Khoisan People. You can phone +2728 435 6078 for more information.
You can fish at Cape L’Agulhas or watch the whales.
Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse
They completed the construction of the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse near Mossel Bay in 1864. The Lighthouse has a height of 20,5 metres. It is on a cliff with spectacular views of the area.
The Lighthouse is still operational, and its light flashes every 15 seconds.
It is one of two South African lighthouses with a dedicated lightkeeper.
Visitors can visit on weekdays from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 12:30 to 15:00, but phone to make sure whether you need to make arrangements for a visit. It is closed on weekends and public holidays. You can get more information by phone at +2744 690 3015.
Mossel Bay is near South Africa’s Garden Route and offers visitors a variety of sightseeing and marvellous restaurants to try.
Seal Point Lighthouse
After three years of construction, the Seal Point Lighthouse in Cape St Francis started operating in 1878. The circular Lighthouse is still operational. Its tower is 27,75 metres high and is the tallest masonry lighthouse in South Africa. There is a museum and the SANCCOB Seabird Rehabilitation Centre on the property.
The Lighthouse has been a national museum since 1984. You can visit the Lighthouse, but you can only visit the top of the Lighthouse with a guide. There are guided and self-guided tours twice a day between 10:00 and 15:00.
The Lighthouse’s light flashes every 5 seconds.
Surfers will love Cape St. Francis with its surf-perfect waves.
Bird Island Lighthouse
The Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Harry Smith, agreed to construct a wooden lighthouse on Bird Island after several ships wrecked nearby. He commissioned the first building on 1 December 1852.
The first lightkeeper, Mr W Netwon, used seal or whale oil to light the Lighthouse’s signal lamp. Unfortunately, the oil often became rancid before reaching the island, resulting in it smoking so much that the light from the lamp was useless. As a result, the lightkeeper often had to use ordinary household lamps or candles, which made the Lighthouse ineffective.
The colonial government agreed in November 1871 to build a stone lighthouse. The construction started in 1872, but there was a delay in the shipping of components from England. The improved Lighthouse became operational on 1 May 1873.
In 1893 they extended the height of the tower by 6 meters. They updated the lighting mechanism over time. In 1968 the Lighthouse was automated and no longer needed a lightkeeper. Nowadays, technicians go to the island with a helicopter to do maintenance.
Bird Island is about 58 kilometres to the northeast of Port Elizabeth. The island houses the largest population of Cape Gannets in the world. There are also many penguins and seals living in the area.
No one is allowed near Bird Island without a permit, as it is now a bird sanctuary and marine protected area.
Cape Recife Lighthouse
Many ships wrecked on the Thunderbolt Reef in Algoa Bay. It took over 40 years to respond to requests for a lighthouse with the completion of the construction of the Cape Refice Lighthouse in 1851. It is one of South Africa’s oldest lighthouses.
The Cape Recife Lighthouse is in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve.
The Lighthouse is 24 metres high with an octagonal shape and 101 wooden, circular stairs. Its light flashes every 30 seconds and is visible from 29 miles away. It is still operational.
You can visit the Cape Recife Lighthouse but need to get a permit from the Pine Lodge Resort near the Cape Recife Nature Reserve entrance. Phone +2741 583 4004 for more information.
The Hill Lighthouse
The Cape Recife Lighthouse is another of the lighthouses in South Africa. The plans for it started in the late 1840s. The Harbour Board also requested the government to build a lighthouse in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
They decided in 1857 to build a Lighthouse in Port Elizabeth, next to the Donkin Memorial. The construction of the Lighthouse started in May 1860 and lasted one year.
The Lighthouse became operational on 1 June 1861. The masonry tower’s height was 17 meters (55 feet), and its fixed occulting lamp was visible for 12 nautical miles.
In 1929, they increased the tower’s height by 9 meters (30 feet).
Eventually, the Lighthouse’s light was no long distinguishable from the city light. They built a new lighthouse near the mouth of the Papenkuils River at Deal Party. The switch from the Hill Lighthouse to the new one occurred on 31 October / 1 November 1973.
You can still visit the Hill Lighthouse in Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth. A restaurant nearby has terrific views of Port Elizabeth and the harbour. Should you wish to visit the Lighthouse, you can request to do so between 08:00 and 16:30 on weekdays and between 9:30 and 15:30 on Saturdays.
Great Fish Point Lighthouse
The Great Fish Point Lighthouse, also called Fish River Lighthouse, has a unique appearance with its black and white stripes and red roof, nicknamed ‘the short, red-headed fellow in the tuxedo’.
The Lighthouse is 25 kilometres east of Port Alfred and is one of South Africa’s smallest lighthouses at only 9 metres high. It is 76 metres above sea level and offers beautiful views.
It has a revolving electric light that flashes every 10 seconds. The light is visible up to 59 kilometres out to sea.
You can visit the Great Fish Point Lighthouse during the week between 10:00 – 15:00. You can phone +2721 449 2400 for more information.
It is one of the few lighthouses in South Africa where you can stay on the property.
Hood Point Lighthouse
The Hood Point Lighthouse was the second Lighthouse in East London, one of South Africa’s major cities.
The first Lighthouse in East London was a temporary lighthouse, which became operational on 1 August 1860. It remained in service for 35 years. They demolished the building in 1929.
In 1890 a lighthouse commission recommended the establishment of a permanent lighthouse. The chosen location was a small hillock about 1.8 kilometres (1.1 miles) southwest of the Buffalo River mouth in the Point Hood area.
Messrs. Hendry & Pearce, under the supervision of Clerk of the Works, Mr H. Freeman, completed the construction of the Lighthouse on schedule. The lantern and optic equipment came from the Chance Brothers and Company of Birmingham in England. It became operational on 4 June 1895.
The Lighthouse has a height of 19 meters (62 feet). They initially painted the tower in a patchwork of white and reddish-orange squares. It is now all-white with red gallery rails and a red lantern dome.
It is next to a graveyard, the West Bank Golf Course and Potters Pass Nature Reserve. The Lighthouse became a provincial heritage site on 22 May 1998.
Its light flashes four times every 40 seconds and is visible for 31 nautical miles.
For information about visiting the Lighthouse, phone +2743 701-9600.
Cape Morgan Lighthouse
They completed the Cape Morgan Lighthouse in Kei Mouth in 1964. It is a fully automated lighthouse.
Its lantern is on a lattice tower of 12 metres. Its light is visible for 24 sea miles.
You cannot visit the Lighthouse as it is fenced off. To get to the Lighthouse, you must walk about 3 kilometres along the coastline from the Kei Mouth.
Cape Hermes Lighthouse
The Cape Hermes Lighthouse is octagon-shaped and built from granite rock.
The Lighthouse’s name is from the HMS Hermes that surveyed Pondoland’s coastal waters to warn passing ships of the dangerous and rugged rock alcoves along the East Coast of South Africa.
They completed the Lighthouse in 1903. Its light flashes every three seconds and is visible from 13 nautical miles away.
To get to this Lighthouse, drive past the visible entrance to Mzimvubu River, First Beach on right, road to Lighthouse, Port St Johns, Wild Coast, Eastern Cape.
North Sand Bluff Lighthouse
The North Sand Bluff Lighthouse is still operational.
The Lighthouse has five flights of spiral stairs to the top. You will have beautiful views over Port Edward when you reach the top. During whale season, the whales and dolphins swim in the bay.
You can visit the Lighthouse from Mondays to Saturdays between 9:00 and 17:00. For more information, contact the Lighthouse at +2782 211 8970.
There are self-catering cottages to stay in near the Lighthouse.
The Umhlanga Lighthouse in Umhlanga in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province started operating in 1954. Its construction only took 4 days and 19 hours.
The Lighthouse is 21 metres high and has 95 steps to the top.
Unfortunately, you cannot visit the inside of the Umhlanga Lighthouse. Since it is near a beach, it is one of the most photographed lighthouses in South Africa.
Its light flashes every 20 seconds. Its fixed red light allows ships to track its position while they wait to anchor.
The nearby Oyster Box Hotel controls the Lighthouse.
Cape Vidal Lighthouse
Another of the lighthouses in South Arica is the Cape Vidal Lighthouse. They built this Lighthouse in 1985 near the Umfolosi River and the Cape Vidal Forestry Reserve near St Lucia.
The Lighthouse has a height of 23 metres. It has a yellow concrete tower to ensure the lighthouse is visible against the forest and ocean scenery.
The light beacon has a radio beacon, and a diesel alternator powers it. Its beams are visible from 25 nautical sea miles away.
The light shines once every 10 seconds.