Lighthouses pepper the country’s coastline all the way from Port Nolloth in the west to Cape Vidal in the east. Why? Well, sailing the 3 000 km stretch that is the country’s shoreline is obviously nothing short of hazardous.
Many of these lighthouses went up in direct response to a major shipwreck.
But for most of them we need to thank a man called Harry Claude Lee Cooper, a lighthouse engineer sent from England to sort out our coast’s navigation.
Under his instruction a paltry 17 lighthouses grew to 45 in number, most of which have withstood the worst of weather and continue to guide ships to safety.
Whilst most of our lighthouses are now automatically operated, South Africa is one of a handful of countries that still manually mans the odd lighthouse.
This blog recognises those invincible light-keepers, their wives and children, who lived in isolation close to the blast of a foghorn, or the relentless beams of light, to keep our shores safe…
For lighthouse lovers, here is a list of 10 lighthouses in South Africa – You can stay at 4 of them.
Cape Columbine Lighthouse, Paternoster
One of very few lighthouses to maintain a dedicated light-keeper, the Cape Columbine lighthouse, built in 1936, lies near Paternoster on the West Coast – aptly named after the Columbine barge that sank, amongst other naval victims, here in 1829.
Of note: For years after it was built Columbine’s was the brightest light of any lighthouse on the country’s coastline}
Times: daily between 10h00 and 15h00
Can I stay? Yes, there are 3 self-catering cottages. Or find accommodation in Paternoster
Contact: 022 752 2705
Slangkop Point Lighthouse, Kommetjie
South Africa’s tallest cast-iron Victorian lighthouse, Slangkop lies in a marine protected area of the Table Mountain National Park. At 34 metres the lighthouse is a giant, and yet another manned by a real light-keeper. It has recently had a new coat of paint.
Of note: Take the well maintained boardwalk along the beach and climb the lighthouse (but phone ahead).
Times: mon to fri 10h00 to 15h00 (open on weekends during summer)
Can I stay? Find accommodation in Kommetjie
Contact: 021 783 1717
Green Point Lighthouse, Cape Town
The candy-striped Green Point lighthouse in Mouille Point (there was a Mouille Point lighthouse but it was dismantled in the 1920s) is the oldest solid structured lighthouse in the country.
Of note: it still sounds a foghorn (albeit seriously muted)
Times: mon – fri, 10am to 3pm
Can I stay: Find accommodation in Mouille Point
Contact: 021 449 2400
Danger Point Lighthouse, Gansbaai
The treacherous coastline of the southern Cape meant that a minimum of seven vessels went down in the area before Danger Point’s lighthouse was erected in 1895. It is set on a small peninsular just beyond the town of Gansbaai.
Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, Cape Agulhas
This is one of the most popular lighthouses to climb, give or take the odd ladder, due to its position at the most southern tip of Africa. When you consider that locals took on the responsibility of its upkeep when it was condemned in 1962, this lighthouse is a must-do. It has one of the only lighthouse museums in the country.
Of note: its similarity to the ancient lighthouse at Pharos
Times: 9am to 5pm (tower closes at 4.30pm)
Can I stay? Find accommodation in Cape Agulhas
Contact: 028 435 6078
Cape St Blaize Lighthouse, Mossel Bay
Once regarded as one of the best posts you could have as a light-keeper (because it barely qualifies as ‘remote’), the lighthouse stands on Cape St Blaize – a rock promontory – in Mossel Bay.
Of note: the opening times, many are disappointed when they arrive after 3pm
Times: mon – fri 10h00 to 15h00 (closed at weekends and public holidays)
Can I stay: Yes, there is a little cottage, or find accommodation in Mossel Bay
Contact: 021 449 2400
Cape Recife Lighthouse, Port Elizabeth
You will find this lighthouse in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve, still in active service as the area to the south of Port Elizabeth tends to get foggy and the lighthouse prevents ships from going aground on Thunderbolt Reef.
Of note: it is one of the oldest lighthouses in the country
Times: get a permit from Pine Lodge Resort near the entrance to the reserve
Can I stay? Find accommodation in Port Elizabeth
Contact: 041 583 4004
Great Fish Point Lighthouse, Port Alfred
25 km east of Port Alfred from the top of one of the country’s smallest lighthouse (only 9 metres high) the views include incredible sand dunes and a coastline worth the climb. It might be small but it stands on a hill 76 metres above the sea.
Of note: it has distinctive black-and-white stripes
Times: mon – fri 10h00 to 15h00
Can I stay? Yes, there is a lighthouse keeper’s cottage, or find accommodation in Port Alfred
Contact: 021 449 2400
North Sand Bluff Lighthouse, Port Edward
Up 5 flights of spiral stairs and you find yourself going through a little hatch before being able to partake in spectacular views over the village of Port Edward (wonderful when the whales and dolphins are in the bay) from this still working lighthouse.
Of note: the lighthouse has a coffee shop
Times: mon – sat 09h00 to 17h00
Can I stay? Yes, there are self-catering cottages, or find accommodation in Port Edward
Contact: 082 211 8970
Umhlanga Rocks Lighthouse, Umhlanga
This fully automatic lighthouse has never had a light-keeper because the Oyster Box Hotel (originally the first beach cottage in the area) has always had the lighthouse controls in its office. This continues today.
Of note: It is one of the most photographed lighthouses because of its proximity to a popular beach
Times: contact the Oyster Box Hotel
Can I stay? Find accommodation in Umhlanga
Contact: 031 514 5000