Akaroa Lighthouse

Beach Road, Akaroa

  • Akaroa Lighthouse. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Bernard Spragg – volvob12b. Taken By: Bernard Spragg – volvob12b. Date: 27/07/2013.
  • Akaroa Lighthouse. Internal workings.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: R O'Brien. Date: 23/12/2012.
  • Akaroa Lighthouse.
    Copyright: Akaroa Civic Trust. Taken By: Unknown.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3343 Date Entered 22nd August 1991 Date of Effect 22nd August 1991


Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes part of the land known as Road Reserve, Canterbury Land District, and the structure known as Akaroa Lighthouse thereon.

City/District Council

Christchurch City


Canterbury Region

Legal description

Road Reserve, Canterbury Land District

Location description

The Akaroa Lighthouse is located on Beach Road close to the wharf and Akaroa Cruising Club



When the Akaroa lighthouse was built in 1878 coastal shipping was the principal form of transport and communication in New Zealand. Lighthouses were essential for the efficiency and safety of this service. The original site at Akaroa Head was selected in 1875 and the lighthouse was commenced in 1878 and completed the following year. It remained in use on this site until the 1970s. In 1980 it was cut into three sections, taken to its present site, reassembled and restored. The light may still be lit on special occasions. The lighthouse is open for public inspection.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Lighthouses were an essential aspect of the coastal maritime trade in New Zealand in the 19th century. Their importance has declined in recent years and many lighthouses have been de-manned and

disestablished. The Akaroa Lighthouse, even in its relocated position, is a prominent reminder of this service in its heyday.


The Akaroa lighthouse is one of the few surviving wooden lighthouses on the New Zealand coast. It is a functional wooden building of simple but pleasant lines. The triangular-paned glass screen and copper sheathed cupola are distinctive and attractive features. Although it has been moved, its appearance today is essentially the same as it would have been on 1 January 1880 when it first exhibited.


The lighthouse is a prominent feature of Cemetery Point, Akaroa.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Stevenson, D & T

David and Thomas Stevenson came from a long line of Stevensons trained as engineers and commissioned to build lighthouses on the Scottish coast. Thomas was the father of writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

D & T Stevenson & Co were based in Edinburgh. Contracted to the Scottish Light Service they designed the machinery for a number of other New Zealand lighthouses, including Dog Island, Foveaux Strait 1865), Bean Rock, Waitemata Harbour (1872), Cape Saunders (1878-9) and Akaroa Head (1878-9). The latter two lighthouses were identical in design and were both exhibited for the first time on 1 January 1880.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


The Akaroa Lighthouse is a six-sided wooden weatherboard building which is 12.5 metres high and 5.49 metres wide at the base. Its sides slope inwards to the light platform at the third floor. Entry is at ground level through a tongue and groove door. Narrow stairs rise between each floor. At the third level a door opens onto a balcony with wooden rail and paling balustrade and wooden angled supports, which encircles the tower. The top level which is enclosed by glass arranged in triangular panes is topped by a rounded roof sheathed in copper.

The Akaroa light is a second order dioptric holophotal revolving light, hand made in France. The lens, which is over 2 metres high and 1.5 metres in diameter, is constructed of a number of prisms which reflect the light in eight separate beams radially from the tower. The lens rotates in 80 seconds, giving a periodicity of 10 seconds to the flashes which are visible to 40 kilometres.

The clockwork rotation mechanism is driven by weights descending in the tower. The light originally used a wick burner kerosene system, but in 1917 a Chand incandescent petroleum vapour kerosene burner was installed. In 1951 a 1000 watt electric system with an output of one million candlepower was installed.


1951 Light electrified.

1980 Lighthouse relocated at Akaroa township; many cladding timbers replaced; balcony strengthened and pipe stair rails replaced with brass rails; sprinklers installed.

Notable Features

Glass screen and copper cupola.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1879 -

1951 -
Light electrified

1980 -
Lighthouse relocated at Akaroa township; many cladding timbers replaced; balcony strengthened and pipe stair rails replaced with brass rails; sprinklers installed.

Construction Details

All the major framing is Australian hardwood; the auxiliary frame, interior linings and white painted exterior timber is mostly kauri; triangular plates of glass below the dome are held in by cast bronze; dome sheathed in copper.

Information Sources


Architectural Drawings/Plans

Akaroa Museum and the Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society hold plans for the Lighthouse.

Historic Places in New Zealand

Historic Places in New Zealand

12.1, March 1986

Porter, 1983

Frances Porter (ed), Historic Buildings of Dunedin, South Island, Methuen, Auckland, 1983.

Gordon Ogilvie, 'Akaroa', pp58-67

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Encyclopaedia Britannica

1985, v11, p262

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.