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Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse

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»» Travel Trivia
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Business Type: Tower height: 21 metres


Tiritiri Matangi lighthouse is situated on Tiritiri Island in the Hauraki Gulf. It marks the approach to Auckland Harbour some 28 kilometres to the south.

Address: Tiritiri Matangi Island, Army Bay, Auckland Auckland North & West



History of Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse

Tiritiri Matangi is the oldest lighthouse still in operation in New Zealand. It was also the first lighthouse to be built by the Government.

Construction of the lighthouse was very difficult and cost £5,747. It took 4 months to dig down through 3 metres of thick, boggy, clay-like mud to reach ground that was hard enough to build on.

Building materials for the lighthouse were shipped to the island and then carted in sledges by bullocks over the slippery banks to reach the construction site. Despite the challenges of construction, the original tower is still standing. The light itself, however, has undergone many changes.

The light was first lit on 1 January 1865.

Operation of the Tiritiri Matangi light

When the fixed light was lit on the first day of 1865, it was fuelled by colza oil. It was later modified to burn paraffin oil. In 1916 the light was again modified, this time to burn kerosene.

In 1882 a red glass pane was fitted inside the lantern to throw a red light over Flat Rock near Kawau Island. This was removed in 1922 when an automatic light was installed on Flat Rock.

In 1925 the light was replaced with an automatic acetylene-burning revolving light. The keepers were withdrawn that same year.

During the 1930s the Tiritiri Matangi light was fitted with a radio beacon, and in 1947 the keepers returned to the station.

In 1955 the light was converted from oil to diesel-generated electricity. In 1956 the light was again replaced, this time with a new xenon light of 11 million candle power. With a visibility of 58 miles it was one of the most powerful lighthouses in the world at the time. The new light was a private donation from Auckland businessman and yachtsman, Sir Ernest Davis.

In 1966 the light was changed to mains electricity supplied from a 5 kilometre long underwater power cable.

The station was fully automated and the last keeper was withdrawn in 1984.

In 2002 the light assembly was replaced with a modern rotating light beacon which was installed within the original lighthouse. This light is fitted with a 50 watt tungsten halogen bulb.

The new light is powered from battery banks charged by solar panels.

Life at Tiritiri Matangi light station

Tiritiri Matangi was a particularly busy light station. As one keeper wrote in the 1960s, "on Tiritiri we had a constant passing parade to prove our use."

The proximity to the mainland and the constant passing of vessels made Tiritiri Matangi a popular posting. It was especially popular when the service intervals for the lighthouse station were reduced from 3 monthly to fortnightly.

The last keeper to be withdrawn from the island had the privilege of becoming the island’s first conservation officer because the island became an open wildlife sanctuary.

Access to Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse

Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse is accessible to the public. There is no public access to enter the lighthouse.

Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary administered by the Department of Conservation and is a popular day trip from Auckland.

Technical details

Location: latitude 36°36' south, longitude 174°54' east

Elevation: 91 metres above sea level

Construction: cast iron tower

Tower height: 21 metres

Light configuration: modern rotating beacon

Light flash character: white light flashing once every 15 seconds

Power source: batteries charged by solar panels

Range: 18 nautical miles (33 kilometres)

Date light first lit: 1865

Automated: 1984

Demanned: 1984

Source: Maritime New Zealand


There is a regular ferry service which operates every day apart from Mondays and Tuesdays. The ferry does operate on public holidays (excluding Christmas Day) and every day over the period from 26 December to the third Sunday in January. Be aware that in the peak season (November to April) the ferry can get booked up well in advance. Phone: 0800 360 3472 (0800 360 Discovery).
Private boats and kayaks can also visit the island. A suitable landing is found at Hobbs Beach on the western side of the island.

Photo Gallery

Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse

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