The original Akaroa lighthouse started operation on the precipitous headland of Akaroa Heads on January 1, 1880. One hundred years later, it was moved to the Akaroa Township, after being replaced in 1977 by an automated light.
If you take a visit to this cliff-side reserve you’ll see spectacular views and historical remnants spotting the hillside. There is very little left as the elements of wind and rain have savaged the remaining buildings and stonework. Foundations of the lighthouse keepers’ homes original stonework of the supply road and a stone culvert are all that remain.
There is an atmosphere of history-past that permeates the air. A visit to Akaroa Heads is a rewarding experience, even without the original lighthouse!
Historic Highlights of Akaroa Heads
1875 - Akaroa Heads was chosen as a suitable site for a lighthouse.
1877 - The Marine Engineer came to mark out the site; lantern apparatus were ordered from Europe; the lens and mount came from France and the mechanism from Scotland.
1878 - A road from Haylocks Bay was constructed first to allow building supplies into site. The road, 500 metre long was dynamited out of solid rock for nearly its entire length and took 10 months to complete.
1879, Feb. 21 - The derrick and platform were built out of kauri.
1879, Mar. 7 - Construction began on the lighthouse. A southerly storm completely demolished the framework of the buildings during construction. The next attempted building was given a double skin, and was partially filled with ballast to help survive future southerly blasts.
1879, Mar. 30 - Mr William Black, overseer of the construction work, dies of exposure while travelling from the site to Akaroa Town.
1880 - The light shines for the first time. The tower is wooden, 28 feet high. The light itself is 270 feet above sea level and is visible up to 37km or 23 miles. The light is a flashing white light of the second order dioptric, flashing every 10 seconds. Construction costs were more than 7000 pounds.
1879 - 1885 – Mr. Alexander Parks is the first Principal Keeper appointed to Akaroa Heads.
1885 - A telephone connection is installed between Akaroa Heads and the post office. Mr. Parks makes the first communication.
1911 - The lighthouse beacon was the last landfall used by Captain Scott when he sailed from Terra Nova to the South Pole.
1935 - Power (kerosene generator) was introduced, putting an end to winding the mechanisms every few hours and the need for night watch.
1951 - The Akaroa light was converted from oil to diesel engine power.
1950’s - The derrick and shed removed, its kauri timbers used to construct a local fishing boat, ‘Bonita’.
1952 - The Principal Keeper's house burns down during the night.
1960 - The Assistant Keeper's house was removed.
1975 - 1977 - Steve O’Neill is the last Principal Keeper stationed at Akaroa Heads.
1977 - An automatic lighthouse is installed by marine division of MOT to replace the manned lighthouse.
1980 - The lighthouse building and equipment was granted to Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society. They moved the tower in sections to Cemetery Point in Akaroa Town (now known as Lighthouse Point).
1984 - The Lighthouse Reserve comes under the management of what is now the Department of Conservation, watched over by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.