The road to Cape Palliser Lighthouse is one of NZ's best coastal drives

The Cape Palliser Lighthouse, set in the Wellington region on the southern coast of New Zealand's North Island, is not just a beacon for sailors but also the finishing point of one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand.

Cape Palliser Lighthouse

How long is the road to Cape Palliser Lighthouse?

Starting at Lake Ferry Road, the 35km (21 miles) Cape Palliser Road is a magnificent fusion of rugged coastline and remote charm. With steep cliffs on one side and the endless expanse of ocean with black-sand beaches on the other, it offers unforgettable sea views. While much of the road is paved, the last 7.2km (4.47 miles) presents a gravel challenge, often getting muddy and slippery after rains. Erosion threatening the cliffs at Whatarangi necessitates caution, and the numerous one-lane bridges add to the journey's character. For those renting a car, it's wise to check your insurance, as the road near the lighthouse isn't entirely sealed. It’s one of the best coastal drives in the world.

When was the Cape Palliser Lighthouse built? 

As the southernmost point of the North Island, the lighthouse stands majestically at Cape Palliser. After ascending around 250 steep, challenging steps, you'll reach the 18-metre-high lighthouse that has guarded these shores since 1897. Automated in 1986, this historic lighthouse flashes its beacon twice every 20 seconds, guiding vessels away from the perilous waters that claimed about 20 ships in the 19th century.

Is the Cape Palliser Lighthouse worth it? 

Once atop the lighthouse, breathtaking views of Palliser Bay and the South Island greet you. But the bay's appeal doesn't end with the lighthouse. The nearby shoreline hosts the North Island’s largest fur seal colony, making it a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts. The unique geological features and the seals' antics – despite their malodorous presence – make this destination even more enchanting. In essence, Cape Palliser Lighthouse and its surroundings are a treasure trove of natural beauty and historical significance. Whether you're a history buff, nature lover, or someone seeking a scenic drive, this corner of New Zealand promises an unforgettable experience.