Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias named Cape Town the “Cape of Storms” and for good reason. Cape Town is known for its stormy personality, with many shipwrecks still scattered along the coastline.
Today, there are lighthouses dotted all along the Western Cape serving as beacons of light steering maritime pilots at sea from the coastline’s treacherous jagged rocks.
Here are a few of the most beautiful lighthouses along the Western Cape’s Coastline:
The Cape Agulhas Lighthouse:
The Cape Agulhas Lighthouse was built in December 1948 and commissioned on 1 March 1849.
Today, the lighthouse is one of South Africa’s most well-known landmarks and was declared a national monument on 2 March 1973. The old keeper’s quarters is now a museum, the only one of its kind in Africa. Visitors can browse through the many interesting artefacts, and also climb up the steep 71 steps which lead to the lantern gallery, a vantage point which provides magnificent views over the shoreline, and the town of L’Agulhas.
The Old Cape Point Lighthouse:
The lighthouse was commissioned on 1 May 1860.
The shell of the cast iron tower and the keeper’s quarters are still in place and are easily accessible to visitors. The views from this location are impressive, offering spectacular vistas over the entire Cape Point area and most of False Bay, it’s no wonder then that the old Cape Point Lighthouse is by far the most visited and photographed lighthouse in South Africa.
The lamp was extinguished for the last time on 11 March 1919.
The New Cape Point Lighthouse:
The decision was made to erect a new lighthouse located at a much lower altitude after many years of complaints from sailors that the lighthouse on top of Cape Point Peak was often obscured by dense clouds or fog.
The lamp of the new lighthouse was lit for the first time on the evening of 11 March 1919.
The lighthouse site is not open to the public.
Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse:
The Cape St. Blaize lighthouse in Mossel Bay is located on top of a rocky headland extending out into the Indian Ocean on the southern side of the bay at a height of 73 meters above sea level. The lighthouse is easily visible to ships approaching from any direction.
Construction of the lighthouse was completed in November 1863, and the lighthouse was officially commissioned on 15 March 1864.
Cape St. Blaize is one of 5 lighthouses in South Africa which offer onsite accommodation.
Danger Point Lighthouse:
The aptly named Danger Point is a rocky headland located in the Overberg section of the Western Cape and the graveyard of many ships (at least 20 vessels have been lost in the immediate vicinity including the disastrous loss of the HMS Birkenhead in 1852). The waters are home to the Great White Shark, which has made this area its hunting ground.
Danger Point lighthouse is linked to the tragic wreck of the HMS Birkenhead, a Royal Navy ship that struck an uncharted rock just off Danger Point at about 2am on 26 February 1852. About 640 Passengers and crew were on board, most of them were soldiers from 10 different regiments, but at least 7 women and 13 children were on board as well. The ship immediately began to break up and the lifeboats were deployed, two lifeboats were swamped and the third was faulty.
The captain ordered the men to stand fast, while the women and children were loaded into the three remaining boats. The troops awaited their fate with dignity. Their courage has set a precedent that is still practised across the world in emergency situations and is referred to as the Birkenhead Drill.
Some of the men clung to the wreckage while others attempted to swim to the shore. Only 193 people survived, including all of the women and children; the rest drowned or were attacked by sharks.
The lighthouse was commissioned on 1 January 1895.
Dassen Island Lighthouse:
Islands have always been a problem for shipping, especially for the early mariners attempting to find a sea route with no maps or charts, they were forced to hug the coastline to maintain sight of land.
The Dassen Island Lighthouse was commissioned on 15 April 1893, and a fog signal and radio beacon were added later.
The first lighthouse keepers were forced to endure a lonely and isolated existence with the only form of communication being via carrier pigeons.
“Today, most of the lighthouse functions have been automated, and the island is no longer permanently manned.”
Green Point Lighthouse:
The Green Point Lighthouse was the first formal lighthouse to be commissioned in South Africa.
The lighthouse was completed in 1823 and opened on 12 April 1824 and declared a National Monument on 12 January 1973.
“It is currently the home base of LNS (Lighthouse and Navigational Systems), a division of Transnet National Ports Authority which operates and maintains all of South Africa’s lighthouses. There is a small conference facility and gift shop on the premises, as well as a visitor centre to cater for the many tourists who are drawn to this eye-catching and historic building.”
Robben Island Lighthouse:
Robben Island’s first navigational aid was a huge bonfire that was lit on the highest point of the island whenever incoming ships were sighted before nightfall.
The lighthouse was completed in 1864 and the lamp was lit for the first time on 1 January 1865.
Roman Rock Lighthouse:
Roman Rock is a pinnacle located approximately 2.2 kilometres from the entrance to the Simon’s Town Harbor and is the only lighthouse in South Africa to be built on a single rock. A rock that has presented a navigational hazard to all vessels that had been using the port since the 18th century.
The lighthouse became fully automated on 25 March 1919.
Slangkop Point Lighthouse:
The Slangkop Point Lighthouse was commissioned on 4 March 1919 and is the tallest lighthouse tower in South Africa, standing at a height of 33 meters.
The lighthouse is open to the public, and tours are conducted by the resident keeper. The building can also be used for special events, such as weddings and is a popular site for photographers.
There are 139 steps leading up to the lantern level, separated by 5 landings.
Picture: Lighthouses of South Africa
Research: Lighthouses of South Africa