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Cape Palliser Lighthouse Drive

Home  »  North Island Walks  »  Martinborough  »  Cape Palliser Lighthouse Drive – Walk detail

Cape Palliser lighthouse was built out of cast iron in 1897 to guide shipping through the Cook Strait. On your drive from Martinborough to Cape Palliser Lighthouse you can watch fur seals basking in the sun from the comfort of your car.

Quick Facts

        • Location: North Island NZ
        • Distance: 80 kms
        • Time needed: 8 Hours
        • Difficulty: Very Easy
        • Wheelchair Access: No
        • Route: Double back
        • Elevation: 78m
        • Wet Feet: No
        • Toilets: Yes
        • Dogs: Yes
        • Mobile Coverage: Yes
        • Last Updated: November, 2019
  • Track Highlights

    45 Km from Martinborough is the turn off to the 120,000 years old Putangirua Pinnacles. You might remember seeing the pinnacles in the Lord of the Rings movie. Thirty minutes from Cape Palliser lighthouse you will see dozens of commercial fishing boats sitting on the sand with multi coloured tractors parked beside them. To top off the trip, fur seals will be sitting alongside the road waiting to pose for that once in a life time photo.

  • Track Quality

    The road from Martinborough to the lighthouse is not a two lane highway. It is a country road, so take it easy. Yes it is sealed

  • Hazards

    Five minutes from Cape Pilliser lighthouse there is one section of road where the waves can break over the road and splash your car, on a very windy day.

  • Transport


  • Water


  • Driving Instructions


  • Shops or Restaurants nearby

    Martinborough is the chance you have of topping up with supplies.

  • Area & Track History

    Cape Palliser Lighthouse was built in 1897 out of cast iron. To make the lighthouse stand out with the Aorang range towing behind it, it was painted with red and white strips, only two other lighthouses in NZ have black and white stripes. There were many shipwrecks along the dangerous Cook Strait. Six months before the lighthouse was completed a ship was wrecked taking the lives of 12 people, just miles from the new light house. From 1897 to 1954 oil lamps were used. 1954 to 1967 switched over to a diesel generator. By 1986 Cape Palliser Lighthouse was fully automated and controlled from Wellington. Even today the Cape Palliser Lighthouse is still operating with the 1897 Fresnel lens. Cape Palliser Lighthouse stands 78 meters above sea level and is 18 meters tall. 2×1000-watt incandescent bulb flash 2 times every 20 seconds and can be seen 48 kilometers off shore. Being so isolated in the early days, the stores were delivered to the lighthouse every 3 months by sea, if the weather permitted, otherwise stores would have to be picked up 6 kilometres away at Kawakawa Bay, that is, if the stores were not lost over board. It was not until the late 1950 a road was pushed through from Pirinoa settlement, now the mail and supplies could be deliver once a week.

  • Best Things To Do near this walk

  • Map location of Cape Palliser Lighthouse Drive

    Map of walk

Martinborough to Ngawi Bay

The signs to look for are, Lake Ferry, Pirinoa and Cape Palliser. At around 27 Km you should be at the Whangaimoana Road turn off. If you drive straight ahead you will arrive at Lake Ferry, all that is there is a tavern and a couple of houses. It won’t be long before you will be driving along the beach front. If you see a couple of seals along this section don’t panic. There are dozens more up the road. As you look ahead you will see a lot of coloured dots in the distance. We could not work out what was going on till we were within 500 Mt.

Cape Palliser Lighthouse

From Ngawi Bay to the lighthouse is easy, just follow your nose. This section of road is interesting, plenty of fur seals to take photos of and the road is also very interesting, so stay alert. Cape Palliser Lighthouse is easy to find but, be prepared for bad weather, take a warm coat and rain gear. To get past the car wash we had to time the waves breaking over the road, then make a dash to the other side, it would pay to have someone on the other side of the road to stop any other approaching cars.

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Contact info

Cape Palliser 5772, New Zealand

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