Standing guard over idyllic West Coast Peninsula fishing villages and holiday destinations like Paternoster, Saldanha, Langebaan and Stompneus Bay, the Cape Columbine lighthouse still has a dedicated light-keeper and is the prime visual icon of the area. It is also popular with travellers looking for a picnic spot with romantic history.

Did you know?

The Cape Columbine lighthouse was the last manned lighthouse to be built in South Africa.

Before the Cape Columbine lighthouse was built in 1936, the West Coast of South Africa, from Saldanha to Stompneus Bay, was infamous for shipwrecks.

The list of local naval victims included the Heleric (1932), the Haddon Hall (1913), the Lisboa (1910), the SS Saint Lawrence (1876) and the Columbine (1829).

Local lore suggests that there was a lot of port on board the Lisboa when she went down, so much so that the sea around the foundering Portuguese twin-screw mail steamer turned deep crimson with the sweet wine.

It is also said that locals on shore grabbed many intact barrels of port that had washed up on the beach and hid them from the prying eyes of the customs officers.

It took years of official dithering and a slew of nautical disasters before this magnificent example of a classic lighthouse was built in 1936.

The Cape Columbine lighthouse was the last significant project of the famed Harry Claude Cooper, who learnt his craft from master lighthouse designers in Eddystone, Scotland. Cooper was involved in the building of more than 30 South African lighthouses, spending nearly six months of the year visiting them by scotch cart over rough tracks.

The lighthouse was built on a boulder-strewn outcrop called Castle Rock, with top optics, fog signal and radio beacon. For years afterwards, Cape Columbine’s was the brightest light on the South African coastline.

This splendidly built and generously equipped South African lighthouse was what foreign shipping lines and local traders had been praying for since the late 19th Century. It did the serious job of ‘making light’ for ships heading towards shore after a long period of sailing the open seas.

The Cape Columbine lighthouse still has a full-time light-keeper and lies within the Columbine Nature Reserve.

Although it does the job of lighting up this part of the West Coast, it has also become a favoured picnic site for day visitors to the reserve, weekenders from the holiday village of Paternoster and travellers staying at the nearby Tieties Bay campground.

The Cape Columbine lighthouse is one of only four lighthouses in South Africa offering overnight accommodation. The other lighthouses that currently offer accommodation are Danger Point (Gansbaai), Cape St Blaize (Mossel Bay) and Great Fish Point (Port Alfred).

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