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).
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Cape Columbine lighthouse
+27 (0)22 752 2705
South African Lighthouse Adventure Tour Operations
Tel: +27 (0)21 449 5171
How to get here
The Cape Columbine lighthouse is approx. 170km north of Cape Town. Take the N7 to Piketberg and then turn left (west) towards the West Coast Peninsula. A more scenic route would be to take the R27 up to Vredenburg (nearly 3 hours’ slow drive) through Langebaan, Saldanha and Paternoster to the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Cape Columbine is when the reserve is sporting its spring (September to November) coat of daisies and fynbos flowers.
Around the area
Visit the West Coast National Park at Langebaan, have a cocktail at the Saldanha harbour, or a beer at the delightfully naughty Panty Bar in Paternoster. See the dolphins off St Helena Bay or take a hiking trail near Jacob’s Bay.
Tours to do
West Coast flower tours are the most popular, and are offered by several tour operators in the area.
What will it cost
Entrance fees are R16 per adult, R8 per child under 12, and R10 per pensioner or student.
Length of stay
2 nights would be ideal.
What to pack
Pack for stormy weather, hot, balmy days and windy nights. Come prepared for anything the South African coastline can dish up – at short notice.
Where to stay
There are many places to stay on the West Coast, but if you want an authentic lighthouse overnight experience, try the Cape Columbine lighthouse. They have a number of cottages available on site from R600 to R900 per cottage, sleeping between 2 and 6 people.
What to eat
The whole West Coast Peninsula boasts good seafood offered by a large selection of restaurants. Check the West Coast websites for information on where and what to eat. Just don’t buy under-sized crayfish from illegal roadside vendors.
This part of the world has a habit of holding a festival at the drop of a tambourine. Check the events sections of the listed websites.