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The 150-year-old Auckland Icon You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

This weekend, New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa is celebrating the birthday of Waitematā Harbour icon, Bean Rock Lighthouse. The museum’s heritage scow, Ted Ashby, will make a special trip out to the lighthouse to mark the occasion – an event which is open to the public.

“Many Aucklanders have never heard of Bean Rock, but it’s visible from almost any vantage point along the Waitematā Harbour,” says museum Director, Vincent Lipanovich.

“It’s a fascinating landmark and maintains its original purpose of keeping vessels safe as they travel in and out of the harbour.”

Bean Rock Lighthouse was first lit on July 24, 1871. Today, it still sits in its original position at the end of a reef in the Waitematā Harbour, atop Te Toka-o-Kapetaua (Kapetaua’s rock). The cream-coloured lighthouse is visible from almost any beach or outlook surrounding Waitematā Harbour, with Mission Bay and Devonport offering the best views.

In 1985, the lighthouse cottage, with its four tiny rooms and narrow hexagonal veranda, was removed for restoration work. The base’s rotted kauri legs were replaced by Australian hardwood, jarrah, and sunk in new concrete foundations. The cottage was then winched back into place.

For the first 119 years of its life, the lighthouse light was powered by a kerosene lamp, but this was converted to solar power in the 1990s.

The lighthouse’s first keeper was Hugh Brown, who was stationed there for 19 years and mostly lived on Te Toka-o-Kapetaua, while his family lived in Devonport. When he did commute, he’d do so by rowboat.

“Apparently, for exercise when Brown was on the rock, he’d complete circuits of 35 paces around the veranda. It must have been an incredibly lonely existence for the lighthouse keepers,” says Lipanovich.

Bean Rock was the first lighthouse to be de-manned and automated, in 1912. (The last New Zealand lighthouse to be automated, in 1990, was the one on Brothers Island, on the desolate western side of Cook Strait).

Today, it’s the only remaining wave-washed, wooden-cottage lighthouse in the country and is protected by the Historic Places Act.

To learn more about this fascinating Auckland landmark, book a seat on the museum’s commemorative two-hour sailing on Saturday, July 24, where you’ll be treated to a narrated tour of the harbour and a close-up view of Bean Rock Lighthouse. Visit for more information and to book.

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