Awhitu Lighthouse

Info Tour Details:
Departs Auckland
Hotel Pick Up /Drop off Yes
Best taken All Year
Duration Full day
Fitness Level Normal.
Transport Included
Food Picnic Basket Included
Accommodation N/A
Group size Min. 1 - Max. 7
 You will need:
 Summer: Comfortable footware, sun screen. sun glasses
 Winter: Warm clothing,
Additional Activities N'A
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The Awhitu Lighthouse
Tour Highlights Tour Highlights:
  • A drive through Franklin District countryside
  • The Glenbrook Steel Mill
  • The Glenbrook vintage railway
  • The Mauku Church
  • Historic Waiuku
  • The Kohekohe Church
  • The Awhitu Lighthouse
  • The Awhitu bays
You are going to love every minute of this tour!

We make an early day start and drive south on State Highway 1. We turn west on the Drury off ramp and head towards Waiuku. The countryside is beautiful particularly in early spring and autumn. The scenery offers many photo opportunities and I’m sure we’ll make many photography stops on the way.

Our first stop will be the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. It's a true labour of love and a treat for any steam railway enthusiast. It only operates on weekends between Labour Weekend (Late October) and Queen's Birthday Weekend (Early June).

If your tour does not fall in this period we'll drive a bit further into the country and visit the historic St Brides Mauku Church instead. It is one of the best preserved Selwyn style timber churches in New Zealand with local Totara framing and Kauri roof trusses.

Next stop is the Glenbrook Steel Mill. The white smoke from its chimney stacks is quite an unusual sight for the New Zealand landscape and provides a good photo opportunity. In most cases there will be some grazing sheep to provide a contrasting foreground...

Waiuku it's a cheerful little New Zealand town. We stop for a coffee break and explore the old buildings, churches and historic village.

It won't be long after we are on the road again that we reach the picturesque Kohekohe church. Built in 1886, this small church is located in one of the most sublime visual backdrops.

Photo Opportunities Photo Opportunities:
  • The Franklin District countryside
  • The Glenbrook Steel Mill
  • The Glenbrook vintage railway
  • The Mauku Church
  • Historic Waiuku
  • The Kohekohe Church
  • The Awhitu Lighthouse
  • The Awhitu coast

As we ride the ridge of the peninsula, the scenery on both sides of the road is breathtaking. We'll stop as often as there is a photographic opportunity in sight.

Then, we reach our main treat for the day: The Awhitu Lighthouse at the tip of the Southern Manukau Head. Although not operational, it gleams in the sunlight and it's a pleasure to photograph. The Lighthouse has quite a bit of history behind it, but I will leave it for you to learn when you visit.

Info Access to the lighthouse is an honesty box voluntary donation of a gold coin to help with the maintenance of the structure and its surroundings. (New Zealand 1 and 2 dollar coins are referred to as "gold coins" because of their colour)

The views over the Manukau harbour are magnificent and we get to see the treacherous Manukau sandbar.

The Manukau Heads signal station that provides radio contact with vessels using the entrance to the Manukau Harbour is located right next to the Lighthouse.

There is a viewing platform above it, sitting at 244m height above sea level. It is the perfect place to appreciate the shifting sand bar just outside the harbour entrance and to learn about the fate of HMS Orpheus that struck the sandbar on February 7, 1863.

We'll spend the rest of the day exploring the bays of the Awhitu Regional Park and to visit the Brook Historical Homestead built in 1878.

Then it's back to Auckland... but hey, what a day!
Awhitu map

Depending on season, weather and your personal preferences our itinerary may change.

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Auckland Regional Parks
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Additional Information

Both the Awhitu Peninsula and the park take their names from the pre-European Maori settlement of Awhitu, Named because of the 'yearning' (awhitu) felt by Hoturoa, the commander of the Tainui canoe (waka), when he left the district

The Lighthouse
The Manukau Heads Lighthouse, which dates from 1874, has been meticulously rebuilt, using original parts, by volunteers from the local Awhitu community.The lighthouse ceased operation on its former site, a couple of kilometres away, in 1986,
It has now been relocated next to the Manukau Heads Signal Station Platform, which has been on the site since 1865.

The Manukau Heads
The Manukau Heads narrow opening to the Tasman Sea provide the only route in and out of the harbour for the mass of water shifted by the tides. The harbour is about 390 sq km, and the water level in the harbour varies by up to 4.4m. Its a treacherous piece of water to sail through.

The town's waterfront, Tamakae Reserve is home to the fascinating Waiuku Museum and a small historic 'village' with several restored buildings dating back to the 1800s.

Waiuku, sited between the Manukau Harbour and Waikato River was the traditional area of Ngāti Te Ata tribe that descended from the people of the Tainui canoe. Waiuku was a stopping point for Waikato Maori trading with Auckland. Early Mission stations at Ōrua Bay and Moeatoa may have influenced Maori support in this area for the British invasion of the Waikato.

The Glenbrook Steel Mill
The story of New Zealand Steel is as much the story of the 'black sands' of the west coast of New Zealand's North Island first noted by Captain James Cook in 1769. New Zealand Steel is unique among world steel makers in its use of ironsand to make iron and steel. The ironsand comes from the Waikato North Head mine, 18 kilometres south of the Glenbrook mill. New Zealand Steel uses locally sourced ironsand and coal to produce about 650,000 tonnes of steel a year.

The Glenbrook Vintage Railway
The Glenbrook Vintage Railway is based on part of the old New Zealand Railways Waiuku branch line which opened in 1922 and closed in 1967. The Railway is not a museum as such, but rather a fully self-supporting, operating steam railway, built almost entirely by volunteer labour. It is an ongoing project, with items being collected and restored or replicated as time, labour and finance permit.

Selwyn Style Gothic
Selwyn Style is a locally evolved gothic style executed in timber pioneered by first New Zealand Bishop George Augustus Selwyn.
Bishop Selwyn was a member of the Camden Society, based in Cambridge. This society aimed to counteract the 'decadence' of modern church architecture by building to the ideals of fourteenth century Gothic - known as 'middle pointed' or 'decorated'. They considered this style to be the most honest, functional and English style of ecclesiastical architecture.
Certain compromises had to be accepted to meet New Zealand conditions. Most obvious was the need to build these Gothic structures in wood, as a suitable stone was not readily available...

The worst shipwreck
On a fine day on 7 February 1863 the HMS Orpheus – carrying naval stores – approached Manukau Harbour. Seeing it was off course to cross the bar, the onshore signalman motioned to change direction. But the warning was too late, and the ship ran aground. As the sea got heavier, it began to break up. Lifeboats were swamped. With the crew clinging helplessly to the rigging, the ship’s masts fell one by one into the sea. Of the 259 people on board, 189 drowned. It remains New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster.

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