Castlepoint is a small beachside town in the Wairarapa in New Zealand’s North Island, just two and a half hour drive North-East of Wellington. The Māori name for the area is Rangiwhakaoma, which translates to 'where the sky runs' - but it got the name Castlepoint in 1770 by the explorer, Captain Cook. He named it after one of the towns main landmarks - Castle Rock. Standing at 162 metres high, to him the rock resembled the walls of a castle.
Castlepoint is stunning and is believed to be one of the most photogenic locations in the North Island - but it's also one of the windiest. Its strong winds, shallows, reefs and unpredictable sea conditions can make the Wairarapa coastline a very dangerous place. Since 1849, around 31 vessels have sunk off the coastline, and over 30 lives have been lost.
Because of these wild conditions, the coastal towns other main landmark was erected – standing 23 metres high, and 52 metres above sea level, is the infamous Castlepoint Lighthouse overlooking the treacherous coast. In its heyday, it was nicknamed the 'Holiday Lighthouse' because of the number of visitors that flocked to the area. Friends and family would visit the lighthouse keepers, so it didn't quite fit the solitary stereotype of a typical lighthouse.
The lighthouse was first lit in 1913 and was originally illuminated by an oil burning lamp. This was changed to diesel generated electricity in 1954, then in 1961 the light was connected to mains electricity. It was one of the last two remaining beam lighthouses manned in New Zealand, becoming automated in 1988, and is now monitored remotely from Maritime New Zealand’s office in Wellington.
The 1000 watt incandescent bulb flashes three times every 45 seconds, which is visible for over 30 kilometres. It is New Zealand’s third highest lighthouse, and is still fitted with its original lens.
Castlepoint is popular with visitors seeking water based leisure activities, surfing and fishing in particular. But a trip to Castlepoint would be incomplete without a scenic walk which includes some pretty spectacular views. The Deliverance Cover track is a two hour long loop track which takes you up to the lighthouse, then through the Scenic Reserve above the lagoon to the Castle Rock summit. The summit provides panoramic views of a one kilometre, fossil-rich limestone reef, long stretches of golden sand beach and sand dunes, and a sheltered lagoon. Keep an eye out for dolphins and fur seals who are regulars to the area, and the occasional whale during migration season.
Though this walk is beautiful, I wouldn't recommend attempting the summit walk on a windy day - there are no hand rails, and it's a long way down! I'm guessing the heavy winds is how this place got the name 'where the sky runs'.
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