Exploring the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk: A Comprehensive Guide

The Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk is one of Wellington’s most scenic and historically significant coastal walks. Situated at Pencarrow Head, this walk offers stunning views of the Wellington Harbour and the Cook Strait, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers, history buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

This guide will provide all the information you need to plan your visit to the Pencarrow Lighthouse, including the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse and the Pencarrow Upper Lighthouse.

Introduction to Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk

The Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk is located near Eastbourne, a charming seaside suburb in Wellington. The trail leads you along the rugged coastline to the historic Pencarrow Lighthouse, New Zealand’s first permanent lighthouse. The walk is known for its breathtaking coastal scenery, diverse wildlife, and rich history, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the Wellington region.

Why Visit the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk?

There are several compelling reasons to embark on the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk:

  1. Scenic Beauty: The walk offers stunning views of the coastline, harbour, and surrounding hills.
  2. Historical Significance: Visit New Zealand’s first permanent lighthouse and learn about its history.
  3. Outdoor Activities: Enjoy walking, biking, and wildlife spotting along the trail.
  4. Accessibility: The walk is easily accessible from Wellington and is suitable for all fitness levels.

Top Attractions on the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk

1. Pencarrow Head Lighthouse

The Pencarrow Head Lighthouse, also known as the Lower Pencarrow Lighthouse, was built in 1859 and was the first permanent lighthouse in New Zealand. This historic structure played a crucial role in guiding ships safely into Wellington Harbour. The lighthouse is located at the tip of Pencarrow Head, offering panoramic views of the harbour and the Cook Strait. The lighthouse itself is a charming piece of history, and the surrounding area provides a perfect spot for picnicking and enjoying the views.

2. Pencarrow Upper Lighthouse

Located higher up on the hill, the Pencarrow Upper Lighthouse was built in 1906 to improve visibility for ships. This secondary lighthouse is less visited but offers equally stunning views and a unique perspective of the coastline. The hike to the upper lighthouse is a bit more challenging but rewards you with a sense of accomplishment and even more breathtaking vistas.

3. Eastbourne Lighthouse

While the Eastbourne Lighthouse is not technically part of the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk, it is located nearby in the town of Eastbourne. This charming lighthouse adds to the nautical ambiance of the area and is worth a quick visit if you have the time.

Things to Do on the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk

In addition to visiting the historic lighthouses, there are plenty of activities to enjoy on the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk:

1. Walking and Hiking

The trail to the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse is a well-maintained gravel path that is relatively flat and suitable for all fitness levels. The walk from the car park to the lighthouse is approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles) one way, making it a 16-kilometer (10-mile) return trip. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the trail to the Pencarrow Upper Lighthouse involves a steeper climb but offers stunning views as a reward.

2. Biking

The Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk is also popular with cyclists. The wide gravel path is perfect for biking, and the relatively flat terrain makes it accessible for cyclists of all skill levels. You can bring your own bike or rent one in Eastbourne.

3. Wildlife Watching

The coastline along the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk is home to a variety of wildlife, including seabirds, seals, and occasionally dolphins. Bring binoculars for a closer look at the wildlife and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

Practical Tips for Visiting the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk

To make the most of your visit to the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk, here are some practical tips:

1. Plan Your Visit

Before you travel, check the weather forecast and tide times. The walk is best enjoyed on a clear day when you can fully appreciate the stunning views. It’s also a good idea to start your walk early in the day to avoid the midday heat.

2. Pack Appropriately

The weather along the coastline can be unpredictable, so pack layers and be prepared for wind and rain. Sturdy walking shoes, waterproof clothing, and sun protection are essential. Bring plenty of water and snacks, as there are no facilities along the trail.

3. Respect the Environment

The Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk is a place of natural beauty and historical significance. Respect the environment by staying on marked paths, not disturbing wildlife, and taking all rubbish with you.

Personal Anecdote: A Memorable Day on the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk

During my last visit to the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk, one of the most memorable experiences was reaching the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse just as the sun was beginning to set. The golden light illuminated the rugged coastline and the sparkling waters of the Cook Strait, creating a magical atmosphere. After spending some time exploring the lighthouse and taking in the views, I continued my walk to the Pencarrow Upper Lighthouse. The hike was challenging but incredibly rewarding, with panoramic views that stretched as far as the eye could see. It was a perfect day filled with natural beauty and historical exploration.

Step-by-Step Guide to the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk

Step 1: Plan Your Trip

Before you head to the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk, decide on the best time to visit based on your interests. Summer months (December to February) are ideal for outdoor activities, while spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) offer mild weather and fewer crowds.

Step 2: Get to the Trailhead

The trailhead for the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk is located near Eastbourne. You can drive to the car park at Burdan’s Gate, where the walk begins. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Wellington to Days Bay and then catch a bus or taxi to the trailhead.

Step 3: Pack Essentials

Make sure to pack the following essentials for your trip:

  • Clothing: Layers, including waterproof jackets and sturdy walking shoes.
  • Accessories: Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen) and a reusable water bottle.
  • Gear: If you plan to bike, bring your own bike or rent one in Eastbourne.

Step 4: Start Your Walk

From the car park at Burdan’s Gate, follow the well-marked gravel path along the coastline. The walk to the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse takes about 1.5 to 2 hours one way. Take your time to enjoy the stunning views and look out for wildlife along the way.

Step 5: Explore the Lighthouses

Once you reach the Pencarrow Head Lighthouse, take some time to explore the area and enjoy the panoramic views. If you’re up for a more challenging hike, continue up the hill to the Pencarrow Upper Lighthouse. The climb is steep, but the views from the top are worth the effort.

Step 6: Return to the Trailhead

After exploring the lighthouses, retrace your steps back to the car park. The return walk takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. If you have time, consider visiting the Eastbourne Lighthouse on your way back to Wellington.


The Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk is a destination that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and historical exploration. Whether you’re walking to the iconic Pencarrow Head Lighthouse, hiking up to the Pencarrow Upper Lighthouse, or enjoying the stunning coastal views, there’s something for everyone on this scenic trail. By following our guide and practical tips, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your visit and create unforgettable memories.

For more detailed information and maps, check out these resources:

These resources provide comprehensive information to help you plan your Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk adventure with confidence. Happy travels!

By following this detailed guide, you can ensure that your visit to the Pencarrow Lighthouse Walk is both enjoyable and memorable. The blend of stunning natural scenery, fascinating wildlife, and a variety of outdoor activities make it a must-visit destination in Wellington.

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