One of Cape Town’s early European explorers, Bartolomeu Dias, nicknamed the city Cabo das Tomrentas: The Cape of Storms. True to this moniker, there are days when thick fog rolls in, or gale force winds pummel the shores, and waves reach monumental heights, sometimes crashing over onto buildings and roads. Today the city is well equipped to handle the temperamental seas, but the 1800s were a dangerous time for sailors. The entire coastline is littered with the rusting wrecks of vessels claimed by those tumultuous seas.
By the 1900s, the peninsula was dotted with lighthouses which served to warn ships of the rocky outcrops that define the Cape coast. Of course, they have a practical use, but they’re also really pretty to look at. Here is our pick of the prettiest lighthouses in Cape Town. Visit them, and you’re guaranteed a great view and some fantastic photo ops.
Slangkop Lighthouse, Kommetjie
The Slangkop Lighthouse stands tall over the Kommetjie shore. It was completed just after World War I, in 1919. The bright white structure is made from cast iron, and is the tallest lighthouse on South Africa’s coast. You can take tours up the steep spiral staircase inside, and meet the lighthouse keeper. It’s open to the public Monday to Friday from 10 am to 3 pm, and between October and April it’s open on weekends as well. It’s heaven for photographers too!
Green Point Lighthouse, Mouille Point
The Green Point Lighthouse was the first to light Cape Town’s shores. The iconic candy-striped structure stands proud on the Sea Point Promenade. It is about 200 years old, although back then it was quite different: the lamp ran on sperm whale oil. These days it holds powerful diotropic lights. The characteristic foghorn has been around since the early 20s, despite much complaining from residents at the time. This has earned the lighthouse the nickname “Moaning Minnie”. It’s open to the public for a fee.
Robben Island Lighthouse
While Green Point was the first lighthouse to operate on Cape Town shore’s, it wasn’t the first navigational aid. That honour goes to a hilltop at the highest point of Robben Island. As early as the 1650s, huge pitch bonfires were lit here every night to help ships avoid running aground at the Island. The lighthouse itself was erected in 1865, and stands 18 metres tall on the hill.
Roman Rock Lighthouse, Simon’s Town
Roman’s Rock is located on a single rock of the shore of Simon’s Town. It’s stood there since 1861, and rises 17 metres from the waves. It’s one of the few lighthouses in the world built on a lone rock; most are built on promontories. At low tide the rocky base is visible, but at high tide only the top of the structure protrudes from the water. Imagine those living conditions for the lighthouse keepers!
The Milnerton Lighthouse on the West Coast stands sentry over Table Bay, where you’ll find the most famous view of Table Mountain. It’s relatively new, having been built in the 60s. It’s surrounded by restaurants, alongside a parking lot, so the lighthouse itself is not quite as picturesque as the others on this list. But it’s worth a visit for the views over the bay!
Cape Point Lighthouses
Cape Point is home to two lighthouses. The first one to be built was at the highest point of the promontory, which meant it could be seen fa and wide… until low cloud and fog rolled in. The second lighthouse was built lower down, on a rocky outcrop. The original lighthouse is no longer operational. The Flying Dutchman Funicular can take you up to see it (or you could walk the steep hill), and the views from up there are truly magnificent. From there, you can walk along the gorgeous trail through the fynbos to reach the newer lighthouse.