The East Cape Lighthouse is owned and operated by Maritime New Zealand and is located on Otiki Hill above East Cape, approximately 21 kilometres to the east of Te Araroa. The lighthouse marks the easternmost point on the North Island of New Zealand. Climb the 800 or so steps to the top.
It's a steep climb but really worth it once you get to the top for the spectacular views. The lighthouse was originally constructed on nearby East Island. However the island was difficult to access. Four men died during tower construction when their boat capsized and the site proved to be susceptible to earthquakes and subsequent landslips. In 1920 a decision was made to relocate the light to the mainland and in April 1922, the light was extinguished and then relit at its current location in December of that year. Originally manned by three lighthouse keepers, the light's staffing was progressively reduced until it was fully automated in 1985. It is now controlled from the Maritime New Zealand headquarters in Wellington.
While the area around the light is accessible by foot, the lighthouse itself is not open to the public.
The drive on East Cape Road from Te Araroa is unsealed following the coastline, passing numerous sandy coves, to the East Cape Lighthouse standing 154 metres above sea level. It’s a return trip to Te Araroa but for most SH35 travellers it is part of the pilgrimage to stand at the most-easterly place in mainland New Zealand. If you are there at dawn, you can bank on being amongst the first in the world to see the sunrise that day.