The decision was made – let’s take a picnic lunch and drive out to the coast to Castlepoint. Perhaps we will go for a dip (or not) and maybe even climb up to the lighthouse. We drove through rolling farmland, dotted with sheep and cattle, and paddocks filled hay just cut and bailed for winter feed. Manuka trees on the hillsides were covered in snowy white flowers and no doubt hives were dotted nearby for the bees to gather the nectar to turn into delicious manuka honey. We ate our picnic lunch looking out over the beach, with the lighthouse beckoning us in the distance.
Four of us decided to make the trek up to the lighthouse. There was a sign warning of windy conditions so we were pleased that we had brought warm jackets and would have to hang on to our hats.
The concrete path was new and replaced an earlier timber staircase and raised timber boardwalk over the sandy spit which is under water at high tide. It was a popular walk and we passed lots of family groups wending their way up and down the path. Luckily the grade was quite easy and we made it in good time to the lighthouse.
Built in 1912, the cast iron tower stands 23 metres high and the light can be seem 30 km out to sea. The light originally burnt oil and now operates on mains electricity using a 1000 watt lamp with a diesel generator for standby power. It was fully automated in 1988 and the light is now monitored by computer by Maritime New Zealand staff.
We were intrigued to read a sign about “Brachyglottis Compacta” a rare bright yellow daisy with silvery leaves. Castlepoint is the only location in the world where this daisy grows naturally. It grows well amongst the crumbled limestone habitat and the blustery conditions. Would we be able to spot this rare plant? Dot quickly found the first bush so out came the cameras.