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History and Mystery

Cape Recife Lighthouse: A Beacon of History, Romance, and Beauty

Doesn’t everyone just love a good old-fashioned lighthouse? Steeped in history, romance and always a frisson of danger. A beacon of sanctuary and safety standing guard on a lonely point, braving the elements, sending out light as reassurance and protection for eons of sailors. 

Each of South Africa’s iconic lighthouses rightly deserves its own mention, as the keeper of stories, legends and tales of high seas. Not to mention the regal and elegant beauty of these landmark structures that have endured every storm that nature has hurled their way, steadfast and trustworthy. (Now – wouldn’t THAT be perfectly symbolic for a truly memorable marriage proposal or wedding reception? We can make the dream come true for you…)

Since she shone her first golden beams in 1851, Cape Recife Lighthouse has stood proudly and purposefully on the rocky promontory of the southern outskirts of Algoa Bay Harbour, Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The reef of which she warns passing ships is the Thunderbolt Reef, named after the HMS Thunderbolt, one of the first of the British Navy’s new steam powered vessels. 

Wreck of the Queenmoor in 1935

This wooden-hulled, paddle-driven 1st Class sloop was the first steam-powered warship to be stationed at the Cape. She carried six guns, two larger and two smaller 42-pounders and two 68-pounders. It was a clear and fair-weather day in February1847 when she struck the rocky spine below. So why did she flounder? The dramatic story of her attempted salvation and subsequent demise is just one of numerous colourful shipwreck tales and marine mysteries our visitors may learn about on a guided tour of the facilities, as history is brought to life.

Other dangers lurk beneath the innocent looking surface of Algoa Bay too, such as Roman Rock, ready to doom vessels to a watery grave. Mariners ignore the lighthouse’s urgent warnings at their peril. Never let the apparent innocence of a benign-looking bay on a hot summer’s day distract you from the hazards of the deep…this bay is full of skeletons!

Lighting the way

In her first incarnation, the twenty-four-metre-high masonry lighthouse tower, octagonal in cross-section, was painted four alternate bands of white and red. This was changed in 1929 to black and white bands which is the present colour scheme. And a most photogenic one it is, boldly etched against a sparkling aquamarine background.

There’s heaps more history here too, with the remnants of World War Two bunkers and a fortress observation post still starkly protruding from the vegetated dune skyline. A key strategic location in our country’s efforts to detect enemy U-boats, these strangely shaped structures continue to keep a silent watch above the halcyon coastal scene below. 

Through the recently launched Cape Recife Marine Safaris with one of our passionate and accredited guides, we guarantee that history buffs and explorers, adventurers and seekers of novel activities will learn much about these and so many more fascinating events. 

Book with us today. A unique and riveting outing awaits! 


ERF 2410



South Africa, 6001


Phone: +27 (0)42 235 1450