The attractive wooden lighthouse on the point was built after the SS Tararua was wrecked here in 1881. This was New Zealand's worse civilian maritime disaster, earning the location Category One Heritage status. Only 20 of the 151 people on board survived when the ship struck a the thirteen kilometre reef which stretches out to sea here.
The sad story involves the delay in dispatch of the telegram which called for help, and of passengers clinging to the rigging and screaming as the boat went down at 2.35am. Such was the loss of life that a Court of Inquiry studied the case and found that the captain and one able seaman lookout were at fault in the early morning event. The Court then ordered the lighthouse as well as making recommendations about life rafts and life vests.
Tararua Acre is where they buried the bodies which washed up on the beach. There is a memorial and at times gatherings take place here. Unconfirmed reports of the Tararua carrying a cargo of silver have led to several unsuccessful salvage attempts. One pioneering Canterbury farming family lost their patriarch in the incident, Stuff tells that story.
This is a great place to see seals surfing in the waves or resting on the beach and around the lighthouse. A population of 200,000 throughout New Zealand was reduced by hunting to 1/4 of it's original size, but may be increasing again. Maybe Seals and Lighthouses are often found in the same places because both need to look out to sea for boats.