The Lighthouse & The Keep

20 July 2014
Written by Sacha Kenny | Images by Sacha Kenny
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If the idea of staying somewhere completely different takes your fancy then The Lighthouse and The Keep, both located along Wellington’s south coast could, in their own unique ways, be just the accommodation for you.

Run as B&B accommodation, both The Lighthouse and The Keep have been lovingly built and handcrafted by owner Bruce Stokell. 

The Keep, with its impressive medieval stone exterior, sits in the curve of a hill west of Houghton Bay with the rocky coast stretching out before it. The high-tops of The Keep are adorned with bronze gargoyles made from a cast of Bruce’s eldest son's face which, Bruce says with a laugh, is appropriate considering that particular son was put to work one day a week with the stone mason while the project was being completed in return for Bruce receiving a good deal on the stone work.

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Striking in appearance, the exterior framework of The Keep is precast concert with a facade of featured stone work completed by a corner stone mason. The timber interior was outfitted by Bruce with wood sourced from his Pauatahanui farm. 

With it taking around a year to complete (1999), Bruce recalls coming to the site at the end of each day with his sons to move stones for the mason. “Two of us would be up on the top balcony and two of us stayed at the bottom. The two at the bottom filled the rope net with rocks – we all pulled, them this way and us that way, then the two at the top would unload while the two at the bottom rested before we did it all over again, every day for months and,” Bruce says with a laugh “those boys have never let me forget it”.

At the back of the Keep where no one can see or find except, Bruce hopes, exploring future great, great grandchildren - is a piece of marble, 2 feet by 1 foot, into which Bruce has carved the words “milestones lengthen life”.  A message to his grandchildren of the future to make the most of life, do significant things and in turn their lives will be marked by wonderful milestones giving longevity to their lives.

As we arrive at The Lighthouse in Island Bay, the current occupants, who are preparing to leave, joke with Bruce that they’d heard his wife thought he was having an affair when he was building The Lighthouse because he keep disappearing. To which Bruce laughs “it’s almost true” recalling the story of how The Lighthouse came into being. 

“My dear friend and business partner who was dying of cancer was desperately trying to sell the section but it just wouldn’t sell so I said to him “don’t worry I’ll buy it and flick it on so it won’t be a burden on the estate”. 

“Anyway after he died I thought I’ll build a little hut on the land for my wife, who was an artist, to paint in. In truth I was trying to do the right thing because she was against me buying the land and I hadn’t actually told her that I bought it. 

“One day I was there with my daughter, we walked around the point to look at the sea and we could see the South Island and I said “oh crikey if we build this hut high enough we’ll see over that bluff and over that house and we’ll see the South Island”. But of course the only type of building by the sea that’s high enough with any integrity is of course a lighthouse, to which I thought “this is such a great idea I’ve gotta run with it”. 

“My wife was going overseas for a couple of months, so we did a big campaign to have The Lighthouse built while she was away.  I told the two older children about the build but the two younger boys I hadn’t told because I could imagine (laughing) them sidling up to their mother and saying 'we know a secret'. After my wife left we came straight round here and I said to the two younger boys “this is ours, this belongs to us”. The younger one just bowled up the steps and starting exploring but the older one,” Bruce says with a hearty laugh, “didn’t believe me and said 'no dad, it’s not ours, no we can’t stay here, the people will come back and we’ll get in trouble'."

Upon her return Bruce’s wife was utterly lost for words at the sight of her homecoming gift.

With three light-filled levels, once the front door to the Lighthouse is closed the rest of the world seems a long way away. The top level, with 180-degree views out over Island Bay, is a clam and peaceful space where, depending on the weather, one could either enjoy the warmth of the sun through the walls of glass doors or sit and watch as a storm rolls across the Cook Strait. 

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The Keep will transport you back to the middle ages with its cosy timber-clad interior, rustic charm and roof-top balcony giving you first-class seats to the sunset skies over Houghton Bay. Meanwhile The Lighthouse provides a light calm, peaceful space a short walk along the beach from Island Bay township. Both are wonderful milestones from Bruce Stokell's life created to allow others to share in their beauty.

  • For further details and to book a stay at either The Lighthouse in Island Bay or the The Keep in Houghton Bay go to



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