Island Bay Lighthouse attracts every kind of buyer

An Airbnb favourite to change hands

30 January 2024

A beloved Island Bay landmark, The Lighthouse at 326 The Esplanade is attracting every conceivable kind of buyer since coming on the Wellington market on January 26.

The Island Bay Lighthouse, as it’s being marketed or The Lighthouse in Island Bay as it’s known on Airbnb, isn’t actually a lighthouse. It was built in the early 1990s as an art studio for the wife of owner Bruce Stokell. Rosemary, who wasn’t consulted, refused the kind gesture, saying it was too nice for her to use as a studio and it’s been rented out ever since as holiday accommodation.

From the moment it’s been on the market, Tommy’s agent, David Vaughan, says he’s been fielding all kinds of inquiries from overseas, local first home buyers, investors, you name it, for this “apartment alternative,” he adds. He’s enjoying the ride.

The one bed, one bathroom property, designed by Callum McKenzie of McKenzie Higham Architects, is small but perfectly formed. Laid out on three levels, totalling 42 sq m, people spend the most of their time on the top storey which has the best views and is well set up for gazing out to sea. People who haven’t been inside are charmed by the recycled rimu internal ceilings which Bruce and the family put in.

Although it’s not really a lighthouse, the property has done particularly well on Airbnb because so many people have always wanted to spend a night or two in a lighthouse.

The wee home must have had thousands to stay over the years, currently renting out at $214 a night during the week and $250 per night on the weekend.

The popular Airbnb property with views to the South Island on a clear day, is booked up every night from now to the end of May, says Bruce, who is an Airbnb Superhost.

As a Wellington rental, it’s in pretty good shape. It has double glazing in the top room, woollen wall insulation, and on the outside there’s a range of coverings including Gib board, wool insulation and Stucco.

Reviews on Airbnb, which wax lyrical a lot about the sunsets, note that it’s a lot handier to the shops than your typical lighthouse, just five minutes brisk walk to the Island Bay village and two minutes from the Beach House cafe and Kiosk in one direction and fish ‘n chips in the other. And some lucky guests have seen dolphins playing in the bay.

Bruce, a well known Wellingtonian, also owns another one bedroom Airbnb fave, The Keep, a few minutes walk away from The Lighthouse in Houghton Bay.

When asked why he chose The Lighthouse to sell rather than The Keep, Bruce says it was because he and his sons did the lion’s share of building The Keep, a miniature castle built in stone, so it’s harder to part with.

The Wadestown-based vendor, who always puts copper roofs on his properties, (very wise when it’s coastal gems like The Keep and The Lighthouse), will be using the proceeds of The Lighthouse sale to fund other building projects he has on the go.

The income he has gathered from these two tourism-friendly properties over the years has always been used to help his three grown-up children who live overseas, to come home for regular visits with their families.

Bruce says he doesn’t have a figure in mind for what The Lighthouse might sell for but agent David Vaughan is hopeful that the RV of $940,000 gives people an idea of price.

It will be sold by tender on Feb 15 and the new owner should know that they will be the custodian of The Lighthouse just like other lighthouse owners around the world.


Gill South
Gill South