The Catlins

Nugget Point Lighthouse, the Catlins

Nugget Point Lighthouse, a minimalist little building looming over a surreal clump of rocks scattered in the Pacific Ocean, is one of the top places to see in the Catlins. Scenery on the South Island’s east coast doesn’t get much more dramatic than this — don’t miss it if you’re road-tripping around New Zealand.

Things to see at Nugget Point Lighthouse

The Coastline

The walk from the car park to Nugget Point Lighthouse and the main lookout takes you past dramatic coastal scenery. The Pacific Ocean is wild in these parts and has carved out some interesting features. If you look hard enough (and have better eyesight than me) you might even be able to see sea lions, fur seals or elephant seals (or maybe all three of those species, although I’m not sure that they’re friends) playing in the pools below the path.

On the path to Nugget Point, the Catlins, New ZealandBeautiful coastal scenery near Nugget Point, the Catlins, New Zealand

Nugget Point Lighthouse

The Nugget Point Lighthouse isn’t actually that impressive. It’s pretty small and you can’t go inside — it does add something to an already impressive landscape though. The lighthouse was built in 1870, up until then ships must have had a pretty hard time navigating this perilous part of the Catlins coast.

Nugget Point lighthouse, the Catlins, New Zealand

The Nuggets

We recently visited Nugget Point with some of my family, including my almost four year old niece Mia. I’m sure the only nuggets she was aware of were the chicken variety, so she was quite excited. The nuggets which give this place its name are pieces of rock sticking their heads out from the water — which is a not so technical way to describe islands (or islets, if you want to be fancy). The nuggets come in various shapes and sizes, creating one of New Zealand’s most unique coastal vistas. There are a couple of viewing platforms above the nuggets — it gets busy at times but wait a few minutes and you’ll often have them all to yourselves.

Nugget Point, the Catlins coast, New ZealandPhotographing Nugget Point, New Zealand

Roaring Bay

After visiting Nugget Point Lighthouse it’s a good idea to head down to Roaring Bay. As you might have guessed from its name, Roaring Bay is totally exposed to the wind. Trees can’t grow straight in these conditions — if you’re concerned about the wind messing your hair up you should probably avoid it. You can sometimes see yellow-eyed penguins there though, so it might just be worth the inconvenience.

Roaring Bay, near Nugget Point, New Zealand

How to get to Nugget Point

Tours run to the Catlins, but most people that visit this region do so in a car or a campervan. Nugget Point is located close to the small village of Kaka Point. There are some nice stretches of beach between the two points but it’d be quite a long way to walk. You can see quite a lot of the Catlins on a day trip from Dunedin — just another reason why you shouldn’t leave the scenic southern city off your New Zealand itinerary.

Other Places to See Nearby

There are heaps of cool places to see in the Catlins — you can see a lot in a day but it’s best to spend a few days if you can spare the time. My favourite spots in the Catlins include the waterfalls (McLean Falls, Matai Falls, Purakaunui Falls), the stunning Florence Hill Lookout (one of the best coastal views in New Zealand) and some of the beaches (Purakaunui Bay, Curio Bay, Cannibal Bay). Check out my other posts if you’re planning a trip to the Catlins!

Are you planning a trip to Nugget Point Lighthouse? What are your favourite places in New Zealand? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.
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