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.
Nugget Point Lighthouse Walk
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.
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.
READ MORE: 23 of the Best Things to Do in the Catlins
We recently visited Nugget Point with some of my family, including my almost four year old niece. 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 at Sunrise
I reckon the best time to visit Nugget Point is at sunrise. You’ll need an early start, but you can’t beat seeing the sun rising over sunning coastal vistas like this. If you’re doing a day trip to the Catlins from Dunedin, this is the ideal time and place to start.
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.
READ MORE: 10 of the Best Beaches in the Catlins
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!
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