The Catlins coast is renowned for rugged coastal vistas and waterfalls. Perhaps the most visited place on the coast is Nugget Point with its lighthouse and scattering of small islands off the headland. During the early days of settlement in New Zealand shipwrecks were common along this coast . In 1870 a lighthouse was constructed here from rock quarried nearby. In 1989, along with all other lighthouses around the New Zealand coast, it was automated.
The Nuggets have been formed by New Zealand’s shifting geology which has caused sedimentary rock to break up and tilt sideways over time to create today’s danger to shipping and classic coastal outcrops. During our visit a fishing boat passed by the outer end of the islets and showed how a rather benign looking ocean swell could cause a smallish vessel to rock and roll. One could imaging how fierce the conditions could be in a storm and how sailing ships lost at night could easily fetch up here and get wrecked. The 1870’s lighthouse perched 76 metres above the cliff behind this view must have come as a relief to late nineteenth and early twentieth century mariners.
A wide variety of sea life can be found the rocky shoreline and islets including fur seals, sea lions, sea elephants, yellow-eyed penguins, shags, shearwaters, gannets and royal spoonbills.