Nugget Point Lighthouse is one of New Zealand’s most iconic landscapes, featuring on screensavers and photos all across the world. And for a good reason – this location is so unfathomably beautiful and picturesque that everyone wants to see it!
The good news is that if you’re willing to head to The Catlins, then you’ll find heading to Nugget Point Lighthouse fairly easy. But there are a few key points to bear in mind, so we’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know about visiting Nugget Point Lighthouse.
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How to Get to Nugget Point Lighthouse
Nugget Point Lighthouse is located in The Catlins region of New Zealand, a 266km 3 ½ hour drive from Queenstown, or a 109km 1 ½ hour drive from Dunedin. Once you’ve arrived, there is ample parking and the lighthouse is just a short walk away.
The Catlins is a beautiful region of New Zealand with dramatic scenery that shouldn’t be missed by anyone travelling New Zealand’s South Island. Beyond Nugget Point Lighthouse, make sure to check out our guide to the best things to do in the Catlins for more ideas.
Nugget Point Lighthouse Walk
The Nugget Point Lighthouse Walk is an easy 10-minute walk (each way) from the carpark to the lighthouse. The path is well-maintained and safe as long as you stick to it. If you’re running late for sunrise you can run the track in a few minutes – speaking from experience!
We’d say pretty much anyone can manage the walk and it’s even fairly wheel-chair accessible.
Photographing the Nugget Point Lighthouse
Photographers visit The Catlins in droves to capture its powerful and beautiful natural landscapes, with Nugget Point Lighthouse being the top photography destination in the area.
Best Time to Visit Nugget Point Lighthouse
For the best conditions you should aim to visit for sunrise. Although sunset can offer some interesting colours and lighting conditions, the sun rises to the East behind the lighthouse making this the best time.
It’s also a good idea to check the weather report as clouds can make or break this location. Some low clouds can improve the dramatic nature of the photo and disperse the light, but too much can wash things out.
A lot of photographers also head here for astrophotography, in which case you’ll want to check the southern lights forecast as if you get lucky you may actually be able to photograph (or even see) them from here.
We encourage photographers to get creative and find their own compositions, however, there only really appears to be 2-3 options here. The iconic photo is taken from up on the hill just before the track heads on a beeline to the lighthouse.
Once you see the little lookout platform, you can either take a photo from here, or jump the fence and climb up the hill. It’s definitely dangerous and you risk falling off the cliff so you’ll need to decide how far you want to risk it for a photo.
This is definitely the best composition, but you can also go up to the lighthouse and take some close up photos of the nuggets.
Where to Stay Near Nugget Point
The best area to stay if near Nugget Point is a town called Kaka Point. It is just a 13-minute drive from the Nugget Point Lighthouse making it perfect for anyone wanting to make it to the lighthouse for sunrise.
Our favourite place to stay here is Mike & Jenny’s Kaka Point Accommodation. This is a lovely apartment with incredible views out to the sea. It’s super affordable too which is great. We only met Jenny and she was lovely and accommodating.
Mike & Jenny’s tends to sell out as they only have two apartments, so at a slightly higher price point we’d recommend Kaka Point Spa Accommodation as well. This would be our second pick.
Check out our guide to the best The Catlins accommodation for more options! If you’re also visiting Queenstownl, we’ve written a post on where to stay in Queenstown so make sure to check it out as well.
Things to Do Nearby
See the Wildlife
The Catlins are full of wildlife. At Nugget Point you can often see sea lions and seals playing at the bottom of the cliffs. Roaring Bay is also nearby where you can spot Yellow-eyed Penguins from the Hide. If you’re visiting Nugget Point Lighthouse then don’t miss out on this opportunity.
The Catlins are known for its beautiful waterfalls. Purakaunui is a particularly picturesque one with countless streams of water. When it rains it is incredible, but also check out Mclean Falls and Matai Falls.
There is an abundance of hikes in the region, our favourites being short hikes to the waterfalls, but you can also explore some longer ones such as the Clutha Gold Trail or the Blue Mountains walk.
The Lost Gypsy Caravan
This attraction is a lot cooler than it sounds and well worth a visit. It is an eclectic collection of weird and wonderful gadgets, you need to see it to understand.
A bit further south at Curio Bay you’ll find a curiously petrified forest. This forest was originally fossilised during the Jurassic period, and now you can walk through it and compare it to its modern-day counterpart.