It’s safe to say the mountains have a hold on me. My last 5 trips to NZ have been based in the central and western regions where I have unavoidably developed an obsessive love and fascination with the Southern Alps. Just the thought of those snow capped peaks makes me want to beg the pilot to turn around this plane I’m currently sitting on. But for the moment I want to reflect on a truly special and must-see part of NZ that I visited a few days ago; The Catlins region in the south east.


It’s been almost 2 years since I photographed this area yet often I would reflect back on my time spent by this rugged shore. Needless to say, I was eager to return. 

On my recent venture I left the city of Dunedin after a late dinner and made my way south. I arrived at Nugget Point around two hours later and slept under the stars to the sound of the sea. It wasn’t until first light that I could make out the silhouette of the rocky coast and was immediately reminded why this place left a strong impression with me.

Cliffs by the ocean at sunrise

Living by the sea my whole life, it became the first subject I photographed and helped me to develop an appreciation and understanding of the sea. The fondest memories I have are the many moments of solitude spent watching the sunrise from the depths of the deep. Witnessing something special for a few brief moments as if nothing else in the world existed, the rising of the sun and regenerating waves signify newness of life. Nugget Point brings me back to those times, the best of times. 

It’s a combination of things really. The sight and sound of restless waves pounding the shore, the distant call of wild birds and seals and the dramatic capes that rise from the earth and slowly crumble under the force of the relentless sea. On top of that, it’s the solitude that can be so easily found. As you look in both directions here there are a multitude of cliffs, bays, caves and beaches with a obvious lack of humans. 


A man standing before rocks and the ocean in New Zealand

As the lighthouse guards his flock below, the sun brought the landscape to life, skimming it’s light across the surface of the deep. Everything changes during golden hour and I couldn’t resist framing a few images of the nuggets alone.

Somehow I eventually managed to drag myself away for a quick banana breakfast to get me through the next little drive inland to the Catlins forest. 


Sunrise over a lighthouse by the sea

This forest boasts some of the most beautiful and photogenic waterfalls in the world. I also had great memories shooting here and couldn’t wait to get back to Mcleans and Purakaunui Falls. I stopped by the Green Frog cafe for a much needed coffee (totally addicted) and waited for the sun to rise a little higher in the hopes that it might be in the frame above the falls. 

As I made my way through the forest the light didn’t disappoint as it filtered its way through the canopy above and beamed down to the mossy floor. So lush, dense and thriving with life, you so easily feel a weight lifted off your shoulders in the midst of this place. Under a canopy of moss-lined green giants, it’s hard not to be relaxed by nothing but the sound of running water trickling over stone. I contemplated a quick nap but my desire to explore the Cathedral Caves won me over. 


Sunlight beaming a waterfall in the forest
Sunlight breaking through the forest above a waterfall

Unfortunately the cave visit wasn’t meant to be as access to the caves is still closed for the season due to swell and tidal conditions. This has just fueled my desire to return to this rather remote and often overlooked part of the South Island.

If you’re planning a road trip in NZ, the Catlins should be high on your list. WP