The rocky outcrop got its European name because the collection of rocks that lie haphazardly off the point look like gold nuggets. Sadly, no gold was actually found here and a whaling station was the most profitable enterprise in the area during the 19th Century, until commercial fishing became popular.
As part of the Southland or Murihiku Syncline, fossils holding secretes of the Jurassic era have been found in these rocks. The “Nuggets” are actually sedimentary formations that broke away from the coastline millions of years ago.
The lighthouse was built from quarried stone in 1869 and it is 9 ½ metres tall. It first beamed its warning out to sea in 1870, over a decade before the Waipapa lighthouse was operative. Today the lighthouse is fully automated and its small pack of light emitting diodes flash twice ever twelve seconds. Hard to believe that such a small square of plastic has taken over the job of the entire light room, and three shifts of lighthouse keepers, but, that’s modern technology for you!
A well graded track which takes around thirty minutes return, leads to the lighthouse and lookout. On the sandy beaches you can see Hookers sea lions, the rocky areas around the point is one of the largest fur seal breeding grounds in New Zealand, and elephant seals sometimes visit the area. Yellow Eyed Penguins can also be seen from the purpose built hide at Roaring Bay, the car park and access track to the hide are on the access road to the Nugget Point and it is definitely worth the walk sometime in the early evening.