It’s a place I heard about on Instagram only, with a pic from a kiwi photographer. It’s a bit off the beaten (tourist) track, on the Eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand, 3 hours from Wellington. It’s the first place I visted after leaving the South Island, and it completely blew my mind. Welcome to the end of the road. Welcome to Castlepoint.
The place was named by James Cook in 1770, when the captain discovered that huge chunk of a rock that reminded him of a castle’s battlements. The 162-meters high hill stands at the southern end of a limestone reef, creating a unique geological scenery that attracts holiday goers.
I arrived in Castlepoint on a sunny April afternoon, after a long drive from Wellington. People were playing on the beach. Well, on the first beach. At first, I didn’t recognize the place, but then I realized the road was just a bit longer. Fearful, I elected not to drive on the beach; instead, I parked on the small car park that also stands as a freedom campsite, and went on by foot.
Over the small dune, I could finally appreciate the place: in front of me, a long long beach where people drove their cars, played, fished, hang around, and behind it, the lagoon and the reef; to the south, the Castle; to the north, the rugged peninsula where the lighthouse stood.
Even though there’s a small reserve (the only place in the world where the Castlepoint daisy, a plant, can be found), Castlepoint is not really a wild place. It’s more of a recreational resort, with a relaxed vibe. There, at the end of summer, life was good. So good I stayed two nights, making the most of the awesome weather.
I loved the feeling of isolation from the outside world in that place at the end of the road. I loved the sculptures in the rock that wind and water had carved through time. I loved the immaculate lighthouse, standing like a sentinel against the Pacific Ocean. I loved being able to relax so much.
One morning, I went to the top of the Castle for sunrise. While it doesn’t look like much from a distance, it’s actually a narrow ridge… and with the cold wind that blew that day, I didn’t dare do much acrobatics for the best pictures. In retrospect, I wish I had worked a bit harder, but what I remember most vividly is the cold and the fear to be swept down the cliff by a vicious gust…
My whole time in Castlepoint was very sunny, without big clouds in sight. I worked quite a bit with my polarizing filter, which I found to work well in such conditions.
A polarizing filter, or polarizer, is a piece of glass that one can put in front of a camera’s lens to polarize the light, i.e. remove some components of light, changing what it looks like. Typically, such filters are used to remove reflections on glass and water, or make skies a deeper blue. I’m no expert in such matters, but I had fun trying!
Want to know where I went? Check out the map!
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