View south from Maunganui Bluff, near Dargaville, Northland

Maunganui Bluff overlooks the Northland coast not far north of Dargaville, rising almost sheer from the sea to a height of nearly 460 metres. Contrasting sharply with the otherwise sandy, dune-backed beaches in this area, the bluff is made up of thick layers of basalt, sloping backward from the high coastal cliffs to rolling lowlands just a few kilometres inland.

The basalt that makes up Maunganui Bluff owes its origin to the existence of an old, large shield volcano that was once centred several kilometres offshore from the present-day coast. Coastal erosion has destroyed much of this old volcano, leaving just the northeastern slopes that rise steadily southwestward to end abruptly at Maunganui Bluff itself.

Given its exposed position, the bluff offers an outstanding vantage point for sweeping views both north and south along the coast. In this photograph the sense of altitude was enhanced by a scattering of clouds, their blotchy shadows suggesting that my clifftop vantage point was closer to the cloud base than the sea far below.

Sunrise at Castlepoint

View south from Maunganui Bluff

Pingao on dunes, 90 Mile Beach

Evening twilight over Rangitoto Island

Coastal cliffs, Tongaporutu

Piha, West Auckland

Pingao, Mangawhai Heads, Northland

Castlepoint Lighthouse at sunrise

Coastal cliffs at sunset, Tongaporutu

Australasian gannets, Muriwai

Sand dune, 90 Mile Beach

Twilight over Mt Taranaki

Pools at low tide, Oakura Beach

Waves on rocks, 90 Mile Beach

Australasian gannet colony, Muriwai

Wreck of the "Gairloch", Oakura Beach

Sunrise over Rangitoto Island