Neil is known for being ‘incurably curious’ and loves capturing the sunrise at Ōhope Beach or precious kiwi through his camera lens. His passion for conservation, and the great outdoors, is why he feels right at home in the Bay of Plenty.
I’m originally from Minnesota in the United States but I’ve spent the last 10 years living in India, Singapore, Kosovo, Boston – and now Whakatāne.
I’ve lived in the Eastern Bay of Plenty going on four years now. My wife, Charlotte, was born and raised in Whakatāne so I guess you could say love brought me to the Bay. We live in an old wool shearer’s cottage on a farm which backs up onto Department of Conservation reserve and we can hear Kiwi calling from our front deck at night.
I work as a community ranger for the Department of Conservation and help promote conservation and encourage more people to experience the outdoors. I also run my own photography business and take inspiration from the wild world we live in. The majority of my work focuses on conservation, the environment, and outdoor explorers (whether they are tour guides, conservation volunteers, rangers or athletes).
Is incurably curious. I’m always asking questions, picking up leaves, wandering off to find out what’s on the other side of that hill.
I love life’s proximity to nature here in the Bay. In a matter of minutes I can be on the beach or in the bush. At night, I can step outside and the whole universe is on display in the starry sky above.
There’s also a real ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude in this region. People genuinely enjoy going out and creating things rather than just buying them in the store.
The Bay is a great place to visit if you’re looking to hit the reset button. Slow down, turn off your phone, get out in nature, go stargazing, snooze your email inbox, read a book on the beach, and have an old-fashioned adventure.
I think the Bay could be world famous for our natural colour palette; the blue of our ocean, the volcanic yellow of Whakaari, the deep green shades of the Whirinaki, the reds of our pohutukawa, and the deep black of our night sky.
We often have family staying with us from other parts of New Zealand. I’ve had a number of friends from the States come across the Pacific to visit. They’ve been looking for that excuse to come down to New Zealand.
I always recommend Ngā Tapuwae o Toi Walkway to our visitors. It offers sweeping cliff-top views, hidden bays, kiwi sanctuary, ancient pā sites, and beautiful forests, and has coffee stops too.
My favourite places to eat out in the Bay are fish and chips shops! The good ones can’t be beat. Gibbo’s Fresh Fish in Whakatāne have their own boat and you can’t get fresher fish.
I don’t have a favourite recipe as such but food here is all about relationships. People are always bringing in food to share. Smoked fish, extra fruit from the yard, kūmara from the garden, venison from the chiller.
I think the Bay’s best kept secret is the Whirinaki Forest. It’s 65,000ha of primordial forests with 800-year-old-trees, crystal clear rivers, huts, and a 155km system of tracks. It’s a wonderful natural treasure to explore.
To see more of Neil’s photography, visit www.neilroberthutton.com or look on Facebook and Instagram: @newroadshome.