Most Photogenic places in New Zealand's South Island
New Zealand is easily one of the most beautiful and photogenic countries in the World. With it’s breathtaking mountains, turquoise blue lakes, multiple glaciers and endless dramatic coastlines, it’s hard to take a bad shot in this easy to travel country.
Traveling by motorhome is my favourite way to see New Zealand. With it’s many motorhome friendly towns and campgrounds, being able to pull up for a cuppa or lunch pretty much anywhere in your home on wheels with views as far as the eye can see, are just some of the many reasons I love traveling in a motorhome. Not to mention pulling up and sleeping the night in some of the most scenic free camps in the world. It’s easy to see why it’s a favourite mode of travel for many that visit the land of the long white cloud.
Here a few of my favourite places to photograph on the South Island of New Zealand. These images were taken during two of my recent road trips around the South Island with Wilderness NZ Motorhomes.
Aoraki - Mount Cook National Park
New Zealand's highest mountain Aoraki, which is the Maori name for Mount Cook, meaning cloud piercer, stands at 3754m above sea level. It is located in the Southern Alps, the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island of New Zealand. It's one of the most photographed mountains in the world (and once you see it for yourself you will understand why). There are many angles and locations you can capture this beauty from, here are my recommendations below:
Lake Pukaki Visitors Centre
The first sight most people will see Aoraki from is from the visitors centre at Lake Pukaki on State Highway 8 (if you're road tripping around the South Island you will most likely be driving past this spot whether you are heading north or south). From here there are sweeping views of the Southern Alps and Aoraki across the turquoise glacial waters of Lake Pukaki.
Aoraki - Mount Cook taken from Lake Pukaki Visitors Centre, easy to see why it's a must stop.
Mount Cook Road
The road to Aoraki is one of the most beautiful drives, especially on a sunny day. A must stop viewpoint is Peter's Lookout, which is one of the few, if only designated lookouts on the Mount Cook Road. It's well worth the stop and looking at the below photos, you can see why.
Aoraki - Mount Cook from Peter's Lookout
Peter's Lookout driving towards Mount Cook Village
The rest of the drive towards Mount Cook Village (which is a dead end road) is one where every corner you turn you will want to pull over to take photos as the views are magnificent.
When you do stop to pull over, please make sure you pull your vehicle safely ALL the way off the road and be courteous of other drivers, always.
Mount Cook Road
Perfect morning view for a cup of tea in my Wilderness NZ Motorhome. I stopped here for sunrise and a morning cuppa along the Mount Cook Road.
This road is pretty spectacular for getting those 'scale' shots. The road turns off Mount Cook Road, just before the village and leads you to Tasman Glacier (which is also well worth a visit while you are in the area).
Hooker Valley Track
If there was one walk i could recommend while you are visiting New Zealand this would be the one. It's a 10km return hike (5km one way and you return the same way you came). It takes approx 3hrs return, however you will want to stop quite often to take in the scenery (and take photos), so give yourself extra time. It's suitable for a wide range of fitness levels (the track only gains about 100 metres in height, so even those that aren't big into walking will love this track).
From the three swing bridges to the towering mountains, to the icebergs of glacial lake and the view of Aoraki/Mt Cook at the end.
Just the start of the Hooker Valley Track, you can see why it will take you more than 3 hrs return
The famous Hooker Valley Track boardwalk
Aoraki - Mount Cook. Such a beautiful sight to be greeted with at the end of the Hooker Valley Track walk, you can get to the lakes edge and even touch some icebergs if they are close enough.
Tussocks, mountains and streams. Make sure you take an empty memory card (or 4) when taking this walk.
Also situated on State Highway 8, and approx. a 40 minute drive north of Lake Pukaki is Lake Tekapo. It is another stunning turquoise glacial lake and is situated in the International Dark Sky Reserve – perfect for astro photography. The views across the lake and the Church of Good Shepherd are some of the most recognised from New Zealand. Sunset at Lake Tekapo is especially beautiful and some of the most colourful i've been lucky enough to witness in my travels.
Turquoise magic of Lake Tekapo
Sunset from the shores of Lake Tekapo, looking towards the Southern Alps
The change of seasons in New Zealand is a particularly photogenic time of year
The view of the stars from the International Dark Sky Reserve are incredible for astrophotography.
Weather in New Zealand is quite temperamental which can make for some pretty stunning shots. One of the things i've learnt from my many trips to New Zealand is you can't get disheartened by the weather, you just have to get out there and make the most of it.
Located just over 20km from Queenstown and approx. 7.5 km from State Highway 6, Arrowtown is a picturesque historic village with many photo opportunities. My favourite (and probably most recognised location in Arrowtown) is the old cottage near the historic Chinese settlement.
One of my favourote images from my New Zealand road trips, taken at Arrowtown
A little known location, but well worth the drive, is the Clay Cliffs, situated about 10km west of Omarama. It’s not a sight you would expect to see in New Zealand, which makes it even more special. Standing amongst the tall pinnacles made of clay makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an ancient world.
Clay Cliffs is a little known spot on the South Island of New Zealand, but is slowly becoming more popular.
The size of this place is incredible, having someone in it doesn't even seem to do it justice!
East Coast to West Coast drive (via Arthurs Pass)
When driving from Christchurch (the East Coast) through to the West Coast via Arthurs Pass (or in the reverse direction), there are so many photo opportunities and short walks to be had. Like I said, there are stunning views in New Zealand at every turn. Here’s just a few of my favourites:
It’s hard to miss this spectacular sight of ancient limestone rock formations jutting out of the ground. The carpark is right next to the road and a short walk will lead you to Castle Hill. Make sure you get some shots with people in the images to give your images some scale.
These limestone rock formations are an easy walk from the carpark
Even on a cloudy and snowy day this place is incredible to see
Arthurs Pass is the perfect stop along the East to West coast drive for a rest (or adventure).
Devils Punchbowl Falls is an incredible sight (just be aware that there are plenty of stairs to walk up to get to the closest viewing platform, but it’s worth the walk and there are many beautiful photo opportunities along the way.
One of the short and beautiful walks in Arthurs Pass
Devils Punchbowl Falls and the Southern Alps peaking through
One of the bridges on the way to Devils Punchbowl Falls
Doubtful Sound is located in the same region as the more famous, but smaller fjord, Milford Sound. Doubtful Sound is three times bigger than Milford Sound (and has much less tourists than Milford, as it is less accessible) but just as stunning. I had my heart set on visiting Milford, however we waited for 5 days for the road to reopen, but we didn’t get through, so I opted for Doubtful Sound and I’m so glad I did. We set up our Motorhome in Te Anau on the shores of Lake Manapouri and booked a tour through Real Journeys. You take a leisurely cruise across Lake Manapouri (as there is no direct road access – hence why it’s so isolated and less busy) and then a coach trip over Wilmot Pass, then onto a boat to cruise around the sound which is home to abundant wildlife such as bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.
We visited just after a large snow fall, which made this location even more special, with numerous waterfalls cascading off the high cliff faces.
The view of Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass
One of the many beautiful waterfalls in Doubtful Sound
Some of the highest peaks of the Sound
The cruise across Lake Manapouri is just a taste of what is to come at Doubtful Sound
There are so many incredible photo opportunities and places to visit when you're traveling New Zealand, my list could go on forever. It's one of those places you could go back to many times over and never see everything.
The freedom of traveling in a motorhome is something i love about traveling in New Zealand. If the weather turns bad, you can choose to drive somewhere else (if you've booked a hotel for 5 nights somewhere, you don't really get that choice). If you pull up somewhere you like and want to stay for 3 days instead of one, then you can. You have a large amount of choices when it comes to where you pull up for the night (make sure your motorhome is one that is fully self contained).
I always have a loose itinerary/plan when i am planning my roadtrips in New Zealand, however they usually never go as planned. I end up finding somewhere i love and stay for an extra night, or the sunset or sunrise looks like it will be amazing at a location i've pulled up at, so i stay for that extra time.
Both of my roadtrips in New Zealand have been with Wilderness NZ. Their motorhomes are comfort plus (i even managed to change the mind of my partner - who has only ever traveled NZ while staying in hotels, who said he would get sick of being in a motorhome for so long - after this trip he absolutely loved it and he can't wait to travel by motorhome again).
If you're interested in checking out Wilderness NZ, then click on the link below:
I hope you enjoyed some of my favourite places to photograph in New Zealand. I can't wait to go back already.
Disclaimer - All words and experiences are my own. All photos in this Blog Post were taken and edited by myself. All opinions are my own, honest and unbiased.