• Rach Stewart


Top Places you should visit in New Zealand

New Zealand .. we have all seen how beautiful this country is, and I make a point of reminding myself every day how lucky I am to call it home and explore at my own leisure. From the snowy mountain peaks of the Southern Alps, to the sandy white beaches of the North Island that stretch for miles, New Zealand has it all.

I am often asked what my favourite places to visit and photograph are in New Zealand, and although it is so very hard to narrow it down to 10, I've managed to arrive at my top locations from the North to the South Island of New Zealand so you can experience them too!

In this blog post I'll tell you how to get there, photography tips on each location, and why the location is so special. Enjoy reading and planning your own trip around New Zealand soon!

The Road to Mount Cook



As the North Island's biggest city and central to many of the locations in this blog, I would suggest starting your trip from Auckland. The American Express Airpoints Platinum Card can help get you there with 500 bonus Airpoints Dollars™ which is worth $500 to spend with Air New Zealand flights, car hire, or accommodation. This offer is only available if you are a new Card Member and apply online by 27 September 2021, are approved and spend $1,500 on your new Card in the first 3 months. Not only that, you can travel knowing your phone and trip are covered with complimentary smart phone screen insurance and travel insurance. T&Cs apply. Find out more here.

Hiring a car and travelling at your own pace is the way to go. It means you can just take your time, experience the area, and really have a good shot at getting a great photo without rushing or having to be somewhere under time restraints.


To experience the South Island, I would recommend starting your trip from Queenstown and ending it in Christchurch. Queenstown is centrally located to many of the spots mentioned in this blog and you can fly with Air New Zealand and hire a car using the 500 bonus Airpoints Dollars™ that could be earned with your new American Express Airpoints Platinum Card. Not only that, you earn Airpoints Dollars each time you spend, accruing more Airpoints Dollars for your next trip! Learn more now.

Disclaimer: This blog post is in partnership with American Express. All opinions and words are my own. This article also features some affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you sign up to the card.



Piha Beach Auckland

Often overlooked, Auckland City and the West Coast Waitakere Ranges offer some truly awesome photo opportunities as well as stunning nature and coastal walks out of the hustle and bustle of city life.

For those wanting to experience a little of the city but mostly nature, I would recommend spending just one night down town to experience the vibe and incredible food offered at the Viaduct City Centre. Don't forget to take your camera and capture the famous Sky City Tower with its lights on.

Auckland Sky Tower

Then it's time to head 'out west' and experience some of the epic beaches and rugged coastline that hug this part of the country.

My suggestions would be to check out the following which are all approximately 30 minutes from Auckland City:

Piha Beach

Lion Rock Piha Auckland

Photography Location Tip: Take the short 20 minute Tasman Lookout track at the end of Marine Parade for a stunning view over Piha Beach and Lion Rock. We went at sunset and the light was beautiful.

Muriwai Gannet Colony

Muriwai Gannet Colony Auckland

Photography Location Tip: Visit during August to March to see the birds when they're back home in New Zealand. This short walk is well worth it (mind the smell .. these birdies have quite the stench to them!) and if you go at sunset you can capture the last of the sun dipping below the horizon.

Bethells Beach and the Te Henga Walk

Te Henga Walk Auckland

Photography Location Tip: The Te Henga walk is a cliff top walk from Bethells Beach (Te Henga) to south of Muriwai Beach. We did the Bethells Road to Raetahinga Point section of the walk which was around 2 hours return and an easy grade. Sunset is your best time to shoot with the light on the hills from the setting sun.


Cathedral Cove Coromandel

Situated on the eastern side of the North Island and just 2 hours 20 minutes from Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula is surrounded by the Hauraki Gulf on one side and Pacific Ocean on the other, with the Coromandel Range (elevation 900m) running down the centre of the peninsula separating the two.

This stunning region where a large portion of New Zealand's population spends their summer holidays exploring the vast amount of beaches, caves, bush walks, islands and absolutely breath taking scenery that cover this part of the country.

It's an absolute must do if you are visiting New Zealand and the photo opportunities are endless. Famous spots like Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach and the Pinnacles are just a few of the locations I recommend you try get to on your visit.

Cathedral Cove, Hahei

Cathedral Cove Coromandel

Photography Location Tip: My favourite time to visit this spot is at sunrise. Go on a mid to low tide and walk through the Cove so you can take photos from all angles. The morning sun hitting Te Hoho rock from inside the Cove is a magical shot.

Hahei Beach

Champagne Bay Coromandel

Photography Location Tip: Again my favourite time to visit is sunrise. Walk up Te Pare Point Pa and take in the scenes overlooking the islands and Champagne bay on the eastern side of the pa.

The Pinnacles Hike

The Pinnacles Coromandel

Photography Location Tip: We hiked the Pinnacles so that we could photograph it under the early morning light, but it can be hiked and photographed at any time. The view from the summit is incredible and worth the slightly scary climb. For more info check out my Coromandel Blog.

Coromandel Coastal Walkway

Coromandel Coastal Walkway

Photography Location Tip: My favourite photography spot on the Coromandel Coastal Walkway is about 30 minutes past Poley Bay if you're travelling towards Stony Bay. The views are incredible the entire way! For more info check out my Coromandel Blog.


Rotorua has been called the Geo Thermal Wonderland of New Zealand, and that title absolutely fits the bill. It is one of the top regions visited by all travelers who come to visit New Zealand, and it's no wonder why as there is so much to do. It's just 2 hours 40 mins from Auckland, or 2 hours 50 mins if you left from the Coromandel.

Lake Tarawera Rotorua

You can try your hand at many of the adrenalin filled activities in the Rotorua region including mountain biking, white water rafting, skydiving .. visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, get to know our very special Maori culture at Tamaka Maori Village, Te Puia and Whakarewawera Maori Village, wander through the Redwood Forest, visit the incredible lakes dotted around the region .. there really is so much to do.

For photography, my must do spots to visit here are the Lakes, waterfalls and Redwoods Forest that are within the region. There is so much diversity and you'll love the photos that come from these amazing places.

Lake Tarawera

Lake Tarawera Rangiuru Bay

Photography Location Tip: The best time to visit the lake for photography is sunrise. The shots featured here have been taken at The Landing, and Rangiuru Bay, both very accessible and easy to compose.

The Redwoods Forest

Redwoods Forest Rotorua

Photography Location Tip: There are plenty of trails and paths to take photos in the Redwoods. I have always been there at early morning after the sun has risen to get that golden light, and a small chance of fog which creates beams through the trees.

Okere Falls

Okere Falls Rotorua

Photography Location Tip: The Okere Falls track is super easy and not a lot of effort is required to complete it. Photos can be taken from the various look outs including Okere Falls, Tutea Falls and Trout Pool Falls.


The Desert Road, Ruapehu

Peter Jackson chose to film parts of the Lord of the Rings movie series in Tongariro National Park, and it’s no surprise why when you look at what’s on offer. Rocky landscapes, deserted hills, majestic waterfalls and not to forget those incredible mountains.

Located in the centre of the North Island (2 hours 20 mins from Rotorua), this national park is easily accessed via the State Highways leading into it and it's well worth spending a few days in the area exploring the many walking tracks and photography opportunities available.

Locations to note for photography include the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (notably Emerald Lakes and the Red Crater), Whakapapa Ski Road, The Desert Road, Tawhai Falls, Taranaki Falls, Mangawhero Falls and Tama Lakes.

Tama Lakes

Photography Location Tip: Although the Tama Lakes require a little more effort to get to (17km return), it's definitely worth the effort for the reward at the end. From the Upper Tama Lake you have beautiful views of both Upper and Tama Lakes, plus Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu. We did the track during the day and stayed for sunset. For more info check out Number 1 on my North Island Lakes Blog.

Whakapapa Ski Road

Photography Location Tip: The first shot here was taken near sunset hour on State Highway 47 about 5 minutes before reaching the turn off to Whakapapa Village. There is a safe pullover nearby.

The second shot was taken near sunset on the Bruce Road which is the ski road that heads up to Whakapapa Ski Field. There are many opportunities for photos along here, just be sure to pull over safely into an allocated bay.

Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls Ruapehu

Photography Location Tip: Taranaki Falls is a short 2 hour return walk from just behind the Tongariro Chateau at Whakapapa Village.

Mangawhero Falls

Mangawhero Falls

Photography Location Tip: This is an easy 5 minute walk from the car park which is located 16 km up the Ohakune Mountain Road.

For more info visit my Tongariro Blog


Pouakai Tarns Mount Taranaki

The Taranaki region is full of diversity, from mountain landscapes to rugged beaches, forest, waves and long country drives in between. Sitting under the iconic Mount Taranaki, this part of New Zealand is steep in culture and holds a lot of history especially for Maori and their ancestors.

Taranaki is located on the south west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, around 3.5 hours from Tongariro National Park, or 5.5 hours if travelling from Auckland.

There are a lot of amazing photo opportunities in the region, many that include views of the magnificent Mount Taranaki, which I have listed below:

Pouakai Tarn Hike

Pouakai Tarns Mount Taranaki