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  • Writer's pictureRach Stewart

TOP 10 AMAZING NEW ZEALAND SUNSET LOCATIONS YOU CANT MISS


Top 10 Amazing New Zealand Sunset Locations Blog

Whether you’re a seasoned landscape photographer or a beginner just starting your journey into the photography world, capturing those last moments during golden hour and that beautiful orange/pink hue from the sun can be absolutely magical and make all the difference to a location and the end photograph.


New Zealand is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, and I have been very lucky over the last decade taking landscape photos in my home country and can absolutely say that one of the most enchanting experiences it offers is witnessing the sunset.



As the sun begins its final hour as it dips below the horizon, painting the sky with hues of orange, pink, and purple, it is truly one of the best moments in the day when you’re travelling and witnessing the sunsets in New Zealand.


Finding the perfect spot to enjoy this daily phenomenon can often be overwhelming as there are so many amazing places to watch the sunset in New Zealand. From the serene beaches to the majestic mountains, I’ve listed my favourite and best sunset locations in New Zealand that promise unforgettable moments and stunning photo opportunities (as long as the weather plays ball).



Whether you're on the North Island or the South Island, in my ‘Top 10 Amazing New Zealand Sunset Locations Guide’ I share everything you need to know about each spot, what camera gear you’ll need, when to go and how to get there. Let's dive into the best sunset experiences New Zealand has to offer!


For ease of use and exact locations you can download my New Zealand Map and Guide, plus have access to travel itineraries and over 400 epic New Zealand photo locations, activities and places to stay.


NZ Travel Guide and Map

 

WHAT CAMERA GEAR TO TAKE TO PHOTOGRAPH THE SUNSET IN NEW ZEALAND



When capturing a sunset, having the appropriate camera equipment can significantly enhance the ability to capture the beauty and vivid colours of the scene. The essential items I bring with me for sunset photography include:


  • A DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual settings that will enable you to adjust exposure, aperture, and ISO for the best possible outcomes.

  • A sturdy tripod to ensure stability and reduce camera shake during longer exposures.

  • A wide angle lens, such as a 16-35mm, is excellent for capturing the vastness of the sky and landscape, while a telephoto lens, like a 70-200mm, can help isolate and emphasise specific elements of the scene.

  • A set of graduated neutral density (ND) filters to balance the exposure between the bright sky and darker foreground, or extending the shutter speed to create long exposure images.

  • A remote shutter release can help minimise vibrations, or if you're into adding yourself into the scene then this makes things a lot easier and allows you to operate the camera from where you are standing.

  • Extra batteries and memory cards.


 

WHICH SEASON IS BEST FOR THE NEW ZEALAND SUNSET


This is quite a hard question to answer as each season brings its own benefits when is comes to photographing the sunset in New Zealand. From my own experience, I have shared the pros and cons to each season below:


SUMMER SUNSET NEW ZEALAND


During the summer months from December to February the sunsets in New Zealand come with longer days and clearer skies. Summer in New Zealand brings vibrant, warm hues that enhance the beauty of the landscapes, whether you're on a beach, a mountain, or in a city. The mild temperatures and pleasant weather also make it ideal for outdoor photography sessions, allowing you to explore different vantage points comfortably. With the sun setting later in the evening, you have more time to find the perfect spot and set up your equipment for that perfect shot.


Having said that, with the longer days, it means you are looking at being out in the field until at least 9.30pm once the sun has gone down and any colours have dissipated. If you're travelling New Zealand solely for photography these days can be quite exhausting if you're shooting the sunset every day.


AUTUMN SUNSET NEW ZEALAND



Photographing the sunset in New Zealand during the autumn months, from March to May, is actually my favourite time of the year for sunset photography. As the days begin to shorten and the weather cools, the skies often become clearer and more stable especially around the mountains, creating stunning and vibrant sunset displays. Some of the most colourful skies I have ever captured have been during the autumn months.


The autumnal colours of the landscape especially in the South Island with trees turning shades of red, orange, and yellow, provide a picturesque foreground that complements the rich tones of the setting sun. With the autumn months being on the shoulder season this also brings fewer tourists, allowing you to explore popular sunset spots with more tranquility.


WINTER SUNSET NEW ZEALAND


Photographing the sunset in New Zealand during the winter months, from June to August, can bring some of the most dramatic skies with vivid colors, thanks to the increased atmospheric clarity and lower humidity levels. A helicopter pilot once told me that if you want to photograph the mountains and have a good shot at seeing them without being covered in cloud, visit during the winter months.



With the sun setting earlier, this allows you to capture the stunning transition from day to night without staying out late in the cold.


The snow capped mountains and frosty landscapes add a magical touch to any of the landscape scenes on offer and provides incredible contrasts against the warm hues of the sunset.


While the temperatures can be quite cold, the serene beauty of winter sunsets in New Zealand, with their crisp air and peaceful ambiance, makes it well worth the effort for those willing to brave the elements.


SPRING SUNSET NEW ZEALAND


Photographing the sunset in New Zealand during the spring months, from September to November, is a beautiful time of the year when there is often still some snow left on the mountains and the vibrant colours are starting to come out from hibernation over winter.


With longer days and temperatures slowly rising, it becomes more pleasant to be outside capturing the ideal moment during sunset. Spring typically offers a combination of clear skies and striking clouds, which enhance the beauty of sunset pictures. The gentle climate and the natural rejuvenation of plants create a picturesque environment, making spring a fantastic season for photographing sunsets in New Zealand.


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THE TOP 10 AMAZING SUNSET NEW ZEALAND LOCATIONS

From North to South


Pouakai Tarns Mount Taranaki Best Photo Spots for sunset blog
Golden hour at the Pouakai Tarns Mount Taranaki New Zealand

 

1. SUNSET AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND


Capturing stunning Auckland sunsets means heading out to the west coast beaches where the sun dips below the horizon with the ruggedness of the Tasman Sea in the foreground.


Check out my favourite beaches in Auckland for capturing the sunset:


SUNSET AT BETHELLS BEACH AUCKLAND



Take the walk out to Bethells Beach and if you time it on the mid tide there are some beautiful reflections in the sand. There is plenty of parking available and toilets at the car park.


SUNSET AT PIHA BEACH AUCKLAND



Head up the Tasman Lookout Track during golden hour and sunset for magic views over Piha Beach and its iconic Lion Rock. The track begins at the southern end of Piha.


Tasman Lookout Track Piha New Zealand Best Photo Spots for sunset blog
The view from the top of the Tasman Lookout Track over Piha (ISO200, 27mm, F11, 92sec)

SUNSET AT MURIWAI AUCKLAND



Head to the Muriwai Gannet Colony at golden hour and sunset for an amazing view over the nesting birds and also out over Muriwai Beach. The gannets usually nest in this area throughout the New Zealand summer months (November to March).


Unfortunately the track is under repair at the moment but check here for updates.



NZ Photo Guide and Map

 

2. RAGLAN SUNSET WAIKATO NEW ZEALAND


The sunsets in Raglan are some of the best you will catch in the Waikato region of New Zealand with its stunning coastal outlook and surf culture. Raglan is a charming little town on the west coast of the North Island just 40 minutes from Hamilton and offers spectacular vantage points to witness the sun’s descent over the Tasman Sea.



My favourite location to photograph the beach is from the top car park above Ngarunui Beach.


 

3. SUNSET TAURANGA NEW ZEALAND


Mount Maunganui beach is my hometown beach and I can't make a list of the best sunset locations in New Zealand without mentioning the iconic photograph of Mauao (Mount Maunganui) from the Main Beach near Leisure Island.



Mount Maunganui beach has been ranked Number 1 as New Zealand's Best Beach and was ranked one of the top 25 Best Beaches in the world for its magical white sandy beach stretching for miles and its beautiful blue water.



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4. SUNSET TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK NEW ZEALAND


Photographing the sunset in Tongariro National Park is one of the best North Island mountain scenes you will come across with its striking volcanic scenery and incredible alpine environment. This UNESCO World Heritage site, featuring renowned peaks such as Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ruapehu, offers a breathtaking setting for capturing the sunset in photographs.


My favourite sunset locations in Tongariro National Park are:


TAMA LAKES SUNSET



For more information on the Tama Lakes hike check out my blog on Hiking the Tama Lakes



MOUNT NGAURUHOE SUNSET STATE HIGHWAY ROAD



This one particular section of SH47 lines up with Mount Ngauruhoe oh so perfectly and creates one of the best road shots in New Zealand in my opinion. Look for the two green water tanks for this location and you will need your zoom lens to help compress the mountain and get it looking larger than life inside your frame.


BRUCE ROAD MOUNT NGAURUHOE SUNSET


Mount Ngauruhoe New Zealand Best Photo Spots for sunset blog
Sunset over Mount Ngauruhoe from the Bruce Road during September (ISO100, 70mm, F11, 1/30sec)

The Bruce Road is the ski road that takes you to Whakapapa Ski Field on Mount Ruapehu and is another incredible vantage point to photograph Mount Ngauruhoe at sunset.


For more info on these Tongariro National Park sunset locations check out my Top 5 Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu Photo Spots guide.


Mount Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu Photo Spots Blog

 

5. SUNSET NEW PLYMOUTH NEW ZEALAND


Located on the west coast of the North Island, New Plymouth is home to one of New Zealand's most famous mountains, Mount Taranaki. Mount Taranaki has an almost perfectly symmetrical cone and is often compared to Mount Fuji in Japan for their similar stratovolcano shape and design. Photographers absolutely love Mount Taranaki and there are a few places in particular that are incredible to capture the sunset featuring this beautiful mountain:


MOUNT TARANAKI FROM LAKE MANGAMAHOE AT SUNSET



For more information on Lake Mangamahoe check out my Complete Guide to Lake Mangamahoe blog.


Lake Mangamahoe Mount Taranaki Photo Blog

MOUNT TARANAKI FROM THE POUAKAI TARNS AT SUNSET


The Pouakai Tarns day hike is one of the best views of Mount Taranaki and is absolutely stunning at sunset. These small alpine tarns provide incredible reflections if you're lucky enough to experience them with no wind, and the Pouakai Tarns Track itself is one of the most scenic New Zealand Day Walks you can do.



MOUNT TARANAKI AND THE THREE SISTERS SUNSET


About an hour before you reach New Plymouth driving from the North you will come across the little town of Tongaporutu and this is where the Three Sisters Rock formations are found.



You can visit the Three Sisters on the mid to low tide only, so please do check the tide timetable before you leave. The walk along the inlet out to the rock formations from the Tongaporutu Domain only takes around 10 minutes and is so worth the wet/slightly muddy feet to get there.


NZ Canvas Prints

If you happen to be visiting on the high tide there is still an amazing view to capture from the end of Pilot Road in Tongaporutu.



For more info on these Mount Taranaki sunset locations check out my Top 5 Beautiful Mount Taranaki Photo Spots blog.


Top 5 Beautiful Mount Taranaki Photo Locations

 

6. SUNSET CHRISTCHURCH NEW ZEALAND


A location I recently discovered for a Christchurch sunset is the Coopers Knob Scenic Lookout. The views over Gibraltar Rock and Lyttleton from the Coopers Knob lookout are absolutely incredible and in my opinion the best you can get in Christchurch especially for sunset hour.



The track up to Coopers Knob is fairly easy and you can park your car in the small layby or just a few hundred metres up the road there is a larger carpark.



NZ Travel Guide and Map

 

7. SUNSET AORAKI MOUNT COOK NEW ZEALAND


For any photographer looking to capture the magnificent beauty of the Southern Alps at sunset, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is an essential place to visit. With its rugged mountains and crystal clear glacial lakes, this part of the South Island provides a perfect backdrop for capturing stunning mountain views under sunset skies.


My favourite locations to capture the sunset in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park include:


HOOKER LAKE AORAKI MOUNT COOK SUNSET



For all the info you need on Hooker Lake check out my blog Hiking the Hooker Valley Track Mount Cook.


Hiking to Hooker Valley Track Mount Cook blog

LAKE PUKAKI SUNSET AORAKI MOUNT COOK


At the head of Lake Pukaki opposite Lakestone Lodge there are some beautiful locations for sunset photography which are especially stunning when there is no wind and the lake is reflecting.



MOUNT COOK ROAD SUNSET


When you drive the Mount Cook Road be sure to check out Peters Lookout at sunset. It's a beautiful view of the mountain and is situated so perfectly for golden hour and sunset in the mountains.



SEALY TARNS SUNSET AORAKI MOUNT COOK


The Sealy Tarns are two small alpine lakes which sit flat on the Sealy Range in Mount Cook National Park. With a climb up to 1300 metres and over 2,200 stairs, it is quite a hard slog but worth it for this beautiful sunset location.


Sealy Tarns Mount Cook Best Photo Spots for sunset blog
Sunset at the Sealy Tarns Mount Cook in April (ISO100, 25mm, F9, 30sec)

For more info on these Mount Cook sunset locations check out my Top 5 Photo Spots in Mount Cook Guide.


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8. SUNSET QUEENSTOWN NEW ZEALAND


Queenstown is one of my favourite cities in the South Island of New Zealand for its good vibes and incredible landscapes. With some of New Zealand's most breathtaking mountains, such as the Remarkables, and the South Island's largest lake, Lake Wakatipu, this region offers a wealth of photo opportunities especially at sunset.


LAKE HAYES QUEENSTOWN SUNSET



Lake Hayes is a beautiful little lake that can be found about 10 minutes out of Queenstown by car on the way to Arrowtown and is stunning at sunset. Head to the Bendemeer Bay access way, and stroll approximately 100m you will find the old jetty featured in this shot.


NZ Travel Map and Guide

MEIKLEJOHNS BAY QUEENSTOWN SUNSET


Meiklejohns Bay is an amazing sunset photo spot along the Road to Glenorchy with an old jetty that is slowly crumbling away as the years go by. The roadside car park to the old jetty is just off the Glenorchy Road opposite the Tea Rooms.


GLENORCHY LAGOON QUEENSTOWN SUNSET


The Glenorchy Lagoon features a picturesque walking trail that winds along the water, leading to a platform where you can capture a stunning landscape shot of Mt Earnslaw in the tranquil waters, along with the majestic presence of nearby mountains.


For more info on these Queenstown sunset locations check out my Top 5 Queenstown Photo Spots blog.


Top 5 Queenstown Photo Spots

 

9. LAKE MATHESON SUNSET WEST COAST NEW ZEALAND


Located just outside the Fox Glacier township, Lake Matheson is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the New Zealand landscape and it is a perfect spot for sunset.



Lake Matheson is a favourite for landscape photographers due to its mirror like surface that perfectly reflects two of New Zealand's highest mountains, Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. It can get quite busy but it is worth sharing with a few others for the incredible view. At sunset the last of the light casts beautiful pink and orange hues on the snow capped mountains making it a truly beautiful sight.


Lake Matheson sunset Fox Glacier New Zealand
Lake Matheson sunset in July (ISO100, 70mm, F11, 1/4sec)

For more info on this Lake Matheson sunset location check out my Complete Photo Guide to Lake Matheson blog.

Lake Matheson Photo Blog New Zealand

 

10. SUNSET IN MILFORD SOUND NEW ZEALAND


Milford Sound is a destination that creates lasting memories and incredible photos for your portfolio. Rudyard Kipling dubbed it the 'Eighth Wonder of the World,' and it forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Fiordland National Park.



The Milford Sound foreshore is another one of those New Zealand sunset locations where everything aligns .. with the sun setting behind Mitre Peak and high tide reflection pools creating perfect mirror imagery, definitely make sure this spot is on your sunset photo itinerary.


For more info on Milford Sound at sunset check out my Complete Guide to Milford Sound Photography Blog.


Milford Sound Photo Guide New Zealand

 

Thanks for taking to time to read my Top 10 Amazing Sunset Locations Guide. I hope it inspires you to come to New Zealand and explore some of these magical places at sunset.


If you are interested in prints of any of the New Zealand Landscape Photography seen in this blog, please feel free to head on over to my New Zealand Photography Print Store and have a little look around.





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