If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and want to visit some top spots for scenery, below is a brief guide that might help you to achieve those goals! These are personal favourites of mine, but I have also chosen those places that have proved to be the most popular by visitors, photographers, bloggers and social media experts exploring the country.
As with all locations in New Zealand, there is a lot of history and importance associated with the Maori culture, and also with keeping our country clean and predator free. Please respect the wishes of Maori iwi if you come across areas that have cultural significance, and please obey the rules.
The Wanaka Tree
The famous willow tree of Lake Wanaka in the South Island. It started off as a farmer’s fence post, and through its resilience, has made its stand as one of the world’s most photographed trees in one of the most beautiful settings. A must do stop if ever visiting this amazing part of New Zealand.
The Hooker Valley walk in Mount Cook National Park is a track that leads to probably one of the most incredible settings in New Zealand. The easy 1 ½ hour hike allows you to stand at the foot of Mount Cook, and if that wasn’t enough, you are surrounded by the Hooker Glacier Lake, which is often filled with icebergs and in winter surrounded by snow.
Milford Sound Piopiotahi
If you want an easy but amazing photo opportunity, Milford Sound in the South Island is where you should go. You will get stunning views of Mitre Peak (1,692m), the sound and surrounding mountains, and if you are lucky, beautiful reflections on a windless day. Milford Sound is renowned for its moody weather, but this place honestly looks incredible no matter what the weather is doing.
The district of Taranaki lies on the west coast of the North Island and is surrounded by some of the best scenery the north island can offer. The climb to the Pouakai tarns on Mount Taranaki is a 2 hour slog up a whole lot of stairs, but there is a hut up the top where you can rest your bones, and then just 20 minutes on from that lies one of the best photo opportunities with this magic mountain. Two alpine tarns lie perfectly placed by nature to allow you to capture Mount Taranaki reflecting on a windless day. This mountain is another spot that is renowned for its unpredictable weather, so you must make sure you are fully equipped with hiking gear and warm clothing.
This hike is not so easy, but the view at the end is absolutely breathtaking. After climbing approximately 3 ½ hours and 1,578 metres, the view from the summit of Mount Roy in Wanaka just can not be beaten. Look out over Lake Wanaka, across the Matukituki valley , clear views of Mount Aspiring, and see as far as the Hawkdun Range in Central Otago. A must do if you are fit and willing.
Nugget Point Lighthouse
Feel as though you are at the edge of the world with nothing but the ocean as far as the eye can see. This spot on the Catlins Coast of the South Island is truly breathtaking and also home to a vast range of New Zealand’s wildlife. Penguins, sea birds and fur seals can be seen here along with many other marine mammal species. The nuggets can be clearly seen from the many view points, and tied in with the lighthouse make for a great photo opportunity.
The Road to Mount Cook
Quite possibly one of the best scenic roads in New Zealand. This 55 km stretch of road follows the shores of Lake Pukaki with its incredible ice blue water, and finishes at Mount Cook village where you can start the hike to Hooker Lake. So many photo opportunities along this route, and if you get tired of doing that, you can just take in the scenery and enjoy the ride.
Voted Number 1 in New Zealand’s most instagrammed locations, it’s not hard to see why people flock to the shores of Lake Tekapo in the Mackenzie District of the South Island. Home to The Church of the Good Shepherd, the beautiful blue tones of Lake Tekapo, and siutated in New Zealand's dark sky reserve for star gazing, this place really is a photographers dream.
Tasman Glacier Lake
This spot is probably my favourite in the whole of the South Island, but is also a place where you can see the effects of global warming and the harm this causes to the environment. The Tasman Glacier Lake didn’t exist in the 1970’s, and now grows by 500-800 metres per year with the retreat of the Tasman Glacier.
An absolutely amazing photo spot, the scene is truly incredible, but tinged with sadness also.
Lake Tarawera, Rotorua
A favourite in the North Island, and is fast becoming a popular spot for photographers. This lake is surrounded by beautiful forest, and with full views of Mount Tarawera from every angle, makes for a great composition. Famous for its eruption in 1886, the volcano is now extinct, but there is a lot of history tied with both this mountain and lake, and its importance to Maori is significant.
There you have it! Have fun exploring New Zealand!