BEST LOCATIONS OF NEW ZEALAND: SOUTH ISLAND

Some of the best places to visit and photograph in the South Island of New Zealand — this is a sample of the 80 locations in our eBook "Photo Locations of New Zealand: South Island"

MARLBOROUGH: MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS WARD, NEW ZEALAND

5. Governors Bay – Governors Bay Recreation Reserve

Governors Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand
Governors Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand
Governors Bay Map, Marlborough, New Zealand
If you have time for only one stop along the beautiful Queen Charlotte Drive to admire and photograph the views, then make sure you stop at Governors Bay. I have been here on a sunny day, both in February and October when there were yachts and boats in the bay, making Governors Bay almost look like a tropical paradise. There are 2 viewpoints overlooking Governors Bay, one by the bigger car parking area to the west and the other to the east. The viewpoint to the east is by far the better place to take a photograph, especially if there is a boat in the bay. If you choose to park by the eastern viewpoint and are driving west towards Havelock, use extreme caution, as you will have to cross the road on a sharp bend.

S 41.268375°, E 173.97304° (41°16’06.2”S, 173°58’22.9”E)
Queen Charlotte Drive, Picton (Ngakuta Bay)

Under 5 minutes return walk to car park

5a: Governors Bay at 2 hours after low tide, 1:11pm 13th February
5b: Governors Bay at about 2 hours before high tide, 11:33am 22nd October


NELSON AND TASMAN: ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND

12. Totaranui Beach – Skinner Point Lookout (off the Abel Tasman Coast Track)

Totaranui Beach, Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Totaranui Beach, Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Skinner Point Lookout offers a stunning spot to take photographs of Totaranui Beach, whether it be at sunrise or midday. Photo 12a was taken during sunrise in mid-March: a good time of year for sunrise, as the angle of the rising sun didn’t cast too much shadow in the foreground, yet there was still a pleasant amount of direct light hitting the front of the rocks near the foreground. I used a long shutter speed of 25 seconds. Photo 12b was taken on a late November day in the early afternoon, when the sun was near the highest point in the sky for that day. The car park at Totaranui is accessible by driving the winding and unsealed Totaranui Road. There is also a bus service that runs from November to March. Alternatively, you can catch a water-taxi from Kaiteriteri or Marahau, near the southern end of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.
Totaranui Beach Map, Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

S 40.82202°, E 173.00366° (40°49’19.3”S, 173°00’13.2”E)
Unnamed Road, Abel Tasman National Park

17 minutes return walk to car park

17 minutes return walk to Totaranui (boat drop-off point). Boat ride 3–4 hours return.

12a: Totaranui Beach at 2 hours after high tide,7:28am 11th March
12b: Totaranui Beach at mid-tide, 1:50pm 28th November


THE WEST COAST: WESTLAND DISTRICT AND WESTLAND TAI POUTINI NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND

24. Lake Matheson – Reflection Island Lookout (off the Lake Matheson Track)

Lake Matheson, West Coast, New Zealand
Lake Matheson, West Coast, New Zealand
Lake Matheson, West Coast, New Zealand

Lake Matheson Map, West Coast, New Zealand
Getting a photograph of Lake Matheson reflecting Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman on a calm morning, should be near the top of your list for things to photograph on the West Coast. From the car park, walk in between the 2 buildings and cross over the bridge. Cross over another bridge and soon you will come to a junction in the track. If you take the left branch, you will come across Jetty Viewpoint first, which offers a fantastic view. If you take the right branch, you’ll walk anti-clockwise around the lake and come to Reflection Island first, which I deem to offer the best view of Lake Matheson. It is a good idea to come here early, before the sun rises, so bring a torch for a walk in the dark.

S 43.44855°, E 169.96975° (43°26’54.8”S, 169°58’11.1”E)
Off Lake Matheson Road, Fox Glacier

50 minutes–1 hour return or loop walk to the car park

24a: Lake Matheson, 7:10am 4th August
24b: Lake Matheson about 2 hours after sunrise, 9:35am 4th August
24c: Lake Matheson just before sunrise, 7:41am 3rd August
24d: Lake Matheson about 30 minutes after sunrise, 8:25am 3rd August
24e: Lake Matheson, 7:19am 3rd August

CANTERBURY: CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND

31. Christchurch Art Gallery – Montreal Street, Christchurch Central

Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch Art Gallery Map, Christchurch, New Zealand
Photographing a Christchurch tram by the modern Christchurch Art Gallery, is a great way to show both the old and new side of Christchurch. For photo 31c, I used a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second.

S 43.53009°, E 172.63060° (43°31’48.3”S, 172°37’50.2”E)
Montreal Street, Christchurch Central City

Under 5 minutes return walk to car park

31a: Christchurch Art Gallery, 8:50pm 15th November
31b: Christchurch Art Gallery, 4:42pm 16th November
31c: Christchurch Art Gallery, 4:14pm 16th November

MACKENZIE DISTRICT AND SOUTH CANTERBURY: AORAKI/MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND

37. Hooker Lake – Hooker Lake shoreline (off the Hooker Valley Track)

Aoraki/Mount Cook and Hooker Lake, Mount Cook National Park, South Canterbury, New Zealand
Aoraki/Mount Cook and Hooker Lake, Mount Cook National Park, South Canterbury, New Zealand
Aoraki/Mount Cook and Hooker Lake, Mount Cook National Park, South Canterbury, New Zealand
Aoraki/Mount Cook and Hooker Lake, Mount Cook National Park, South Canterbury, New Zealand
Just like the Sealy Tarns, Hooker Lake offers great potential to take stunning photographs, but without the exhausting long walk. The late afternoon light, followed by alpenglow, hitting Aoraki/Mount Cook was better in mid-November than what I saw and photographed in mid-July. You can still get photos with beautiful coloured clouds, like photo 37c, in mid-July. It gets very cold here during sunset, especially in mid-July, which is in the middle of winter. All my photos were taken down by the edge of the lake, as the view from the lookout and rest area above the Hooker Lake, doesn’t really have the same impact.
Aoraki/Mount Cook and Hooker Lake Map, Mount Cook National Park, South Canterbury, New Zealand

S 43.71936°, E 170.09333° (43°43’09.7”S, 170°05’36.0”E)
Off Hooker Valley Road, Mount Cook (Mount Cook National Park)

2 hours–2 hours 30 minutes return walk to car park

37a: Hooker Lake, 3:40pm 19th July
37b: Hooker Lake, 8:43pm 13th November
37c: Hooker Lake, 5:34pm 19th July
37d: Hooker Lake, 5:25pm 18th July


WAITAKI DISTRICT: WAIHEMO WARD, NEW ZEALAND

45. Moeraki Boulders – Moeraki Boulders Scenic Reserve

Moeraki Boulders, Waitaki District, New Zealand
Moeraki Boulders, Waitaki District, New Zealand
Moeraki Boulders, Waitaki District, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders Map, Waitaki District, New Zealand
The tide plays a big factor in getting a great photo of the Moeraki Boulders. Photo 45a was taken at about 2 hours 30 minutes after high tide: apparently too low for the water to interact much with the best group of boulders. Luckily the colours at dawn were superb, so I still got some fantastic photos that morning. I came back the next morning at 1 hour 30 minutes after high tide: now the water was able to really hit the best group of boulders and add another element to my photos. After crossing over the railway lines from State Highway 1, continue straight ahead for the free parking. Alternatively, take the left road to park by the cafe, which asks for donations to use the shorter track to the boulders.

S 45.35108°, E 170.82804° (45°21’03.9”S, 170°49’40.9”E)
Moeraki Boulders Road (Unnamed Road), Hampden

15 minutes return walk to car park

45a: Moeraki Boulders at dawn and about 2 hours 30 minutes after high tide, 6:27am 16th October
45b: Moeraki Boulders at dawn and about 1 hour 30 minutes after high tide, 6:25am 17th October
45c: Moeraki Boulders at mid-tide during sunrise

QUEENSTOWN LAKES DISTRICT: QUEENSTOWN-WAKATIPU WARD, NEW ZEALAND

48. Queenstown and the Remarkables – Bob’s Peak, Queenstown

Queenstown and the Remarkables from Bob's Peak, Queenstown Lakes District, New Zealand
Queenstown and the Remarkables from Bob's Peak, Queenstown Lakes District, New Zealand
Queenstown and the Remarkables from Bob's Peak, Queenstown Lakes District, New Zealand
Queenstown and the Remarkables from Bob's Peak, Queenstown Lakes District, New Zealand
The most famous view of Queenstown is from the viewing deck at the top of Bob’s Peak — not to be confused with the official Bob’s Peak, to the west. From the car parking spaces near the lower gondola terminal, you can either take the steep walk up the Tiki Trail, or pay for a gondola ride to the top. If you do take the Tiki Trail, be aware that there are only limited views from the walk and it is more of a climb than a walk: only do it for the exercise or to save money on the gondola ride. At the end of the trail, keep walking until you reach the main glass doors on the building to your right — the viewing deck is at the end of the corridor. If you take the gondola to the top, you’ll get to the viewing deck by walking up the stairs and turning right; follow the corridor until you reach the viewing deck. Since the Remarkables mountain range looks better when it is snow-capped, it is ideal to visit here in mid-Winter, with mid-July to late July being a likely time of the year to see a good accumulation of snow on the Remarkables. From what I saw when I was here in mid-July and late July, the best time to photograph from Bob’s Peak, is about 30 minutes before sunset until 30 minutes after sunset.
Queenstown and the Remarkables from Bob's Peak Map, Queenstown Lakes District, New Zealand

S 45.02910°, E 168.65645° (45°01’44.8”S, 168°39’23.2”E)
Breacon Street, Queenstown

1 hour 25 minutes return walk to car park via the Tiki Trail

48a: Queenstown and the Remarkables at twilight, 5:56pm 24th July
48b: Queenstown and the Remarkables just after sunset, 5:37pm 24th July
48c: Queenstown and the Remarkables at sunset, 5:25pm 24th July
48d: Queenstown and the Remarkables at sunset, 5:05pm 24th July


QUEENSTOWN LAKES DISTRICT: WANAKA WARD, NEW ZEALAND

58. Lone Willow Tree – Roys Bay, Lake Wanaka

Lone willow tree in Roys Bay, Lake_Wanaka, Queenstown Lakes District, New Zealand
When I first photographed the lone willow tree in autumn, several years ago, there were only a couple of other photographers. Now, it is an icon of Wanaka that draws a large crowd of other photographers and tourists, so you either have to arrive early to get a good spot to photograph from. If you’re not one of the first people to arrive, then you must fit in with everyone else — I had to carefully place my tripod on the edge of Roys Bay, making sure I wasn’t blocking anyone’s view. The level of the lake plays a huge role in getting a great photo, as I have seen the tree when it is completely out of the water, because the lake level was so low. I have been here in different years, from the 4th of April to the 12th of April: all dates are fine to get an autumn shot, even though some trees had a green tinge to their leaves. For the best chance of getting a great photo of this Wanaka icon, come here on a fine morning: this photo was taken almost 30 minutes after sunrise.
Queenstown and the Remarkables from Bob's Peak Map, Queenstown Lakes District, New Zealand

S 44.70002°, E 169.11957° (44°42’00.1”S, 169°07’10.5”E)
By Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road, Wanaka

Under 5 minutes return walk to car park


58: Lone willow tree, 7:37am 7th April

DUNEDIN AND OTAGO: DUNEDIN AND THE OTAGO PENINSULA, NEW ZEALAND

70. Tunnel Beach – Tunnel Beach Track

Tunnel Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand
Tunnel Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand
Tunnel Beach is a popular destination, south-west of the Dunedin city centre. The angles of the cliffs surrounding Tunnel Beach, are best photographed in the late afternoon. I took these photographs in late November; December, January and possibly early February should also be a good time of the year for photographing from the Tunnel Beach Track. From the car park, it takes about 5 or 6 minutes to reach the viewpoint. From here it is not much further until you reach the steps at the top of the tunnel, which lead down to the beach. It is best to visit the beach 2 hours either side of low tide.
Tunnel Beach Map, Dunedin, New Zealand

S 45.91828°, E 170.45303° (45°55’05.8”S, 170°27’10.9”E)
Tunnel Beach Road, Dunedin

20–25 minutes return walk to car park

70a: Tunnel Beach, 8:44pm 26th November
70b: Tunnel Beach, 8:29pm 26th November


SOUTHLAND REGION AND CLUTHA DISTRICT: FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND

72. Milford Sound – Freshwater Basin (off the Milford Foreshore Walk)

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Milford Sound is an icon of New Zealand and one of its most visited tourist attractions. I have taken some fantastic photos from dawn to early morning and from late afternoon to sunset, with all photos taken at mid-tide to high tide. At low tide, this scene becomes much less interesting to photograph, with less water to reflect Milford Sound. Mitre Peak and the surrounding mountains in Milford Sound, can be hit by snowfall even in summer, though winter and early spring would be the most likely time to see snow. From May to September, it is recommended that you carry snow chains and check the status of State Highway 94 — the highway may be closed in places and have an avalanche risk.
Milford Sound Map, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

S 44.67164°, E 167.92681° (44°40’17.9”S, 167°55’36.5”E)
Unnamed Road, Milford Sound

Under 5 minutes return walk to car park

72a: Milford Sound at dawn and 1 hour 20 minutes after high tide, 6:38am 4th September
72b: Milford Sound at late afternoon and 30 minutes after high tide, 5:28pm 4th September
72c: Milford Sound at about 30 minutes after sunrise and 1 hour 40 minutes after high tide, 7:57am 4th September
72d: Milford Sound just before sunset and at high tide, 6:11pm 4th September