The beauty of New Zealand is famous all around the world. It is a small country but there’s so much to see, from misty mountains to diving dolphins to bubbling mud pools. So where are the places for the best photographic moments? Here, Southland-native Russell Jack, reveals the top 10 most photogenic places in New Zealand.
The Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a remote and peaceful area at the top of the country with rolling hills, fresh air, and miles of stunning landscapes to enjoy. Known for the warm climate, it’s ideal for diving with regular sightings of sea life, whales, and dolphins. You can also enjoy swimming, camping, water skiing, island hopping, and any outdoor activity. It is heaven for hikers and nature photographers alike. You have to be up early to photograph some of the most stunning sunrises you will ever see.
Auckland is the city in NZ with the highest population and often mistaken as the capital city by tourists. It’s enjoyable to get a fix of city life after days or weeks exploring the rural areas.
In the downtown area of Auckland, there are excellent dining choices, waterfront cafes, a wide range of shopping options, and some interesting urban architecture around the city streets. You will probably see the contrast of an old church here and there if you are wandering on foot. If you fancy flying, you can brave the bungy jumping from Auckland Harbour Bridge, a thrill that will be a highlight of your travels for sure.
The Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel is known for its beautiful beaches, long stretches of coastline, and gorgeous nature trails. Quaint little towns are dotted around the Coromandel Peninsula and they are all worth a little pit stop or a stay overnight to explore the local area. It is also home to a lot of talented artists including painters, potters, and photographers, so you can find some unique art pieces during your travels in this area.
You can do a spot of fishing or enjoy seafood already caught by the locals at a beachside restaurant. Delicious dishes like seafood chowder, grilled snapper, fresh mussels, and the classic fish and chips are always highly recommended on the menu. Dining outdoors in the fresh air in summer is bliss.
The first thing you notice as you arrive in Rotorua is the smell. The sulfur odor from the geothermal area is quite strong and often compared to rotten eggs or farts. After a while, most people get used to it and children think it’s hilarious.
You can get amazing photos of the bubbling mud pools and the steam rising from the hot water geysers. It looks spectacular on a clear, cloudless day against a blue sky. Take your swimsuit as in some areas you can go swimming in the hot waters, especially nice if you are there in winter.
You can learn about Maori history and culture at many of the tourist attractions, such as New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and the Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park. You might be lucky enough to see a haka (traditional war dance) performed, meet a Maori elder with stories to tell or eat from a delicious traditional hangi (method of food cooked under the ground). You will be drawn to the intricate Maori carvings all around the local area.
If you need some pampering, there are many nice spas and it’s believed the water from the area has therapeutic qualities.
The capital city is also known as the Windy City. If your hair is getting blown around too much you can stop at a cafe for an excellent coffee. Kiwis are proud of their barista skills, especially in Wellington. You might expect to find a foam fern art piece sitting in your coffee cup and it will be served with a smile.
The Museum of Te Papa is full of history and is showcased in a modern and creative way with interactive exhibitions and colorful storytelling through song and dance. Whoever said museums are boring hadn’t been to Te Papa.
With steep roads, Wellington is also a place you will be bound to get some urban exercise. Jump on the cable car when you need a break. Ride to the top and you will get some great photos of the city views. Mount Victoria is also a great spot for a sunrise or sunset photo of the city surrounded by the ocean.
Abel Tasman National Park
Get your walking shoes ready to clock up some miles as you conquer some of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Through the rugged bush, the trail is laid out for you to enjoy the native bush and flora and fauna along the way. An excellent place to go camping if you have time. All the walking will be worth the effort to see blue penguins, seals, and dolphins in their natural habitat. Also, it will be worth it if you carry your best zoom lens as these wildlife beauties won’t come too close to humans, and they move fast.
If you love churches and old buildings, you will be a happy snapper wandering around the town with your camera. While many of the stone buildings were destroyed in earthquakes, the community has restored a lot and you can still see a lot of history and culture in the architecture there.
It’s no wonder many movies have been shot in the Milford Sound Area with the fiord, waterfalls, forests, and expansive areas of wide-open space that are stunningly beautiful. If you are going to only take 1 boat ride in NZ, this is the place to save it for. To be aboard a boat and sailing across the crystal blue waters in the Milford Sound is truly an epic and memorable time, with Instagrammable photo moments coming faster than you can say “hashtag Milford Sound.”
Queenstown will win your heart if you are into adventure activities and love rivers, mountains, and skiing. It’s probably best to visit in the winter when you can go skiing on the famous Queenstown slopes, but if snow isn’t your thing, there are vineyards to sip wine and relax. Or you can scare yourself silly going skydiving and bungee jumping.Stewart Island
Many people don’t realize the existence of this charming little island. Way down at the bottom of the country you can be sure to have privacy and very little chance of seeing too many people. There is a website for the island and an active tourism community that welcomes visitors.
You can get around the island many ways and it won’t take long. Renting a car is a fantastic way to roam around. You are more likely to encounter some wildlife basking on the road rather than other motorists. Get even more off the beaten track and go hiking through the wilderness, and maybe spot a rare Kiwi bird.
Fly there and catch the ferry back to experience both modes of transport to and from Stewart Island. Both are fun ways to travel and get some interesting photos from aerial to wave-framed, picture-perfect postcard snaps for your collection.
New Zealand is one of the most scenic and photogenic places on earth, so make sure you visit it at least once in your lifetime. Summer is the best time of the year to come unless you are into skiing or winter sports and then you will love a wintertime holiday in New Zealand, also known as Aotearoa.
About Russell Jack
Russell Herbert Jack is a 24-year-old yoga instructor and mindfulness teacher form Southland, New Zealand. He is passionate about spirituality, the vegan lifestyle, animal rights, and living in sync with nature. Russell specializes in Vinyasa Yoga, Qigong, and guided meditations. Vinyasa yoga or flow yoga heightens consciousness by moving from one position to another seamlessly, using breath. Just like Vinyasa Yoga, Qigong has many healing properties to body, mind, and spirit.