Iconic Places for Travel Photography in NZ

There are some places that everyone wants to photograph because it seems that every photo taken in such places has a glorious result. However New Zealand is full of such beautiful spots that deserve time with a camera, and exquisite shots can be found all over the country.

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Beaches

The North Island beaches are especially beautiful at Christmas time when the Pohutukawa trees (also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree) that blanket the coast burst into bloom with bright red flowers. The rocks, the sand and the water, either churning or serene peaceful and reflective, always seem to attract picture takers. From Ninety Mile Beach in the Far North to the glorious panoramas of Golden Bay there are some stunning beach views. The Coromandel has some stunning locations with Cathedral Cove being a favourite, Piha Beach also has many fans, while the Bay Of Islands offers many views of seascapes, with beaches and islands, including the famous Hole in the Rock.

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Geothermal

Aotearoa’s geothermal areas offer a unique opportunity for the photographer with the gloriously coloured pools at Rotorua’s hotspots, the geysers and mud pools. White Island, Mt Tarawera and other volcanos also are spectacular and photogenic.

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Lakes

Some of New Zealand’s most beautiful photos are taken of the lakes with their stunning colours especially at sunrise or sunset, with the reflections of snow clad mountains and glaciers. Iconic lakes such as Lake Matheson, Lake Pukaki, Lake Rotoiti and Lake Tekapo can be seen in some magnificent scenes, while lake Wanaka is known for the golden trees in autumn, views from Roy’s Peak and the famous shot in a photographic circles-the lone tree on the shore of Wanaka.

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Mountains & Glaciers

The breath-taking views of mountains of the Southern Alps, together with the glaciers and glacial lakes are a favourite with camera-toting visitors.  Mt Cook and the Tasman glacier together with Lake Pukaki and the Hooker Valley are frequently seen in panoramas, while the Remarkables and the mountains of the Central Plateau and Mt Egmont are also striking in their drama. The view of the Kaikoura mountains looming over the sea is unforgettable, while the views of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are unique and beguiling.

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Sounds & Fjords

At the top and bottom of the South Island are the Marlborough Sounds, the Abel Tasman National  Park and Fjordland, which offer incredible vistas, including the iconic Mitre peak.

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Waterfalls & Rivers

The mighty Waikato offers many options, from the roar of the Huka Falls to the serenity of some of the hydro-lakes, while the Devil’s Punchbowl and the Purakaunui Falls in the Catlins are two preferred spots for taking a snap. Stirling Falls at Milford Sound is also very popular. 

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Buildings

In the Land of the Kiwi are some totally unique buildings that make good subjects to photograph. The Church of the Good Shepherd is a favourite, as is the Dunedin Railway Station with its glorious architecture. The Beehive, in Wellington, is a regular, while Hobbiton is becoming one of the most popular places to visit and for something a little different, the Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa are one of a kind.

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Other Landscapes

One of New Zealand’s best seasonal snapshots is a view of the colourful Lupins in a December landscape in the South Island, while views of Cape Reinga and Nugget Point in the Catlins are also iconic. Another favourite land formation is Punakaiki, the Pancake Rocks.

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Going Bush

Tane Mahuta, the giant ageless Kauri tree domineers the forest of the North, while other bush walks can contribute such winged gems such as a beautiful glossy Tui or if you are very lucky, a Kiwi. Look out for the Silver Fern or a Koru, while an alpine walk may bring you a Kea or a Kakapo. To find a Tuatara you probably will need to be in a zoo, while Whale and Dolphin portraits will only be found offshore.

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The Land of the Long White Cloud offers some legendary photo opportunities, especially if you are willing to include times of the day such as sunrise and sunset to get extremes of colour. All over the country are beautiful and wonderful things that will provide stunning memories and photographs to be proud of. Therefore, planning a road-trip around the country just to see the best photogenic sites can be extremely difficult, as you are so spoilt for choice. However, one advantage of New Zealand is that there are alternative routes through much of the country so that, by taking different routes, many more of the best places can be covered. Below, region by region is what you can expect to find.

Northland.

Landscapes to look for in Northland are the many beaches, the iconic Kauri trees and the historic buildings at Kerikeri, Russell, and Waitangi. Northland is easy to travel using a circuit route via the east and west routes, to cover many of the best views of the land.

Auckland

Seascapes continue in the Auckland region, with cityscapes, views of volcanic hilltops and Rangitoto Island’s perfection and the Harbour Bridge as options. The Museum is a favourite shot, as is the Sky Tower and the city at night from the North Shore.

Waikato

The Waikato’s most popular photographic shots today would come from Hobbiton, but there are always the tried and true farmland scenes, the challenging Waitomo Caves, and the Herd of Cows in Morrinsville. Lake Taupo, central in the North Island, also has some lovely spots to find a photo- try getting a snap of the Maori carvings on the Lake.

The Coromandel

The Coromandel cannot be missed with Cathedral Cove being a sure thing for a wonderful photo.

Bay of Plenty

The amazing White Island with dust clouds, or a snap of a surfer at Mt Maunganui, plus the countryside, not always flat and gently rolling, but often dramatic and rugged. Photos of Maori mingle with geysers and mud pools in the tourist city of Rotorua to give you all the drama you need for a quality souvenir shot, are among offerings from the Bay of Plenty.

Gisborne

The East Cape is the place where the sun is seen first on each day, so a shot of the new day is a must, while surfing and Maori culture are on show here. The countryside is wild and isolated with options of seeing wonderful bushland scenes, and birds that are unique to New Zealand.

Hawke's Bay

Napier is the Art Deco capital of New Zealand, and the area is known for the Gannets and Wine-making, so photos of these subjects are a must while in this area, while the coast also makes some lovely shots. Look at Cape Kidnappers for some drama.

Taranaki

Surfing photos are part of the Taranaki landscape, and Mt Egmont, serene and snow-capped looks down on glorious green pasturelands to make an attractive photo. In fact, it seems that it is hard to get a quality photo of the landscape around Taranaki without the beauty of the mountain, also called Taranaki eclipsing all else.

Manawatu-Whanganui

The Central Plateau has many photo opportunities with the northernmost views of snow-capped mountains, skiers and dramatic rocky outcrops. The Bridge to Nowhere out of Whanganui is another unique view and the bush and countryside around the river give you plenty of options.

Wellington

The Beehive, the Harbour, the Ferries and the Trams make Wellington a great spot to get photos. Many Lord of the Rings film locations are handy to the city as well, and the nearby natural environment of bushland and coastal scenery are as beautiful as you would want.

Marlborough-Tasman

Across Cook Strait, the Marlborough Sounds and the National Parks of the Tasman area offer a great range of craggy isolated landscapes and glorious beaches. The vineyards of Marlborough provide a backdrop to many photos and the inter-island Ferries also feature frequently in photos of the area. Known as a sunny hub where fruit is produced, Nelson also has much to offer a photographer.

West Coast

Wild misty countryside, with windswept coastlines and glorious views of the mountains, and forests, the West Coast offers a character of its own. Places to watch out for include Punakaiki- the Pancake Rocks and the fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. The Alps offer a permanent backdrop to photos, and drives through the mountain passes can present some theatrical views.

Canterbury

Christchurch, as a city, is very English, and with the river, Avon offers an English taste in photographs taken in both the city and surrounding countryside, with the Canterbury Plains being a charming agricultural vista. The beaches have much to offer and further inland, the spectacular MacKenzie country, and the panoramas around Mt Cook, Lake Pukaki and the Hooker Valley are just priceless.

Otago

Queenstown and Wanaka are a jewel in the Otago photographic crown, with Dunedin joining in to contribute the Railway Station and Larnach Castle. This area has some of the most iconic Kiwi photographic scenes with the Lone Tree in Lake Wanaka, and the Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu; Arrowtown and the Moeraki Boulders on an Otago beach.

Southland

The Fiords and Milford Sound are popular subjects from this part of the country and offer all the beauty and drama that any photographer could desire.

Stewart Island

This, at times, almost forgotten part of New Zealand, has plenty to offer budding photographers. Again, the focus is mainly on the coast and sea views, with boats, sunsets and forest thrown into the mix.  

Get out into the country of New Zealand and enjoy taking photos. You will get some picturesque scenes where ever you happen to be.
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