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20+ Beautiful Photos of New Zealand South Island Destinations To Inspire Your Wanderlust

textured mountain ridge lines on sunny day with title text overlay

Ok I admit, all of Aotearoa is absurdly gorgeous, so pretty much anywhere you go you’ll want to be snapping away like mad to capture some beautiful photos of New Zealand! Here are just some of the most photogenic spots to visit in New Zealand’s South Island. So charge your camera, pack your bags, and let’s get going!

Taking Photos Of New Zealand For Instagram

I’ve purposefully omitted the word “Instagrammable” from this collection of most photogenic places in New Zealand. No one should be taking photos JUST for social media. Photography is a beautiful art form and in places such as New Zealand it’s a chance to showcase the extraordinary landscapes of the world. It’s not all about the likes!

New Zealand is a particularly precious country that needs constant conservation and protection. Increasingly crowded spots around New Zealand are seeing condensed overtourism. We can’t deny that social media has a huge role to play in this issue. Roy’s Peak (guilty, I have myself hiked the track) is just one example where getting “the photo” has proved more of a goal than the hike itself. Yet, Roy’s Peak is absolutely stunning in several OTHER spots besides this deeply trodden lookout. I mean, that’s not even the view from the summit! Rant over…

views overlooking mountains and lakes on sunny day

However, there are ways that social media is helping to spread the word about protecting New Zealand. A prime example of this is the Tiaki Promise promoted by Tourism New Zealand. This pledge encourages visitors to New Zealand to state how they will look after and respect the land as they tour this incredible country. A part of that is making sure that you care for the land and tread lightly. For me, that includes following local rules about where you can and cannot go in order to take photos of New Zealand. Not jumping fences, not straying from the paths, not entering private property… It seems simple, right? Just because you want a pretty photo doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the rules.

Having said that, of course it’s wonderful to see so many people appreciating and raving about New Zealand on Instagram and elsewhere online (myself included, I’m exhibit A of Kiwi love!). There really aren’t enough great things to be said about New Zealand. Instead, I’ll show you. Read on for some beautiful photos of New Zealand that’ll inspire you to visit (responsibly).

snowcapped mountain ridgeline in new zealand

Top Tips For Being A Responsible Traveller When Taking Photos

Just remember, when you are taking shots for the ‘gram be sure to practice a few obvious tips for being a good global citizen:

  • Be respectful of the landscape. Don’t trespass on private property or damage the delicate land.
  • Be respectful of other travellers. We all want the same photo so be sure to take your photo efficiently and with kindness to others!
  • Take all your rubbish and belongings with you.
  • Stay safe and don’t get dangerously near cliff or water edges. Your safety comes way before a badass picture.

small church building in front of lake with mountains in distance

Now we’ve set the boundaries for what is and isn’t good travel photographer practices, let’s have a look at some beautiful photos of New Zealand’s South Island!

Beautiful Photos Of New Zealand’s South Island To Inspire Your Next Trip

1. Roy’s Peak

roys peak track from high up the cliffside walk overlooking lake and mountains

Let’s start with an obvious one. Possibly the most-photographed place in New Zealand, Roy’s Peak is an exceptionally stunning day hike with views overlooking Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains.

Top Photo Tip: Don’t just queue for THE shot, continue to the summit for a quieter spot to catch your breath, as well as alternative views of the other side of the mountain!

contrasting textures from mountain ridgelines

2. That Wanaka Tree

tree stands out in lake surrounded by mountains

That Wanaka Tree is an unmissable icon of New Zealand, sat right in the waters of Lake Wanaka itself. The mystical energy of life growing from the lapping waters is pretty darn amazing, and many have quickly caught on to this beautiful spot on the lake.

Top Photo Tip: Be patient if visiting during peak hours as it’s a highly popular spot. Instead, consider visiting at sunrise or late evening to enjoy a little more space to yourself. OR better yet, make the most of your conditions and visit when it’s windy or cloudy. You can still get some great shots and NO ONE will be around!

3. Queenstown Skyline

panoramic views over queenstown and lake wakatipu

Is there anywhere better to take beautiful photos of New Zealand than Queenstown? Snowcapped mountains that are aptly named The Remarkables are the backdrop for this perfect view over the bustling, adrenaline-pumped town.

Top Photo Tip: If you’d like to avoid paying for the Queenstown Gondola to take you up an aerial view, walk up Queenstown Hill, or take a drive up the Remarkables themselves. From this higher vantage point you’ll enjoy dramatic panoramic views across this incredible part of New Zealand.

4. Puzzling World

man pretends to hold up leaning illusion building

The quirkiest attraction you’ll find in New Zealand has got to be Puzzling World. Not just for mind-boggling illusions and tricks of the eye, it’s also most definitely one of the most photogenic places in New Zealand!

Top Photo Tip: Even if you don’t want to go inside Puzzling World, you can still get a pretty neat snap right out the front thanks to the Leaning Tower of Wanaka. Make sure to strike your pose for just the right comedic effect!

5. Milford Sound

tall mountain in new zealand fjord

How can you visit the South Island and ignore the self-proclaimed 8th Wonder of the World? Milford Sound is surely one of the best places to capture beautiful photos of New Zealand. With cascading waterfalls, mighty fjords, and luscious greenery it’s a treat for the eyes.

Top Photo Tip: Consider bringing a waterproof cover to avoid getting your equipment drenched beneath the waterfalls. Known for rainy days, a downpour might seem like a disappointment but this is often the best time to see the Sound in all it’s glory! Zip up the raincoat and crack out the waterproof case – you’ll be right as rain!

6. Godley Head

blue ocean between volcanic coastal cliffs with pink cloud above

A rather neglected but no less amazing spot to take beautiful photos in New Zealand is Godley Head, just outside of Christchurch. This coastal walk takes you past abandoned World War II defences, and offers views of the vast Pacific Ocean over the gently rolling coastline.

Top Photo Tip: See if you can spot some of the local sheep and catch them in a rather candid pose for an extra-special photo!

7. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

man sits on rock in front of glacial lake in aoraki/mount cook national park

Is there anything more Kiwi than Aoraki/Mount Cook? The Hooker Valley Track attracts all sorts of visitors hoping to capture this alpine track in all its glory. Personally, I prefer the Red Tarns Track for some truly epic views over the village! No matter the weather when you visit, you’re guaranteed some beautiful photos of New Zealand’s tallest and most famous mountain from the national park!

Top Photo Tip: It’s important to capture these famous views with your own twist. Try to pause for photos at points that aren’t as popular or cliche, or maybe focus on the smaller details around you rather than the whole landscape. Get yourself a unique memento with a little extra effort of planning your angles! A good example is to be mindful of the time of day you hike the Hooker Valley Track and Red Tarns Track. During the middle of the day you’ll likely get a lot of glare in your photos, meaning Aoraki/Mount Cook won’t stand out as much as it deserves! Try to visit early in the morning to beat the rush and capture the sun rising over the mountain peaks for a different spin on the track.

sunlight illuminating snowy mountain peaks

8. Arthur’s Pass

waterfall among green trees in new zealand

The remote, tiny village of Arthur’s Pass may be small but boy does it have a big impact. No matter where you explore either by driving through Arthur’s Pass National Park, hiking the trails up to the waterfalls, or taking the TranzAlpine train you’ll be blown away with all the glorious views awaiting your camera’s memory card.

Top Photo Tip: Don’t leave your belongings lying around for too long, or the cheeky keas will come to nibble your equipment! Instead, try to catch these gorgeous alpine parrots on camera – if they stay still that is!

glimpse of waterfall between thick forest trees

9. Abel Tasman National Park

views over rocky ocean bay in abel tasman national park

Golden sand paradise on New Zealand’s South Island? Who’d have thought it! In Abel Tasman National Park you’ll be hard pressed to find more pristine beach lookouts to admire the remote bays and plentiful forests of New Zealand’s beachiest national park.

Top Photo Tip: Get the best shots by catching the aqua taxi from Kaiteriteri to the nearby bays where just a short walk will give you some elevation for perfect views over the bays. Also, keep your eyes peeled for seals lounging on the rocks during your boat ride, you might catch a few great candid shots!

10. Lake Rotoiti

jetty overlooking mountainside lake

Get that classic jump shot with an epic backdrop at Lake Rotoiti, but mind the eels in the lake when you do! This gorgeous lake in Nelson Lakes National Park is the epitome of New Zealand’s lanscape: mountains, lakes, and a dash of adventure. Make sure you don’t miss the chance to capture some beautiful photos of New Zealand here!

Top Photo Tip: The jetty is a popular spot so if you’re planning to jump into the lake, how about asking your fellow travellers to take your photo? Pay the favour back by taking theirs, and everybody wins! Plus if you ask to take it on burst, you’ll have a fun stop-motion of the whole event!

people running to jump off jetty at mountainside lake

11. Arrowtown

woman looks into distance in front of brightly coloured trees

Beautiful photos of New Zealand feature a lot of earthy blues and greens, but in Arrowtown you’re blessed with vivid reds and golden yellows if you visit in just the right season (hint – it’s Autumn! Between the months of March – May). You can capture the magic of Arrowtown from an array of angles, but the best spots are along the Arrowtown River Trail.

Top Photo Tip: Head there in early morning to get an ethereal mist clearing over the mountaintops. The light will then start to add just the right colours to the forest trees for a really poppin’ pic!

12. Glenorchy

red boat shed in front of lake and mountains

How far will you go for a beautiful photo of New Zealand? The journey to Glenorchy, at the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu, is stunning and well-worth the winding lakeside drive. Who can resist that quaint red boat shed and its accompanying jetty? Not me, that’s for sure! With such a contrasting backdrop of the snowcapped mountains there is something quite charming about this popular photo spot in New Zealand.

Top Photo Tip: Choose a rather wide-angled lens to capture all the magic of the scene from the boat shed to the natural landscape behind.

13. Christchurch

colourful buildings in christchurch

It’s official: New Regent’s Street in the heart of Christchurch is THE cutest street in New Zealand. Check out the Spanish Mission architecture buildings with pops of blues and yellow over the bars and restaurants for a unique picture showcasing that beautiful photos of New Zealand don’t just have to be about nature!

Top Photo Tip: For an extra special shot, hang around for the Christchurch City Tram to trundle down the street and photograph this retro vehicle while it stops.

14. Akaroa

views over akaroa new zealand

A visit to Akaroa will transport you to another world; one with rolling volcanic coastline and crystal clear waters at every bay. Plus, there’s hardly a person in sight! You’ll be sure to get plenty of beautiful photos of New Zealand that highlight the South Island’s diverse landscape from this corner of Bank’s Peninsula, just a short drive from Christchurch.

Top Photo Tip: Avoid the gigantic cruise ships that regularly dock at Akaroa. There’s nothing that screams “unphotogenic” like a whopping great big boat spoiling the view! Instead, drive up Summit Road to get a panoramic view over Banks Peninsula from every angle. If that doesn’t take your fancy, stop at one of the peninsula’s secluded bays to shoot a scene that is truly isolated and raw.

15. Hokitika Gorge

rocky edge in front of blue waters in gorge

Is New Zealand even real?! This fairytale landscape is none other than the glistening blue waters of Hokitika Gorge. This West Coast gem could be straight out of a fantasy, with such vivid colours and embracing forests surrounding the still waters. It’s a landscape photographer’s dream!

Top Photo Tip: Don’t just take the cliche photo at the viewing platform. Make your way down to the water itself for an alternative angle for your shot.

view over vivid blue waters surrounded by trees

16. Lake Tekapo

lake tekpo waters and mountain edges

Ah Lake Tekapo. Photogenic doesn’t even come close as proved by the many spots around this tiny town that offer beautiful photos of New Zealand. From the Church of the Good Shepherd to Mount John Observatory, take your pick of mind-blowing places to shoot and enjoy!

Top Photo Tip: If you’re a bit of an amateur/novice photography fan like me, bring your DSLR camera on a tour of the Mount John Observatory. You might be lucky enough to have their resident astrophotographer capture some out of this world (literally) Milky Way and Southern Cross photos!

17. Nugget Point Lighthouse

rocky coastline overlooking ocean

Waaaay down at the bottom of New Zealand the beauty doesn’t stop. Right up to the very edge of the coastline where the cliffs meet crashing waves is Nugget Point Lighthouse. Due to its distance from so much of the country, it’s a rather peaceful spot but no less photogenic.

 

Top Photo Tip: The lighthouse is a well-photographed perspective, so why not try to find a unique vantage point to capture? The cliffs and rocky peaks below offer a different perspective worthy of a photo. Head out early in the morning during winter to encounter some mystical fog to really ramp up the moody vibes.

lighthouse on cliff edge with fog covering horizon

18. Kaikoura

kaikoura beach at sunrise with gentle waves in front of mountains

Like many coastal destinations on the South Island, Kaikoura is blessed with gorgeous beach AND alpine views. Along with the abundance of marine life, it’s a photographer’s dream. Capture playful dolphins and majestic whales right alongside incredible landscapes. Kaikoura is sure to take your breath away!

 

Top Photo Tip: Practice some night photography from the beach to capture the moon and a few stars over the mountains. If you stay out long enough, you can also watch the sunrise!


 

And the list goes on, and on, and on! This is of course by no means a comprehensive list of the most photogenic places in New Zealand, but it’s a start!

I really can’t express enough how you’ll find beautiful places at every corner to take beautiful photos of New Zealand. These are just the tip of the iceberg, and a few of my personal favourites from some famous places!

Have you got a favourite place to take beautiful photos of New Zealand? Let me know and I’ll add it to my list for my next trip!

 

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