The Travel Diaries

20 Best Photography spots on New Zealand’s South Island

I’ve been lucky enough to spend over a year exploring all of New Zealand. I’ve driven all around this amazing country (in some areas, more than once) and I’ve been lucky enough to visit some spectacular photography spots along the way.

In this travel guide I will show you my top 20 photography spots in New Zealand.

I have also included a handy map so you can see where they all are and plan your journey accordingly.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did putting it together.

20 Photogenic spots on New Zealand’s South Island

1. The Lupins at Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is beautiful anytime of year and is a world famous night sky reserve. So really you can go there at any point and get some amazing photos. However if you want to see the fields of Lupins that are famous (even though they are actually a weed). I recommend going between Late November and Mid December. For more pictures check out the blog I wrote about Lake Tekapo.

2. Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

When I first had the idea of coming to New Zealand I had a dream of going on an epic hike, find a lake with a perfect reflection of a mountain and then just sitting contently at the side of the lake. Well I found the Lake! But not the hike. Lake Matheson is located on the West Coast of the South Island. And from the car park it’s a gentle 1.5hour walk all the way around the lake. I was lucky to turn up on a calm day but it may be best to plan your trip with the weather. Read more here.

3. Roys Peak

Roys Peake, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

One of the most famous spots on the South Island. I’d recommend waking up super early and getting to the top of the mountain for sunrise. I’ve done this twice and was in awe each time. Plan your timing in advance as it can take up to 3 hours to hike to the top of the mountain. So try to arrive just before sunrise. The hike is constantly up hill but not challenging at all. Read more here.

4. Milford Sound

Milford Sound, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

Milford Sound is world famous for a reason. It’s epic beauty and breathtaking scenery speak for themselves. I have written a detailed blog about Milford Sound, which includes all the best photography spots for the area. Read more about that here.

5. Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

Doubtful Sound is a lot like Milford Sound just with less people. Epic mountain ranges, breathtaking views and amazing wildlife. Definitely a spot you should check out and see for yourself. To see more photos from Doubtful Sound click here.

6. Nugget Point

Nugget Point, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

Located in the Catlins area of the South Island this breathtaking scene is next to Tokata lighthouse. The walk from the carpark to the viewpoint is an easy 10-20 minute walk and along the way you can spot seabirds, seals and sometimes other sea mammals. To read more click here.

7. Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

The Moeraki Boulders are geological marvels. Exposed by erosion of sedimentary rocks laid down from 13 to 65 million years ago. Time your visit with the tide and make sure you get there when the tide is fairly low. I’d love to get here for sunrise one day and catch an awesome pink sky behind these boulders. To read more click here.

8. Okains Bay

Okains Bay, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

Located in The Banks Peninsular near Christchurch, this little inlet is a magical place to camp. I’ve been lucky enough to visit this spot twice. The drive in is simply amazing, even if it is very windy. I’d highly recommend camping here if you get the chance. It’s a remote little spot with a well serviced campsite. For more info click here.

9. Kepler Track

Kepler Track Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

To date this is the only great walk I have done in New Zealand, and honestly it has me hooked. This was an amazing experience with spectacular views and a wonderful experience. You can read more about it on my blog here.

10. Punehu Falls

Punehu Falls, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

I think these were my favourite falls in the Catlins area. Partly because they weren’t busy and partly because of how amazing they were. The track to the falls was very muddy when we went and I had to clean my boots thoroughly when I got back to my hostel. You can read more about that here. The hike to this and another waterfall takes around 3 hours and is a little on the difficult side. To read more click here.

11. Isthmus Peak

Isthmus Peak, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

A hike similar to Roys Peak but from Isthmus Peak you get views of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. The track is steeper than Roys Peak but it’s well maintained. You can read more about the hike here. To see more pictures and to hear about my time hiking Isthmus Peak please click here.

12. Glenorchy

Glenorchy, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

One of my uncles lives in Glenorchy so I am lucky enough to have stayed in this beautiful village a couple of times. The scenery is so photogenic you can point your camera in nearly any direction. If you have the time you should take a short car journey out to Paradise and simply get to see paradise. It’s pretty amazing.

13. Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

Lake Hawea is one of my favourite lakes in the South Island. Every time I sit on the beach and look at that view I think I’m in the Trueman Show and the background is just painted on, it’s just too beautiful. One day I’ll sail a boat towards the mountains and crash in to the backdrop.

14. Lake Marian

Lake Marian, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

You know I was saying earlier about wanting to go on an epic hike to a lake. Well Lake Marian gave me the epic hike to a lake but not quite the snow capped mountains reflected in it (that might have been the clouds fault. It was still nice to sit by the waters edge and enjoy the scenery though. It is simply stunning up there. The hike took about 3 hours return and was fairly challenging on slippery wet stones. To read more click here.

15. The Hooker Valley

Hooker Valley, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

I’ve only managed to hike the Hooker Valley Track once (I’ve tried other times but the weather has been too bad) and it was amazing. The path is flat and well maintained so the hike itself isn’t actually difficult but the views are amazing. It’s only a 3 hour round trip so you should be able to do this comfortably. Pack a picnic and walk to the lake and settle in for a picnic with a view. Make sure you take all your rubbish away with you though! To read more click here.

16. Castle Hill

Castle Hill, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

The Kura Tāwhiti Access Track is a short drive from Christchurch and allows you to wander through these limestone rock formations. When I first arrived here I was amazed at every turn. You could get lost for hours exploring and photographing these majestic rocks. For more info click here.

17. Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

Lake Pukaki is the largest of 3 lakes in the area known as the Mackenzie Basin. I remember when I first saw it I was amazed by the colour of the water.

The glacial feed to the lakes gives them a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers. Lake Pukaki covers an area of 178.7 km², and the surface elevation of the lake normally ranges from 518.2 to 532 metres above sea level”


18. Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Sounds, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

The Marlborough Sounds are located a the top of the South Island by a town called Picton. This is where the ferry docks when you travel between the 2 main islands of New Zealand Islands. So when you take the ferry you get a stunning view. The Marlborough Sounds are a network of sea-drowned valleys and were created by a combination of land subsidence and rising sea levels. To read more about my Dolphin swimming experience in Picton click here.

19. McLeans Falls

McLeans Falls, Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

McLeans falls are one of the most popular waterfalls in the Catlins area of the South Island. The easy 40 minute walk takes you to these stunning waterfalls. Create for capturing amazing long exposure photos of running water. To read more click here.

20. Curio Bay/Porpoise Bay

Curio Bay, NZ Photo Credit: Paul Blayney

Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay in The Catlins are both amazing. Full of wildlife and wild seas. I love wildlife and bird photography and this is an amazing spot for it. Try and camp for a few days at the camp site and hunker down at sunset to see the Yellow Eyed Penguins returning from their hunting missions during the day. During the day you can spot wild Hectar Dolphins in Porpoise Bay and even surf and swim there. To read more click here.

Thanks for reading guys. Did I miss any spots out? Is there anywhere you would recommend? Comment below!



6 replies »

  1. Curio bay is amazing I remember being there about 10 years ago so peaceful and beautiful watching the penguins at night. I also remember surfing and swimming with the hecter dolphins in the bay there. One of my favourite places in NZ

    Liked by 1 person

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