Postcard-worthy vistas are a strong part of Queenstown’s appeal. The popular resort and adventure hub is surrounded by lakes, snowy alps, canyons, rivers and gorges. To get the best panoramas in town, head to Bob’s Peak summit: you can either hike your way up or catch the gondola to the top.
Fiordland National Park’s Milford Sound has been marvelling visitors for many centuries: legend has it that author Rudyard Kipling once named the area as being among the wonders of the world. Travellers from all over the globe head to the isolated fjord to cruise along its serene waters, marvel at its soaring mountain peaks, or hike the multi-day Milford Track.
Dunedin Railway Station is one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. Some go as far as saying that this architectural gem is one of the second most snapped in the Southern Hemisphere, just behind the Sydney Opera House in Australia. When it opened in 1906, the Baroque-inspired station was New Zealand’s busiest; nowadays the station is no longer operating but the Otago Farmers’ Market is among the many fixtures that liven up the area.
New Zealand’s hilly capital city offers a trove of panoramic photo ops. If you want to get a full 360-degree view of Wellington, though, Mount Victoria is the place to visit. Try and get there just before sunrise or sunset for the most stunning shots. A two-and-a-half hour, 4.7-kilometre (2.9-mile) loop track will lead you to the lookout point at the top of the summit.
For a full sweeping view of New Zealand’s largest city, Maungawhau/Mount Eden is the ultimate go-to. This volcanic cone is quite handy to the city, and the walk up to its summit will take a reasonably fit person around five to 10 minutes at most. Panoramic vistas aside, the 50-metre (164-foot) crater contained within this epic volcano is a wonder in itself.
Napier is a picturesque city on the east coast of the North Island that has become globally renowned for its Art Deco architecture. Its iconic buildings emerged after the city, and the surrounding Hawke’s Bay region, was struck by a major earthquake in the 1930s. Napier’s Art Deco sights and attractions have become so revered that there’s even an annual festival dedicated to them.
If there’s one place that symbolises Christchurch’s post-quake resilience, it’s the Christchurch Art Gallery. Its premises became the main Civil Defence headquarters after disaster struck; it then underwent its own earthquake strengthening before resuming its artistic operations. The modern building, known for its exquisite glass facade, is complemented by a series of sculptures and art installations fitted outside it.
Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland is home to an exquisite collection of geysers, mud pools and uniquely coloured geothermal springs. The park is located 27 kilometres (16.8 miles) south of Rotorua and is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace – allow approximately three hours to admire all its features, and make sure to get there before 10:15 am to see the Lady Knox Geyser’s daily spouting spectacle.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a place where forest, ice and rock come together in perfect cohesion. This accessible park is home to 19 mountain peaks including New Zealand’s tallest: Aoraki/Mt Cook. A series of hiking tracks will lead you to the famous namesake peak, among other scenic highlights like the Tasman Glacier and Hooker Valley.
Tongario National Park is one of New Zealand’s UNESCO World Heritage areas. It is home to the North Island’s major ski fields, as well as being a popular spot for those who want to get their hiking and mountaineering fix. Lord of the Rings fans will also know the area for its film appearances – including Mt Ngauruhoe, which was used to bring Mt Doom to life.
Located at the northern end of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is a true gem for all seasons. Here you’ll find various tracks that connect the lush rainforests and granite cliffs to a series of golden-sand beaches. If you have an affinity for wildlife, the neighbouring Tonga Island Marine Reserve is a good spot to see some little blue penguins, seals and bottlenose dolphins.
The Coromandel’s Cathedral Cove is the definition of photogenic: the marine reserve earned international acclaim after starring in the Chronicles of Narnia films as Cair Paravel, the fictional castle where the Kings and Queens of Narnia rule. The area is most popular in summer and autumn and can only be reached by boat, kayak or on foot.
Lake Tekapo is a South Island gem that should be on all photographers’ bucket lists. The lake’s turquoise waters are an all-season marvel, but are even more embellished in the spring months, when the lupins bloom alongside it. Lake Tekapo Village is also part of New Zealand’s UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it the ultimate spot for some stargazing.
Travellers are wont to venture into the South Island’s West Coast to bask in its rugged beauty. Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks are among the most famous scenic highlights in the area. A 20-minute loop walk just off the main highway at Punakaiki village, right at the edge of Paparoa National Park, will get you up close and personal with a series of stacked limestone rock formations that have been carved out of several years of seismic action.
The Moeraki Boulders will amaze you with their size. Some of these striking spheres are up to 2.2 metres (7.2 feet) in diameter. These boulders are located on the Otago coast, between the towns of Moeraki and Hampden, and are estimated to be around five million years old. Mud and coastal erosion are to thank for these curious concretiocns and their distinctive cracked surfaces.