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Why New Zealand is a Landscape Photographer’s Paradise

By January 2, 2021No Comments

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that I think New Zealand is a landscape photographer’s paradise. There are few countries in the world that boast the diverse range of scenery within such a relatively small geographical area. Here are a few of the features that I think back up this claim:

1. Beaches

Being an island nation, NZ is literally surrounded by beaches. Not only are there a lot of them, but there’s also a huge variety. Below are just a few examples:

Back Beach, New Plymouth

A great beach for swimmers and surfers (and dog walking!), it’s also great for photographers. The Sugar Loaf islands are what makes this special. Combined with interesting sand patterns and/or reflections at sunset, these make for a unique and interesting shot.

Back Beach, New Plymouth


Muriwai, Auckland

A rugged black sand beach just 40 minutes from Auckland’s CBD, Muriwai is a great sunset location. About 1,200 pairs of gannets nest here from August to March each year and the gannet colony makes for a wonderful composition. However even without the gannets, the rock formations at Muriwai provide endless opportunities for the landscape photographer.

Muriwai gannet colony

Muriwai waves


St Clair Beach, Dunedin

St Clair is a popular spot for surfing, swimming, walking and is just minutes from central Dunedin. The old jetty posts are the main attraction for photographers, although by the time I managed to get a shot of them, many had succumbed to the sea. It’s still a wonderful place to catch the sunrise or sunset.

St Clair beach


Tunnel Beach, Dunedin

A hidden gem just minutes from Dunedin city, Tunnel Beach features a natural archway with high cliffs along the coast. It’s a bit of a steep track down to the beach, but well worth the effort.

Tunnel Beach


Wharariki, Golden Bay

The most remote location by far on this list, Wharariki is arguably the most spectacular beach in New Zealand. The track to Wharariki Beach travels over farm paddocks and through a section of coastal forest, before arriving a the beautiful windswept coast. The Archway Islands, a group of four rock stacks or small islands, make for an amazing background.

Wharariki beach



2. Mountains

No explanation needed really – New Zealand is pretty well-known for its mountains. Here’s just a taster:

Aoraki Mount Cook

Mt Cook is  the tallest mountain in New Zealand and not surprisingly, one of the most-photographed. There are numerous locations easily- (and some not-so-easily) accessible from Mt Cook Village, which sits in the heart of the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Or, you can capture the mountain from the endless viewpoints along Lake Pukaki.

Mt Cook from Peters Lookout

Mt Cook from Lake Pukaki


Mt Taranaki

Mount Taranaki is New Zealand’s most perfectly formed volcano. There are many tracks within Egmont National Park that will allow you to capture the mountain up close, but being the lazy photographer I am, I’ve only captured it from New Plymouth so far.

Lake Mangamahoe


Southern Alps

The Southern Alps is the highest mountain range in Australasia. One of the best ways to photograph it is in the air. Take one of the many scenic flights available by plane or helicopter and get a bird’s-eye view. Even better if you can time it for sunrise or sunset, though you may have to charter a flight as they don’t normally operate during those hours

Southern Alps aerial photo

Southern Alps Aerial Photo near Lake Wakatipu


3. Lakes

There are so many photogenic lakes scattered throughout New Zealand that no matter where you go, there’s bound to be a lake nearby to capture sunrise or sunset. Here are just a couple:

Lake Wanaka

This lake is especially famous due to the Wanaka Tree that emerges alone from the water. Thanks to that tree, Lake Wanaka is a contender for the title of the most photographed lake in New Zealand.

Wanaka Tree


Lake Wakatipu

Being the lake that Queenstown (the adventure captial of the world) is built around, Lake Wakatipu is heavily used for water adrenalin activities. As such it’s not a great candidate for reflection photos but with the Remarkables and other mountains in the background, it’s still very photogenic.

lake Wakatipu


St Bathans Blue Lake

Probably the most unique lake in New Zealand, Blue Lake was originally the Kildare Gold Mining Company claim and vast riches were elevated out of this ‘hole’ from the 1860’s. Mining was stopped when the claim was getting too close to the township and the mine water supply was in jeopardy. What’s left is now a picturesque swimming and boating lake with many photo opportunities from the surrounding cliffs and at lake level.

St Bathans Blue Lake

St Bathans Blue Lake



4. Lighthouses

As a country completely surrounded by the sea, it’s no surprise that New Zealand has quite a few lighthouses. From Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island to Waipapa in the Deep South, you’ll find them spread right around New Zealand’s beautiful coastline. Here are just a couple I’ve managed to photograph:

Cape Egmont

Cape Egmont Lighthouse marks the western-most point of the Taranaki coast. At night, it flashes white light once every eight seconds, telling ships up to 22 nautical miles away exactly where they are. Surrounded by farmland, this makes an iconic photo at sunset.

Cape Egmont Lighthouse



Castlepoint lighthouse is located a few hours’ drive from Wellington and is 23 metres high, making it the tallest lighthouse in the North Island. It’s surrounded by fascinating rock formations and a winding path that makes it a photographer’s dream. Shoot this both at sunset and sunrise, but be prepared for lots of wind!

Castlepoint Lighthouse

Castlepoint rock formations


Nugget Point

Arguable New Zealand’s most well-known lighthouse, Nugget Point is an iconic platform on the Catlins coast with one of the country’s oldest lighthouses. The lighthouse is built above the famous rocks, named by Captain Cook because they looked like pieces of gold. Shoot this from the path leading to the lighthouse, or scramble up the cliff for a higher viewpoint.

Nugget Point Lighthouse


5. Rock Formations

Photographers love interesting rock formations, and New Zealand has a few places that fit the bill nicely.

Castle Hill

Castle Hill Basin is located in the Canterbury high country approximately 90km northwest of Christchurch. It’s characterised by its distinctive limestone rock formations which you can spend hours exploring.

Castle Hill sunrise

Castle Hill rocks


Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki is most famous for its boulders, which are actually calcite concretions formed about 65 million years ago. These spherical stones are scattered across the beach, each weighing several tonnes. This beach is best photographed at sunrise when the tide is high. Most guides recommend visiting at low tide, but that’s mainly for tourists who want to see the boulders without worrying about getting wet. I find the best photos are where the water is swirling around the boulders, and a highish tide is needed for that.

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders Sunrise