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10 South Island Must-See Photography Hot Spots
When you’re a professional landscape photographer, saying that you get the chance to see some truly breathtaking scenery is really quite the understatement. I’ve had my share of experiences with positively spectacular vistas, but some of the most beautiful have without a doubt taken place on the South Island of New Zealand.
New Zealand’s South Island is so close to Australia, so it’s like having a little piece of paradise that’s merely a hop, skip, and a jump away. It’s also incredibly diverse when it comes to photogenic terrain. You name it – awe-inspiring waterfalls, crystalline lakes, snow-capped mountain peaks, or beautiful beaches – the South Island has it. Of course, the South Island has far too many must-see photography hot spots to list. However, the following are a few that are certainly well worth making a trek to.
1. Lake Matheson
If you’re looking for unforgettable opportunities to capture lakeside vistas at their very finest, you won’t want to miss a trip to Lake Matheson, located right next to Fox Glacier. It’s positively famous for its glass-like surface and the picturesque reflections that dance across it when the sunlight bends its way over the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Capture a reflection of Mount Cook and/or Mount Tasman if you can.
2. Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall
At an astonishing 131m high, the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall is the largest waterfall in all of New Zealand. However, knowing a natural feature like this is huge is one thing. Standing right in front of it, seeing it in living color, and taking advantage of a chance to photograph it is another. If you live for those spectacular waterfall shots, this is definitely a spot that should be on your bucket list. Just come prepared to get a little wet!
3. St. Clair Beach, Dunedin
The eastern suburbs of Dunedin come complete with several gorgeous sandy beaches and in my opinion, St. Clair is one of the most photogenic. It’s a popular spot to visit thanks to its fantastic surfing, heated saltwater swimming pool, and eclectic collection of bars and cafes. The end of the beach is also home to a series of old wooden poles that make fantastic photography subjects. Capture them at sunrise for a truly unforgettable experience.
4. Moeraki Boulders
If you’ve been a landscape photographer for long, you don’t need to be told that sometimes the strangest, most ethereal sights you’ll ever see are right there waiting for you courtesy of Mother Nature. The Moeraki Boulders of Koekohe Beach definitely fit the bill in that regard. At times, they seem more like dinosaur eggs or mysterious space pods than boulders. However, Maori legend has it that they’re actually food remains washed ashore from the wreck of a large sailing canoe. Visit these mysterious beauties at low tide for some truly amazing shots.
5. Milford Sound
You hear about a lot of places purported to be the unofficial eighth wonder of the world, but the South Island’s Milford Sound may just be one of the most breathtaking. It also sees an average annual rainfall of 6.8 meters, so it’s also one of the wettest locations in all of New Zealand. When a place sees that kind of rainfall, it’s beautiful in a very unique way. Milford Sound is filled with incredible waterfalls, each of which is well worth photographing. Take a road trip out to the Sound from Queenstown and enjoy multiple kilometers of mountain vistas and rainforest along the way as well.
6. Matai Falls, The Catlins
If you’re planning on visiting the southeast corner of the South Island, then you’ll definitely want to schedule a trip to the Catlins while you’re there. There’s a lot to explore and photograph here – everything from beautiful sprawling coastlines, to fairy tale-esque rainforests, to ambling farmland. However, the real stunner here is beautiful Matai Falls. The scenic 30-minute forest walk you take to reach the falls is a real treat as well, so come prepared to shoot a variety of different sights.
7. Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo
If you’ve ever been to Tekapo, you may already know how famous it is for its jaw-dropping skies. In fact, they’re so clear and breathtaking, Tekapo itself was officially declared an International Dark Sky Reserve back in 2012. That said, it’s a must-see if you’re into astro-photography or spectacular night shots. The Church of the Good Shepherd makes an especially good foil to the star-filled skies you’ll experience here.
8. Aoraki/Mount Cook
We touched on how lovely Mount Cook looks as a reflection on the surface of Lake Matheson. It’s also a fantastic place to visit in its own right when it comes to unforgettable photography opportunities. It’s a little different each time you visit, so it’s also the type of place you’ll want to make a pilgrimage to on an ongoing basis, perhaps. Multiple walks and options provide hikers and photographers of all types and skill levels with a wealth of opportunities to explore.
9. Waimakariri River
It goes almost without saying that rivers can make for stunningly unique landscape photographs. Waimakariri, with its braided river banks and otherworldly mountain light, is an absolute must-see. It flows across the Canterbury Plains all the way from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean itself. To see Waimakariri at its best and most beautiful, make your way to Arthur’s Pass. There are also a variety of incredible places from which to see it along State Highway 73 between Christchurch and Arthur’s Pass itself.
10. Glenorchy-Queenstown Road
If you’re into scenic roads, then this one is a location for you. It runs for 45 picturesque kilometers from Queenstown to Glenorchy and comes complete with a wealth of photography opportunities to explore. There’s quite literally something else to see around every new turn on its way around Lake Wakatipu. The light also changes from moment to moment, so one drive can yield several different opportunities to capture something truly special. That said, it’s a perfect fit for photographers looking to vary their portfolio or who like to set out on adventures and simply see where the trip takes them.
If you're eager to know more or to be immerse in this paradisiac landscape, join us in our next 5 Day Majestic South Island Photo Tour in April 2017 for a Premium Photography Tour ,including Luxury 5 Star Accommodation and all main meals (for more information, please visit the Photo Tour Page).
Go exploring today!
A 5-Day Premium Photography Photo Tour for small groups with professional landscape photographer Destin Sparks. Discover the Majestic South Island of NZ. Including luxury 5 Star accommodation and all main meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner with wine*)
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