New Zealand is famously one of the most picturesque nations on the planet. From its paradisiacal beaches to rugged mountains and national parks, NZ is a nature lovers dream. Across the North and South Islands, visitors can experience thrilling hikes, sailing, relaxing beach and spa experiences, and even an escape to Middle Earth at the world famous Hobbiton movie set. Though there are literally thousands of top places to do and see in New Zealand, here is our selection of some of the most Insta friendly, from dramatic sunset viewpoints to dazzling themed gardens.
Lake Tarawera is the largest lake that surrounds the North Island’s Mount Tarawera. Surrounded by lush woodland and a popular spot for camping, fishing and swimming, this lake area is truly a natural paradise. The lake even connects to various geothermal baths, located primarily in its southern section, such as the Wairua Stream and Hot Water Beach. For the best photo op, be sure to head to one of the docks that extend out into the water at sunset. With the turquoise water, distant mountains and orange sky, this view makes for a beautiful symmetrical shot.
Fiordland National Park
Over on the south-westerly tip of the South Island, you will find Fiordland National Park. By far the largest of the 14 national parks in New Zealand, this park is a goldmine of staggering mountains and valleys. Everything, from waterfalls, lush trees, snow-capped mountains and hidden caverns can be found within the 4,868 sq. miles of parkland. For the best glimpse of all that Fiordland National Park has to offer, follow the Kepler Track, a circular hiking route that crosses the deepest gorges all the way up to highest mountain ridges. From the highest points in the track (some of which changes into steps), the stunning views across the valley makes for incredible photo opportunities.
Onsen Hot Pools
The Onsen Spa in Queenstown is internationally renowned, largely due to the Instagrammability of its open-air hot tubs. From the comfort of a luxurious cedar-lined thermal bath, visitors can enjoy spectacular panoramic views across the orange and red-blushed mountainside. Beyond the hot tub, visitors can also enjoy high quality massages, face and body treatments – the perfect way to end an active hiking trip in the surrounding hills. Book your place here.
Nugget Point Lighthouse
In the Otago region of the South Island, Nugget Point is a viewpoint gaining popularity in recent years, thanks to the beautiful scenic lighthouse that sits on the cliff edge. Rising sharply against the backdrop of the ocean, this lighthouse is an easy 20-minute stroll from the car park. If you can handle the early-rise, the sunrise views are phenomenal and well worth the effort, especially to capture a crowd-free shot.
Over at the Northernmost point of the South Island, Wharariki beach is another location only accessible by 20-minute walking track. Best known for its Archway Islands, these fascinating geological formations make for incredible images (you will most likely recognise one as the default Windows 10 wallpaper). At low tide, a land bridge connects the beach to the largest island, allowing visitors to walk across and walk under the fascinating archways. Experiment with angles and let the twisting rock shapes and arches create a powerfully contrasted image against the open skies and blue seas.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
This South Island national park is home to New Zealand’s highest mountain and boasts incredible snowy peaks and rugged natural scenery. Encompassing 60km of land, glaciers cover 40% of the parks area, with vast lakes covering much of the rest. In order to get the best experience of the park, and navigate the icy scenery, the Hooker Valley Track is the most popular. This easy 5km walk through the valleys and lakes has been named one of the “best day walks in New Zealand” and offers incredible photogenic views of the surrounding scenery.
This stunning natural rock archway is an icon of New Zealand and an absolute photo classic. Popularised as the entranceway to Narnia in the movie Prince Caspian, this cove is absolutely something of fantasy, particularly at sunrise when the yellow light bounces off the cave walls. Situated at the edge of an ocean-side bay just a few kilometres from Hahei on the North Island, the cove is a hugely popular spot and attracts tourists and photographers year-round.
No trip to New Zealand is complete without taking a trip to the Hobbiton Movie Set, a complete outdoor fantasy world made for the Lord of the Rings movies. Stroll around this beautiful town, with its tiny round-doored hobbit homes and even step inside the Green Dragon Inn for a complementary Middle-Earth drink. Scattered throughout the year, the site even puts on special events, such as International Hobbit Day, a day of festivities and food to mark the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Tickets for the daily tours cost $89 per adult, and $44 for youths.
This public garden park situated on the banks of the Waikato River, makes for a beautiful day trip and endless photo opportunities, with its 21 themed gardens. From Japanese gardens to gardens celebrating modern art, this is truly a stroll through the entire global history of art, spirituality and philosophy. Within the collections of gardens, one of the most spectacular is the ‘Paradise Garden’ collection, encompassing gardens such as the Ancient Egyptian Garden, Italian Renaissance Garden and the most famous, Indian Char Bagh Garden. These gardens draw on the traditional gardening principle of attempting to make ‘paradise on earth’ (the word paradise derives from the Old Persian word ‘pairidaeza’ which means ‘enclosed garden’. The other collection to see is the Fantasy Gardens, combining fantasy and imagination to create original displays such as the ‘Surrealist Garden’, and Alice-in-wonderland-like ‘Tudor Garden’.
Our final destination in New Zealand is Mine Bay, with its fascinating Māori rock carvings. Accessibly only by boat or kayak, the carvings reach up to 10 metres high on the side of the rock face and were designed by Māori artist Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell in the 1970s. For an introduction to Māori traditions and the importance of rock carving, sign onto a tour, such as these from Taupo Sailing Adventures, which offers a ‘Sail Fearless’ option for an adventurous sailing tour, or ‘Kindred Spirit’ for those who would prefer to relax and see the sites at a leisurely pace.