Depending where you live - New Zealand is a long, long flight away... 
I lived in England when I travelled to NZ - and I basically lost a day. I departed Monday in Heathrow - and arrived Wednesday in Auckland.  Lucky me I got this day back when I travelled home :-)


I travelled both North and South Island and in this Travel Story I want to concentrate on the South (there will be another travel story for the North, promised).


The South reminded me a lot of Scotland and Norway. Someone said to me, the South Island is like Scotland on steroids. And I suppose one could put it like that.


OK, let's start now with our virtual photo tour on the South Island of NZ!
I tried to choose some popular Instagram spots, but also some less known spots.


All Fine Art photos of the South Island you may find here: 


Editorial photos of the South Island you can see here: 

pHOTO SPOT 1: Split Apple Rock, Kaiteriteri, Tasman

This funnily shaped rock in Tasman Bay is called Split Apple Rock and I think it is obvious why.

There is a small parking spot near the entrance of the hiking path. It is an approximate 30 mins walk. Probably faster down to the beach - but up you have to climb some steep stairs...


I had been there in the late morning, the tide was coming in. Be careful - I really had to hurry and got almost stuck on the beach, flooded by water. Unfortunately I had no time in that area so couldn't wait for better light and better tide. If you can choose - I would choose an early morning or late day with less tide.  But still I am pleased with the outcome, especially with the green moss popping up in sunlight.

Don't forget your tripod and your ND stopper! The rock looks almost surreal if you do a long exposure of 1 min, together with a soft sky almost like a watercolour painting.



PHOTO SPOT 2: Wharariki Beach, Cape Farewell

Some of you might know this rock from Windows background photos.

I always wanted to go there, for many, many years. It was one of my "must do" spots and I arranged to stay in that area for three nights - just in case the light is not good. 


And good that I did. It was pouring down 2,5 days. To make it even more complicated - the tide has to be outgoing but not yet too far (otherwise you will have only mud and no reflections). And this has to happen during sunset or sunrise...


I almost gave up after 2,5 days sitting on a campsite and waiting for a miracle. But on my last night exactly that happened! It stopped raining and the tidal time was just right.


From the car park it is a 40 mins easy and flat walk to the spot in the photo, which is the far West of the beach where are caves and rocks which you can take in the foreground.
If the tide is low, you can start walking towards the arch for the actual sunset with reflections in the wed sand. You might meet some seals as a bonus!  


The walk back from the arch itself over the sand dunes is approx. 20 mins.



PHOTo spot 3: Wanaka Tree

OK. It is .THE. Wanaka Tree.
Hmmm... Do I have to say more? Hundreds of thousands of photos on Instagram, Facebook and Blogs.

I felt obliged to take one myself. Just to not miss it out. But... if I had not been in the area anyway, I could have given it easily a miss. It is a nice tree, yes. But the spot is totally overcrowded with so many photography travel groups.


It was a lovely evening in Wanaka - but in the mountains there was a storm and rain. So the sunset became quite atmospheric.


To shoot my photos I actually had (and I mean this literally) crawl in the sand in between and under the legs of the a hug photo group... 🙄 But no way I would give up a shot!


Sunset is the best time and the car park is 2 mins walk away from the tree.



photo spot 4: Glenorchy, Lake Wakatipu

One might wonder about this photo. Hearing the name "Glenorchy" most of you will have the lined up trees in the water in mind. 


And yes. I did those Instagram trees as well. And at 5 am I had to fight again for a spot which I shared with dozens of other photographers. But I also wandered along the lake and only a short walk North from the trees you can find those beautiful flowers (November, December) with the mountains in the background. There are spacious meadows full of wild flowers - the colours are just amazing!


Go there in the morning and take some waterproof shoes with you, it is wetland. 

The car park is only 10 mins away, the walk is flat.



photo spot 5: Milford Sound

Milford Sound is probably the symbol of New Zealand. And that is well deserved, it is an amazing landscape.


It is a long drive from Queenstown, at least a day. I made a stop over night. But worth every minute of the drive!

For the drive between Te Anau and Milford calculate a bit more time, there are several beautiful stops on the way and it is a waste to just rush to Milford Sound.


I stayed overnight on a campsite at the Sound to have both sunset and sunrise. Both equally pretty - if you are lucky with the weather which is quite temperamental down there... The photo above was taken very early morning shortly before sunrise.


Try to find your favourite spot by walking the easy and flat "Milford Foreshore Walk" (approx. 20 mins), best with outgoing tide.



photo spot 6: Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach

Fascinating Moeraki Boulders on the South Island. They are concretions, washed out of the cliffs. I loved it how they are half submerged in the water, lying there like over-sized marbles.


The walk to the boulder is quite easy, only 10 mins from the car park. When the tide is in, it is very slippery, be careful.


But the timing is crucial: you have only 20-30 mins time to shoot the boulders like in the photo. When the tide is in, you cannot see them at all. When the tide is too far out - they don't look nice, just rocks on sand.


Go there when the tide is just about to go out and be fast... I planned my stay that this tidal time happens during sunrise, but I suppose sunset could also work.



photo spot 7: Mount Cook, Lake Pukaki

One of the most impressive landscape on the South Island - Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook. 

A mixture of Switzerland and Scotland. But more space. 

Great for hiking - and great for photos.


This photo was taken on the road from Pukaki towards Mount Cook. There are here and there small lay-bys to park and to admire different views over the lake.  Best to shoot in the early morning with first light on the peaks.


Please be careful with the traffic. Early morning it is quite, but during the day there are some cars and you might be hidden in a dip or behind a bend.   


photo spot 8: Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo

Another Instagram photo spot with literally hundreds of photographers during the day and several dozens at 5 am. Even at night there were people doing some light painting.


That is why I decided to not join the crowd for sunrise which were all to the left of the chapel. I shot the chapel plus wild flowers on the other side of the road, the crowd well hidden behind the chapel. When the photography groups went off, after the sun had risen, I had a small gap before the "normal tourists" were coming and took the opportunity to shoot as well the "classic shot". But sometimes it is worth to look at a photo subject from a different angle. And I quite like the result.



PHOTO SPOT 9: Lake Tekapo

This photo was taken only a few minutes drive away from the crowded Good Shepherd spot (see above) along the lake. But here was literally nobody. You can even stop your car easily at the side of the road - there is probably one car per hour and they can pass.


It was beautiful to have peace with the nature.  And I was lucky to have had a sunny day and snow on the peaks.


For this shot you need a long lens (300 at least) and a sturdy tripod to fight the strong winds. 
You are shooting over a bay and the scenery is quite far away. With the long lens the mountains are looking even more impressive...



photo spot 10: Burkes Pass

The service station "Three Creeks" at the Burkes Pass I really enjoyed. It is a quaint and unique place with all those retro collectibles.


It is well worth a stop for a tea or coffee and a browse through hundreds of things you might never have seen before because you are too young. Although - as can bee seen with the flag - the atmosphere is less New Zealand and more America in the 50s. Still very enjoyable. And a nice change after so many landscape photos.



For sure I haven't even mentioned a small fraction of photo possibilities on the South Island. It is a huge country. But I hope I was able to give you a small first impression.


If you travel to NZ, don't rush it too much. Decide for either North or South. Or stay long enough for both.
I would recommend to stay three weeks on the South Island. 


And be warned - the weather is really full of surprises. Not only the landscape reminded me on Scotland...

Try to avoid the peak season around Christmas. November until mid December are good months to travel. Not yet summer, the wild flowers in full bloom and the crowds not yet arrived.


Please leave a comment about your thoughts. And of course you may also share this post.


All Fine Art photos of the South Island you may find here: 


Editorial photos of the South Island you can see here: 


If  you are interested in a tutorial, guided photo tour or workshop - please get in contact with me, I guide groups and individuals  and do photo workshops since 2014.  CONTACT ME





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