New Zealand is the creme de la creme of pristine environments. It has been rated as the world’s Number 1 most scenic location by US News Today. Milky, glacial fed valleys, rolling green hills straight out of Lord of the Rings, alpine tundra with sweeping views of snow capped mountains and remnant volcanoes. The ocean views and bays with windswept pohutukawa (New Zealand's christmas tree) are unbeatable. Put simply, New Zealand is a photographer's dream. Here are our top 10 scenes that you will be getting up close and personal with on a Pacific Discovery program through New Zealand.
1. Ben Lomond, a hike out of Queenstown
You get the chance to see it during our stop in Queenstown, which is stacked with free time to get in hikes like this! Forget the Swiss Alps, this day's hike out of Queenstown involves no high altitude but all the good views. Mountain layers on mountains as far as the eye can see, with glacial lakes between all of the crevices below. Oh, and in the afternoon you can be back in town eating a world famous Fergburger! The picture of the burger is pretty insta-worthy, too. The shot of you bungee jumping the next day is too.
2. That Wanaka Tree
Wanaka is where we do our rock climbing camp! The Wanaka tree is New Zealand's most photographed tree - for a reason! It’s set in the picture perfect Lake Wanaka. Close your eyes and imagine a scene of serene nature and purity, and then google Lake Wanaka. There’s probably quite a bit of crossover in the image you imagined! Walk up to Roy’s Peak for an all-encompassing view of the area.
3. Mitre Peak in Milford Sound
If we are all enthusiastic about a day trip out to Milford Sound, we will get here! Even the drive to get out here is jaw dropping. Part of the road goes through a cave that was dynamited so that humans had access to Milford Sound. This is now home to one of the Top Ten hikes in the world - Milford Sound Track. (We won’t be walking it, but it could be a goal for your future!). Mitre Peak itself is the rocky mountain at the center of all the aesthetic action! It’s silly-beautiful, picture-perfect, green insanity. You’ve kind of just gotta see it to believe it.
4. Pancake Rocks
This is located in Punakaiki, one of our stops along the south island road trip! Ethereal and whacky, this little stop on the west coast is very special. The rocks look like stacks of paper thin crepes! The geological story is quite interesting, and we will learn more once there. The background is a wild ocean, with squawking sea birds committed to making the weather-beaten Pancake Rocks their home. Grab some pancakes at the cafe next door to make the day complete.
5. Geysers in Rotorua
This is the place where we raft down the highest commercial waterfall and mountain bike amongst a redwood forest! This region is known for its intense geothermal activity. You might have guessed it, while getting the perfect shot the air is going to smell like eggs. The colors of the ground in the geyser areas are unreal, with vibrant green and neon orange combining in a bubbling and smoking pot of mother nature's volcanic stew!
6. The Marlborough Sounds
This is our environmental service learning location! This area at the top of the south island is simply stunning. Pristine blue waterways with thick forested mountains and bays. There are seals and dolphins galore, with the occasional orca whale coming through to eat stingrays! Anyone with a holiday house in the Marlborough Sounds can consider themselves having officially won the life lottery.
7. Bay of Islands
This is north of Auckland at the beginning of our time in New Zealand! Okay, another glorious set of picture-perfect islands makes the list! It’s just so hard to choose which area is best, and every island environment is unique in its own ways. The Bay of Islands are in the sunniest part of New Zealand, and people love to get around in kayaks or yachts.
8. Tongariro Crossing
If there’s a weather window, we will get out here on one of the most spectacular walks in all of New Zealand! This alpine environment is home to stark, contrasting and dramatic volcanic landscapes. Fans of supersized landscapes, you will love this one.
9. Hokitika Gorge
This is yet another gem we will have a chance to see on the west coast road trip! Oof, this day hike is really jam packed with more views than effort required to see it. Greens and blues so pure the air makes you feel healthier! This is the spot to get some long exposure shots of moss covered rocks in clear streams. As we’ve mentioned already, the drive to get here is truly sensational as well!
10. Astro Cafe, Lake Tekapo
We hit this location toward the end of the trip, just before Christchurch! Lake Tekapo is a glacial lake on the South Island that reflects the surrounding snowy mountains like a mirror. Glacial waters are always pretty, and Lake Tekapo is truly mesmerizing. The views from Astro Cafe are not only incredible during the day, but also during the night for the stars! Have a coffee and cake and learn about the Dark Sky project that operates here!
Alright team, that’s our Top Ten Insta Worthy Scenes in New Zealand, and we are in the know because our founders come from New Zealand! There are lots more that could have made the list, and you will have to decide for yourself! The weather always plays a big part in the most photogenic locations, with the different lighting we will see these places in. The interesting thing about New Zealand is that it has a tiny population of just over 4 million people (with only 1 million people in the South Island!). Only part of the land has been farmed, and the Kiwis (locals) are committed to restoring the environmental to its natural state - especially on the numerous islands surrounding the two main land forms. Roadtripping in New Zealand is a hobby in itself, and you hardly need to get out of the vehicle to spot the most unbelievable views.
Check out our 10-week Rewilding Residential New Zealand Semester here.
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