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  • Writer's pictureColm Keating

Top Photography Locations in Queenstown, New Zealand

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

New Zealand is well known as being one of the best places for landscape photography in the world. It's no wonder all the top photography tour guides come here every season. But if you get to explore this place by yourself you might be left searching for some of the best locations to shoot. That's where this article comes in to help.

1. Bennet's Bluff

A short 30 min drive outside the town centre, Bennet's Bluff is one of those vistas that truly takes your breath away. The drive to Glenorchy from Queenstown is spectacular to say the least, but as you come around the corner to head north along the shore of Lake Whakatipu you will be greeted with a panoramic view that just screams New Zealand!

6 shot pano taken at about 70mm.
A Moody Evening at Bennet's Bluff

Just be careful when pulling up to the viewpoint as there isn't much space for cars and being on a blind corner you have to have your wits about you when pulling back out. You may see the warning signs as you pull up, but if not, this place is WINDY! Be prepared with windproof clothing and a good steady tripod.

This location is best at sunset as it sets just outside of the frame on the right in winter. In summer it wont make a massive difference at sunset or sunrise. It's also an incredibly dark place (as is most of Queenstown) so its great for astro, but getting the milky way in frame with the typical composition shown above can be difficult.

Finally, here is a Google Maps pin to the lookout.

2. Moke Lake:

A lesser known gem just outside the town is Moke Lake. This is a quiet camping spot run by the DOC (Department of Conservation) that you can camp at if you wish. Aerial shots can be cool at this location as it is a very unusual horseshoe shaped lake. However it is at its best a sunrise in winter when, more often than not, there is a thick blanket of fog on the lake. This can make for atmospheric images. This combined with the mountains towering around you on all sides and the wildlife flying above, there are endless opportunities here. Be careful when driving up in winter as the road can be icy and the last section of the road is just gravel. Any 2WD car will make it in normal conditions though.

Mist lifting off the surface of Moke Lake just as the Sun was about to lick the top of the surrounding mountains.

Because the lake is surrounded on all sides by mountains it can be quite a while before light begins to hit the valley. Getting reflections of the alpine glow is a great option arouund the time of sunrise, however if you are waiting for direct sunlight bare in mind it will be quite a while after sunrise before it gets to you.

I think this spot is best at sunrise as the lake is more likely to be still for reflections but sunset is equally great here. All year round too! The typical place to shoot is from the north shore of the lake, a short walk from the campsite. However you can walk a full ring all around the lake, leaving plenty of room for unique compositions.

Finally, a Google Maps link to the location:

3. The Remarkables

Well know for the ski field, The Remarkables is also a great place for hiking in summer, and even the drive up is well worth it for the views any time of year. However there are two places in particular I want to highlight for photography. One is on the road up, a simple lookout that is marked with what I can only describe as something that looks like a massive tripod. 30s walk from your car and your here. This spot offers great views over the whole basin and some great panoramas or telephoto compositions looking back towards the town. Sunset is definitely when you want to be hitting this location as pretty much all throughout the year it will fall somewhere in the frame below.

A Panorama from the viewpoint about half way up the road to the Remarkables Ski Fields.

Here's a google maps link to this first location in The Remarkables.

The other place is little tougher to get to and varies depending on the season. The Lookout is the official name given to what must be one of the best lookouts anywhere in the world. This is a place that is still on my own list to come back to as I am yet to get decent conditions here, but damn is there potential!

Sitting along the ridge of the remarkables it takes about an hour to hike here during summer when starting out at the ski fields car park. Follow the paths that turn into ski slopes during the winter, following the lift called "shadow basin". At the top of this lift there is a map that will indicate to you exactly where the lookout is, only another 5-10 mins walk due west of the map.

Taking in the view at The Lookout.

You can find a pin on Google Maps titled "Ultimate Remarkables Lookout, however the actual lookout is about 100m south along the ridge from here. Being perfectly honest though, anywhere you can climb up to the ridge to look over the edge here is simply epic!

This is a reasonably easy hike, but is over quite unstable ground, and there is of course a massive drop off the edge of the ridge, so do be careful. High winds are common here.

During winter you can take the chair lift "shadow basin" to save yourself the hike and then take the short walk up to the ridge from there.

Again this location is definitely best at sunset as you will be facing west looking back towards Lake Whakatipu.

Google Maps link:


The Lookout:

5. Skyline Gondola

When you think of Queenstown, this is the shot you think of. Cliche? Yes. But you can decide for yourself whether it is still worth the $40 up the gondola or you'd rather do the short but steep 40 min hike up the Tiki Trail to save yourself a few dollars. If your a Queenstown local there is an annual pass you can pick up for $80.

The best time to shoot here is dependent on the opening hours, which usually will not facilitate sunrise shoots, as you have to enter the building to get to the balcony. Sunset is usually far to the right of frame or behind you (depending on the time of year) but on a clear day you can catch some of that lovely alpine glow on the top of The Remarkables as the sun sets.

Again this is another location that I have not ticked off my list as I have only been here on dull days. However I am sure it's on I'll grab eventually.

The famous view of Queenstown

Google Maps link to bottom of gondola and start of Tiki Trail:

6. Lake Hayes

A place that was open to freedom campers until recently this is a local treasure, and it would appear the locals no longer want to share that treasure, for better or worse. You can of course still visit whenever you like and walk the ring around the lake, as long as you don't camp here.

There are many locations along the lake shore to shoot, my favorite of which probably being the jetty on the east shore. To get here park at the pavilion and walk to north along the shore. After 15 mins you'll find the jetty. Lake Hayes is at its best during autumn when the colours explode all around the lake. However at both sunset and sunrise throughout the year there is plenty to shoot! Just allow yourself time to explore.

The Lake Hayes Jetty on a still autumn afternoon.

Google Maps link to:

The Pavilion for parking:

The Jetty:

Thanks for taking the time to have a read through the article. I hope it will help your research with finding the best places to shoot around Queenstown.

There are of course countless other places I haven't included, and I am sure many that I have yet to discover. I will be updating the list with any interesting new spots I find, so keep an eye out on that.

If you would like to follow along with my own shoots and exploring check out my Instagram

and Facebook.

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