The 20 Best Instagrammable Spots on the South Island of New Zealand

by Flip Flop Wanderers
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Last updated on March 7th, 2020

It’s no secret that New Zealand is an amazingly beautiful country. With its snowy mountains, incredible coastlines, blue as lakes, countless numbers of waterfalls, and lush rainforests, New Zealand is a photographer’s dream. After traveling around the country for more than a year in total, we can say that it’s definitely the most instagrammable country in the whole world!

In this guide, we’ll cover all the best instagrammable spots on the south island of New Zealand. Including insider tips and the exact Google Maps location of each spot.

Looking for the best instagrammable spots on the north island?
Also read: The 18 Best Instagrammable Spots on the North Island of New Zealand

Anchorage & Stilwell Bay – Abel Tasman National Park

Google Maps location: click here

Starting at the top of the south island: Abel Tasman National Park, which is one of our favorite national parks in New Zealand. Why? Because it has gorgeous beaches! Two of our favorite beaches in the national park for the perfect Instagram shots are Anchorage and Stilwell bay. You can only get here by boat or via the Abel Tasman Coast Track which makes it even better. The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 3-5 day tramping track and takes you past all the beautiful beaches in the area.

When to go: summer is peak season for the Abel Tasman National Park and while it definitely is the best time for those perfect summer beach photos, it’s also the busiest season of the year. You’ll have to book your huts/campings very well in advance. We also visited one time in winter and it actually was a great time. No, we couldn’t lay on the beach but we could enjoy the beauty of the national park without any other people on the track!

Top tip: you can walk the whole track if you want, but you can also choose to visit only sections of the track. A good way to do this is with Abel Tasman Water Taxis. They can drop you off and pick you up anywhere in the national park!

 
 
 
 
 
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Wharariki Beach

Google Maps location: click here

Wharariki Beach is a very unique beach with its offshore Archway islands that reflect perfectly in the wet sand on the beach. It’s truly stunning and perfect for your Instagram shots. You can even spot seal pups playing around on the rocks!

When to go: go with sunset for the best light and the most beautiful skies. The reflection will also be much more beautiful during this time.

Top tip: Wharariki Beach is quite remote, close to Cape Farewell, which means that it’s not the easiest place to get to. That’s why we advise you to stay somewhere close for the night, especially if you want to shoot during sunset or sunrise.

Photography tip: make use of the reflection in the sand! Get low to the ground and place the horizon in the center of your photo to give it symmetry.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lake Rotoiti – Nelson Lakes National Park

Google Maps location: click here

Lake Rotoiti is a gorgeous lake tucked away between the mountains, but that’s what makes it so stunning! The backdrop of this lake is just amazing and there is a picture-perfect jetty that makes your Instagram shots perfect.

When to go: any time of the day is gorgeous here but for the best light, we recommend to come just before sunset.

Top tip: there are two jetty’s, with one jetty more hidden all the way to the left of the lake. So if the other jetty is busy with people taking photos then just go to the second one!

 
 
 
 
 
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Hokitika Gorge

Google Maps location: click here

Our favorite Instagrammable spot on the West Coast of the south island! The Hokitika Gorge will make your Instagram followers’ jaw drop with water they won’t believe is real. But yes, the water really is that blue! The color of the water is just amazing. It’s only a 15-minute walk to this beautiful spot and at the end of the hike, you’ll find some beautiful rocks to pose on. On your way, you’ll also find a very Instagrammable swing bridge.

When to go: any time of the day is good for the gorge as it will never be too busy and the water is always blue. A sunny day is best though because the water looks even more impressive then!

Top tip: there are literally thousands of sandflies at the gorge, so be very well prepared! Take plenty of insect repellent with you.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lake Matheson – Fox Glacier

Google Maps location: click here

The views from this lake are just incredible: the highest mountains of New Zealand (Mount Cook and Mount Tasman) in the background and Lake Matheson in the foreground, wow! If you are lucky, you might even see a gorgeous reflection in the lake. 

When to go: go during sunrise or sunset when the sky and light is just incredible. During sunrise you have the most chance on a perfect reflection as the water is usually still. Try to come on a clear day, as it’s unlikely you’ll see the mountains in the background if it’s cloudy.

Top tip: there is a 1,5 hour walkway around the whole lake and we definitely recommend doing this hike. The best spot to take photos of the reflected lake with the mountains in the background is, in our opinion, at the Reflection Island jetty, about halfway the hike.

Photography tip: if the water isn’t completely still use a slower shutter speed so that the water looks more smooth.

Blue Pools – Haast Pass

Google Maps location: click here

Another spot with water you won’t believe is real! This sure is an Instagram heaven with blue ass water surrounded by greenery, rocky shores, and swing bridges. It’s only a short hike again, 10 minutes, so there’s no reason to not visit. In summer you can even swim in the water and jump from the swing bridge if you dare.

When to go: try to visit when it hasn’t been raining too much. When there has been a lot of rain in the days prior to your visit, the water will be more green than blue. Still beautiful though, but the blue water is the best!

Top tip: while our Instagram shot might look like it’s taken with a drone, it’s not! Behind the second swing bridge there is a hill where you can climb up to. We placed the camera over there so that you look on the bridge from above. This way you can see the swing bridge plus the beautiful blue water underneath!

That Wanaka Tree – Wanaka

Google Maps location: click here

Wanaka is famous for many things, but it’s probably most famous for one of the most Instagrammable spots on the south island: #thatwanakatree. Yes, it even has its own hashtag! What is so special about a tree? You would think. Well, we didn’t understand the fuss either, but when we got there we immediately saw why this tree is so special. The tree is surrounded completely by water and appears to have grown in the middle of the lake. What makes it extra special is the stunning backdrop with the Southern Alps.

When to go: sunset is the best time to capture the tree in all of its glory, but it’s also the busiest time. The shore will literally be full of tourists! Another great time to shoot is at night with the stars, like we did. It will also be much quieter!

Top tip: there is not really a way to avoid the tourists here so our best tip here is to come early and be patient!

Photography tip: getting a reflection on Lake Wanaka is almost impossible, so we recommend using a very slow shutter speed so the water will be silky smooth around the tree. Also, try to take your shot from further away and zoom in. This way the mountains in the back will appear much bigger.

 
 
 
 
 
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Roy’s Peak – Wanaka

Google Maps location: click here

Thanks to Instagram, this has become one of the most popular day hikes and Instagrammable spots on the south island, all because of that view from Roy’s Peak. Everybody wants a shot from the famous viewpoint and we can’t blame them: it looks amazing! It is a very hard hike though with a lot of very steep, never-ending zig-zags leading up to the mountain summit. About half an hour before the summit you reach the famous viewpoint from Instagram: a narrow path exposed along the ridge.

When to go: as this is a day hike we recommend you to leave early in the morning. During the day it will be super busy at the famous viewpoint though. Another option is to leave in the middle of the night and be at the viewpoint during sunrise. The lights are just magical and the crowds are much smaller!

Top tip: If you’re gonna do this hike then be prepared for a challenging, continuous and steep climb. You’ll gain more than 1200 vertical meters from the start to the summit!

Note: Between October 1st and November 10th the track is closed due to lambing season.

Want to know more about this day hike?
Also read: The 10 Best Day Hikes in New Zealand

© Bogdan Valentin Neacsa

Coronet Peak – Queenstown

Google Maps location: click here

Queenstown is one of those places you will never get enough of. It has Instagrammable spots at literally every corner! Even the most inexperienced photographer will become an Instagram addict over here, it’s seriously Instagram heaven. One of our favorite places in Queenstown is Coronet Peak, a mountain range with also a ski field. The views from here are just breathtaking, with the Remarkables right in front of you. There is a road leading all the way up and along the way there are several viewpoints where you can stop.

When to go: sunset is definitely the best time! The light will hit the top of the Remarkables in the distance perfectly and the sky is just gorgeous.

Top tip: we recommend to just stop along the several viewpoints on the way. Higher up the views are the best. At one point there is even a small hill where you can drive your car/van on for some awesome shots, however, this was pretty hard to do, so we wouldn’t really recommend it to everybody.

 
 
 
 
 
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Onsen Hot Pools – Queenstown

Google Maps location: click here

Another great location in Queenstown: these hot pools are a must-visit! Imagine soaking in a private hot pool, looking out on to views of the beautiful river. This is a true Instagram paradise and you’ll, therefore, see it popping up on Instagram more and more lately. It’s a paid activity but, in our opinion, so worth it!

When to go: unfortunately our appointment was in the middle of the day, which made the lighting very harsh. It’s best to visit in the morning or later in the afternoon for the best lighting. But you might not have a choice, as appointments are booked out very well in advance.

Top tip: book very well in advance on their website. Appointments may be fully booked months in advance!

 
 
 
 
 
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Glenorchy Jetty & Boathouse

Google Maps location: click here

Glenorchy is a small town at the end of Lake Wakatipu and the drive there from Queenstown is already a-ma-zing! But the place itself is also stunning surrounded by mountains. In town, you’ll find a jetty and right in front of it a super cute red boathouse. Very Instagrammable!

When to go: you can visit these places any time of the day, but we took photos on the jetty at night and loved how this turned out! The small little light on the jetty is perfect to stand under and gives your photos a bit of a ‘creepy’ feel. For the red boathouse, it’s best to go on a clear day so you can see the mountains in the back.

Photography tip: when we took night shots on the jetty it was super windy! If it’s that windy make sure you use a sturdy tripod and keep it low to the ground. A longer exposure isn’t really possible as well in that case, as well if you also want to be in the shot, so you’ll have to use a higher ISO. To make the little light look more like a ‘star’ you can use a higher aperture, above f/11, but this can be tricky with low light. For the boat shed it’s the most beautiful if you walk all the way back and then zoom in. This way the mountains behind it appear much larger.

 
 
 
 
 
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Milford Sound

Google Maps location: click here

Milford Sound is simply one of the most famous and Instagrammable spots of the south island and the whole of New Zealand. Everybody has seen pictures of it: the ocean directly beside the fjord, snow-capped peaks everywhere and the most beautiful waterfalls. It’s simply magical and you should just see it for yourself! The Milford Road towards Milford Sound is already stunning and you’ll have your car pulling over at every corner. Be careful of the Kea birds though, because they love eating your car!

When to go: start driving toward Milford Sound early in the day. This way you have the whole day to see all the amazing spots along the way. We recommend then watching the sunset at the Foreshore of Milford Sound and watching the sunrise again the next morning at the Foreshore. Lighting really is the best at these times!

Top tip: stops we recommend along the Milford Road are Mirror Lakes, Lake Gunn, The Chasm and Lake Marian. At Milford Sound itself most people do a boat trip and while this is very beautiful, also visit the Foreshore yourself! Stay the night at the local campground so you can also see the sunset and sunrise.

Photography tip: at the Foreshore it is possible to get a good reflection in the water. You’ll want to visit with sunrise for this though and have a clear day. Use a slower shutter speed to make the water silky smooth.

Purakaunui Falls – Catlins

Google Maps location: click here

One of the most famous waterfalls in the Catlins. After only a short walk you’ll reach these lush, gorgeous waterfalls that are perfect for a dip when it’s hot.

When to go: try to get there early as in summer it can get quite busy and you’ll struggle to take a photo without anyone in it.

Top tip: for our photo, we walked over the rocks in the waterfall. Be careful if you want to do this as well though as it’s very slippery!

Photography tip: use a slow shutter speed to capture the water movement and to make the waterfall look silky smooth. If it’s too light during the day, use a grey filter on your camera. When you’re using a slow shutter speed and you want to be in the shot yourself, you have to stand very still though! Or merge it together later in Photoshop 😉

Nugget Point Lighthouse

Google Maps location: click here

Standing in front of this lighthouse really feels like you’re at the end of the world. Situated on the south-eastern part of the south island it’s very remote but definitely worth to get to. Views are incredible here and it was our favorite lighthouse of the whole of New Zealand.

When to go: this lighthouse is beautiful at any time of the day, but the most beautiful sky is with sunrise! Astrophotography is also amazing over here.

Top tip: for our photo, we actually climbed up the hill in front of the lighthouse. Be very careful if you’re doing this as it’s really steep and actually pretty scary if you are afraid of heights. It’s the best viewpoint of the lighthouse though!

 
 
 
 
 
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Moeraki Boulders

Google Maps location: click here

Not that many people visit the east coast of the south island, but if you do then that’s great for you as you’ll find the gorgeous Moeraki Boulders here! Imagine walking down a beach, and finding yourself amid a series of rocks that are as big as your average human being: that’s the Moeraki Boulders. The boulders have a very unique, geometrical perfect shape and started to form over 60 million years ago at the bottom of the ocean.

When to go: the best time to get your Instagram shot at the boulders is with sunrise as the beach faces the east. Tidal times are very important too as the boulders could be half submerged or unreachable when the water is high. It’s therefore best to visit around low tide.

Top tip: a funny photo tip is to stand upside down in a broken boulder so it looks like the boulder has ‘swallowed’ you 😉

 
 
 
 
 
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Viewpoint over Lindis Pass

Google Maps location: click here

Driving over the Lindis Pass is an epic experience: 63 km through a unique landscape with impressive mountains and tussock grasslands. Most people don’t know that there is also an incredible viewpoint along the way though. You’ll have to climb a bit to get there, but it’s so worth it! The view is amazing and you can clearly see all of the grass-covered mountains for miles and miles and even snow-covered peaks behind them.

Top tip: you’ll find the viewpoint around the highest point along Lindis Pass, at 971m above sea level. There is a sign-marked car parking for visitors and a small lookout. To get to viewpoint we mean you’ll have to venture off the marked trail though. On the hills behind you, you can clearly see a trail made simply from people always walking there. Follow that trail up the hill and you’ll be rewarded with the amazing views!

Lake Pukaki – Mount Cook

Google Maps location: click here

Lake Pukaki is simply the most beautiful lake we have ever seen in our lives. Water so blue that you can’t believe your eyes! It’s a great place to stop when you’re driving towards Mount Cook. This lake is one of the most famous Instagrammable spots of the south island, especially because on a clear day you can see Aoraki / Mount Cook in the distance.

When to go: try to visit on a clear day as it’s the best way to see Mount Cook in the distance and the lake will be much bluer.

Top tip: the best spots along the lake to take your perfect Instagram shots are the Lake Pukaki Lookout next to the Information Center right at the beginning of the lake and Peter’s Lookout, a bit further down the road.

 
 
 
 
 
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Hooker Lake – Mount Cook

Google Maps location: click here

Mount Cook seriously has a ridiculous amount of Instagrammable spots (the best Instagrammable spots of the south island in our opinion), but our favorite is the Hooker Valley Track and Hooker Lake. It’s a pretty easy and flat hike with stunning vistas, snowy mountains, and glaciers. Everywhere along the track is great for Instagram shots, like Mueller Lake, the swing bridges and the boardwalk, but the best spot is saved for last: Hooker Lake. This lake is filled with icebergs coming from the glacier behind it and looks up to the majestic Mount Cook.

When to go: clear weather is best as the mountain can be hiding behind clouds. We were at Hooker Lake with sunset and absolutely loved this time. The sky was gorgeous! It’s also much quieter if you visit around dusk or dawn.

Top tip: just wander alongside the lakefront and search for the best spot. We took a lot of photos of us sitting/standing on one of the rocks in front of the lake. Also, if you want to visit for sunrise or sunset, take a torch with you as you’ll have to walk to or back in the dark.

Photography tip: it can be really windy on the track so a reflection on the lake isn’t always possible. Sometimes you’ll have to wait a bit for the wind to settle down. If there really isn’t a reflection, the lake is still beautiful and we suggest you use a slow shutter speed in order to get that perfect smooth water.

Want to know more about this day hike?
Also read: The 10 Best Day Hikes in New Zealand

 
 
 
 
 
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Lake Tekapo

Google Maps location: click here

Lake Tekapo is another gorgeous aqua-blue lake that is especially famous for the lupin flowers that bloom in spring and summer by the lake. You might have seen the photos popping up everywhere on Instagram when it’s the season! You just can’t miss this amazing Instagrammable spot on the south island.

Top tip: the best spots for your Instagram shots are just anywhere alongside the lakefront or at the Mount John Observatory. You can drive up there and have a gorgeous view of the lake from above. Another very famous spot is the Church of the Good Shepherd. This cute little church is located right next to the lake and lends itself especially perfect for night photography.

When to go: if you want to see the lupin flowers, it’s best to visit between mid-November and January, although it’s also beautiful outside of these months! Try to visit on a clear day as the lake and surrounding mountains is much more stunning. Sunrise and sunset are also the best times for some magical lighting. For the Church of the Good Shepherd, you’ll want to visit at night as it’s incredibly beautiful for astrophotography. It isn’t part of UNESCO’s Dark Sky Reserve for nothing! During the day there are lots of tourists here so you might want to avoid that time.

Photography tip: as for astrophotography at the Church of the Good Shepherd you’ll have to use a tripod and have a good quality camera. Open your diafragma as far as possible and use a longer exposure. Your ISO can be set at around 1600. Note that this kind of photography doesn’t work when there’s a full moon!

Castle Hill

Google Maps location: click here

The Dalai Lama named this New Zealand landscape the “Spiritual Center of the Universe.” Called Castle Hill, the rocks all scattered around look like the ruins of a castle and occupy a large, private farm. It’s a fascinating place to wander around and one of the more unknown Instagrammable spots on the south island.

When to go: the most beautiful lighting is definitely around sunset.

Top tip: just wander around until you find the best spot for your Instagram shot! You can get very creative here with all the rocks, with perspectives from above that look like you used a drone or even close up shots with the beautiful rocks in the background.

 
 
 
 
 
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Where to Stay

Find all hotels on the south island of New Zealand here!

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Read all our other blogs about New Zealand here!

Hopefully these best Instagrammable spots of the south island will get you snapping like crazy in New Zealand! We can’t wait to see your shots, you can always tag us @flipflopwanderers in the post. Do you have any other Instagrammable spots to add? Let us know in the comment below!

Check out all our other Instagrammable Spots here!

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