While Queenstown is commonly referred to as adventure capital of the world, with all sorts of adrenaline-filled activities available to those who want to put their courage to a test, it’s also an amazing destination for landscape photography. Situated on the shores of a scenic lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the glorious mountain ridges, Queenstown is a lovely town in a beautiful part of New Zealand. We only spent a couple of days in the area but were completely fascinated by it. In this article, I share my tips on some of the more prominent landscape photography locations in and around Queenstown.
phy In Queenstown
If you only have a few hours in Queenstown, there are a couple of good spots right in the city. A good location for sunset and arguably the best view in town is from Bob’s Peak. It is easily reachable by the Skyline gondola or via a relatively easy hour-long hike through the forest. At the top, you will be treated to some breathtaking panoramas of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu far below.
An obvious photo spot is on the gondola station terrace, which offers a clean and unobstructed view of the city. One downside to it is that it tends to be busy, especially at sunset. For a more solitary experience, there is another vantage point a bit further up, where the paragliders take off. The views are similar but it’s far less crowded. In fact, we had it all to ourselves when we were there. The place is a bit difficult to find, so I’ve marked it on this map – follow the path up past the luge track and you’ll eventually reach it.
Another excellent landscape photography location in the city is Queenstown Gardens located on a small peninsula. Queenstown Trail follows the lakeshore around the peninsula and is a pleasant stroll with tons of opportunities for a good image. The view across the lake is marvelous, but it’s especially picturesque during sunset when the Remarkables mountain ridge to the east is beautifully highlighted by the setting sun.
A Trip to Glenorchy
Glenorchy is a lovely little town on the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. This gorgeous region served as a filming set for many movies, including the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. If you’re interested, a specialized Lord of the Rings tour will take you to the most interesting locations. But even without a tour, Glenorchy is one of the best half-day excursions from Queenstown and I wholeheartedly recommend it. The drive to Glenorchy is 45 minutes of spectacular landscapes and breathtaking views, with lots of pull-over spots and short side hikes for those who want to explore.
Personally, I recommend waking up before dawn and heading to Glenorchy for sunrise. One of my most memorable sunrises in New Zealand was in Glenorchy. It’s a beautiful place to catch the first light and as a bonus you can then explore the Glenorchy road on the way back to Queenstown, well before the traffic builds up by late morning. A perfect spot for sunrise in Glenorchy is right next to the wharf. Here, you will find a jetty and a bunch of cool little trees growing in the water, both of which make an excellent subject for a stunning photo.
Stick around in Glenorchy after the sunrise and explore the waterfront for a bit. It’s a lovely place with tons of potential compositions. I took some very nice images there, including a photo of the blooming flowers at the top of this article.
Hiking the Remarkables
The Remarkables is a mountain range to the east of Queenstown. And, as the name shrewdly suggests, these peaks truly are remarkable. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the ridge is visible from Queenstown and looks fabulous at sunset. But, we can do one better! How about hiking to the very top for an ultimate bird’s eye panorama of Queenstown and the surrounding area?
Now, don’t worry, I don’t actually suggest to hike the entire way up. Luckily, there’s a much easier way. There’s a road that gets you all the way up to the Remarkables ski area. From there, it’s only about an hour-long hike to the viewpoint. Keep in mind that the last few kilometers to the station aren’t paved. It is well-maintained road, however, and easily passable on any vehicle. Just drive slowly and pay attention.
There are several hikes in the area. The one we did leads to what Google calls the Remarkables Ultimate View Point. You can see it on the far left onthis map. The track can be a little tricky to find, however, especially when there’s snow. Basically, you need to follow the blue line from the station labeled The Cat Walk, then switch to Calypso line. Eventually, you’ll reach the final ski lift tower. From there, the path to the viewpoint will be clearly visible.
Quite unexpectedly, this hike turned out to be my favorite in New Zealand. To a large extent, this had to do with the weather conditions that we had. We visited Queenstown at the very end of October. The ski season was over by that time, but while spring brought warm sunny days to the lower areas, there was still snow higher in the mountains. It’s that combination of snow and lovely spring weather that made the ascent so much fun. A white and calm winter landscape proved to be a welcome change and allowed me to capture images that are very different from what I shot elsewhere during the trip.
Queenstown is a treasure trove for landscape photographers. The locations I have listed in here are the most obvious of course, but there are many others. With so many lakes and mountains around, it’d honestly be hard to go wrong. Explore on your own or check out this article (and others on that awesome blog!) for some additional recommendations.
If you enjoy hiking, there are also numerous walking trails near Queenstown. Personally, I’d love to do the famous Ben Lomond summit track next time, but there are others too. A hike to Lake Alta in the Remarkables ski area could easily be combined with the viewpoint one that we did for a fun day-trip in the mountains. For even more options, take a look at this blog post.
As always, check out my YouTube video from Queenstown for even more details and I would highly appreciate any comments, questions, remarks, and suggestions that you might have. I’m always happy to chat, so feel free to write anything and let’s do that!