From rugged coastlines and pristine beaches to volcanic mountains and lush forests, the North Island of New Zealand offers an abundance of photogenic spots. New Zealand in general is a true landscape photographer’s dream with two very diverse main islands of the North and South Island. Each of them offers completely different views. In this guide we will share the 20 best photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand.

Best time to visit New Zealand for landscape photography 

The best time to visit New Zealand for landscape photography largely depends on the specific landscapes you wish to capture and the type of weather and lighting conditions you prefer. New Zealand experiences four distinct seasons, each offering its unique charm for photography. 

Here’s a breakdown of the different seasons and their photography opportunities

  • For capturing blooming flowers and vibrant landscapes, visit during spring.
  • For colorful foliage and mild weather, autumn is an excellent choice.
  • For snow-covered landscapes and winter scenes, plan a trip in winter.
  • For long daylight hours and a mix of landscapes, summer can be a good option.

Keep in mind that during the winter months traveling around can be a bit more challenging because of the snow. Summer in New Zealand are the warmest months, however they can also turn into the wettest ones. The summer of 2023 was for example extremely wet resulting in floods and closed roads. 

For the most interesting components of landscape photography, we personally recommend visiting New Zealand in spring or autumn. We have traveled through New Zealand in both Spring and Autumn, and were in love with the opportunities and variety the weather circumstances and landscapes gave us. 

Spring is amazing for capturing the blooming wildflowers, lush greenery and powerful rivers and waterfalls from the melting snow. A huge advantage of going in early spring is that the mountain peaks are still covered in snow. During the summer months most of the snow melts, except on the highest peaks such as Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and some others. This results in mostly brown mountains by the time of autumn. 

On the other hand, autumn brings colorful foliage and is some of the most settled weather of the whole year in the country. The cooler mornings are perfect opportunities to capture fog and the vibrant foliage of trees provide a stunning contrast. 

20 Best Photo Spots North Island New Zealand 

Lake Taupo tree 

No, this is NOT the Wanaka Tree! Did you know that the North Island of New Zealand has it’s own kind of Wanaka Tree? Located at Lake Taupo, this is a true hidden photography gem. Lake Taupo tree is not on Google Maps like its sister in Lake Wanaka. Therefore it is not easily found by tourists or photographers. But it is without a doubt one of the best photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand!

With a stunning backdrop of the mountains, this lonely tree really stands out, and if you’re coming with sunset the Taupo tree will get a nice golden glow. 

We were determined to find Lake Taupo tree and after some trial and error driving around, we asked a local who pointed us in the right direction.

Basically, this willow tree is located in the lake where someone’s backyard touches the lakeshore. However, the beach area from where you can capture the tree is public terrain. 

I will leave a hint here, but out of respect for the people’s privacy living there we will only share the exact location of the tree in a private email. In case you find the spot yourself, please be very mindful and respectful for people living there. Lake Taupo tree is located along SH1 near Tauranga Taupō near Tauranga Taupo river mouth.  

Read in our complete guide about the best things to do in Taupo


Marokopa Falls

The Marokopa Falls are some of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. The 35-meter-high waterfall flows down the rocks into a deep pool below, creating a powerful roar and misty atmosphere. Surrounded by lush greenery and native bush, the Marokopa Falls is a beautiful photo spot on the North Island of New Zealand. Especially if you love to capture waterfalls in all its power!  


The waterfall viewing platform is very easy accessible by a short walk from the car park. However, if you want to get down to the river to get more photo opportunities with the river stream and boulders as the foreground, you have to hike down. This is what we did because the viewing platform was closed due to a landslide. The website of DOC states in July 2023 that a new lookout area is coming soon. 

The hike down to the river is via an unofficial path through the jungle. It’s quite steep and slippery, so be prepared to get dirty and only do this if you have hiking and some climbing experience. You will need to use your hands at some spots. 


The best time to capture Marokopa Falls is either midday or sunrise, sunset time. If you want the waterfall to be evenly exposed by sunlight, then midday is the best time. Around this time you also have the chance to capture a rainbow in the mist of the water.

With sunrise and sunset, the waterfall is still in the shade, which is a great opportunity for long-exposure photography. When we went to drone at Marokopa Falls right after sunrise, there was a dreamy atmosphere with low-hanging clouds. Logically this isn’t guaranteed, but could be a nice try if you’re staying closeby. 

Read in our complete guide everything about Marokopa Falls


Mount Taranaki view from lakeshore Mangamahoe

Mount Taranaki is one of the most photographed mountains of the North Island. Located near New Plymouth, I recommend staying a few days in the area to make the most out of landscape photography. Taranaki Mountain can easily hide behind, or in, the clouds, making it a challenge to capture it in its full glory. 

One of the easiest and most beautiful viewpoints on Mount Taranaki is Lake Mangamahoe. With only a few minutes walk from the car park, you can go for either sunrise or sunset to get the most out of this spot. 

Another great thing is that you get two different viewpoints at only 2 minutes from each other! Therefore it’s in our opinion of the best photo spots on the North Island. Go with sunrise or sunset and capture the majestic mountain with soft light. Make sure to bring a tripod for long-exposure photos to smooth out the water and get some stunning reflections. 

Read in our complete guide about the best things to do in New Plymouth


Kiritehere coastline

Kiritehere is a rural coastal area located on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, just south of Marokopa. The coastline is known for its rugged and unspoiled beauty, featuring stunning views of the Tasman Sea. Facing west, Kiritehere beach offers amazing opportunities for sunset photography. The combination of stunning cliffs and a shoreline with sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters are the perfect ingredients for landscape photography.

Another fun fact is that Kiritehere Beach is a great place for fossil hunting! When walking on the beach you can find 200 million years old fossils which is incredibly unique. Layered in rock, or loose on the beach are a plethora of fossilized imprints of shellfish which have not existed in a live state for all those millions of years.


Redwood Forest Rotorua

The Redwoods Forest in Rotorua, also known as Whakarewarewa Forest, is home to some of the tallest and most impressive California redwood trees outside of their native habitat. These 120-year-old magnificent giants reach soaring heights, creating a stunning canopy overhead. Walking among these majestic trees is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience.

For forest photography the best time to capture Redwood Forest is right after sunrise when the first light is peeking through the tall trees, creating a magical atmosphere.  


Three Sisters and Elephant Rock

The Three Sisters and Elephant Rock are unique rock formations located on the Taranaki coastline near Tongaporutu, just north of New Plymouth. These natural wonders provide great landscape photography opportunities due to their intriguing shapes and scenic surroundings. It’s a fantastic chance to capture nature’s artwork. Therefore it is also one of the most popular photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand.

The area’s orientation provides excellent opportunities for sunrise and sunset photography. The soft golden light during these times can add warmth and depth to your images. Besides that I highly recommend doing long exposure photography here. The constant waves and tidal movement make this location ideal to use a slow shutter speed, which creates a dreamy and ethereal effect. The only important thing you need to keep in mind is that you can only access this beach with low tide. So check the tides beforehand and if you’re lucky they will align with either sunrise or sunset.

Read in our complete guide about the best things to do in New Plymouth


Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning waterfall located near the town of Raglan in the Waikato region. It is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the area with a height of 55 meters (180 feet). 


Bridal Veil Falls cascades over a sheer cliff face and gets its name from the delicate and elegant way the water spreads out like a bridal veil as it falls, especially during times of high flow.

There are two viewing platforms strategically positioned along the walking track that offer different perspectives of the waterfall. The platforms provide excellent vantage points for photography and taking in the breathtaking sight of the waterfall.


Te Mata Peak

The landform that we now know as Te Mata Peak originated two million years ago when the seafloor tilted. The 400-meter-high landform offers stunning 360° views of Hawke’s Bay. It is in particular a popular spot to watch sunrise from, but sunset would be a good option as well! For photography sunrise would be the best time to visit the peak because the first sunlight will light up the side of Te Mata Peak, giving it a golden glow. Another fun fact is that it is even possible to see Mount Ruapehu in Tongariro on a clear day! 

You don’t have to hike to this viewpoint because you can drive right to the top of Te Mata Peak along the well-maintained tarmac road. There is plenty of parking space and a few benches to sit on while taking in the view.

Read in our complete guide about the best things to do in Hawkes Bay


Mount Taranaki view from Lake Mangamahoe viewpoint

Lake Mangamahoe viewpoint is one of the easiest and most beautiful viewpoints on Mount Taranaki. The other viewpoint in this guide is at 2 minutes walking from this elevated viewpoint. Both offer a completely different foreground, so it’s really nice to have both options so close from each other. This area near the lake is without a doubt some of the very best photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand. It was our bucket list to capture Mount Taranaki. But after a few cloudy days we thought it wouldn’t happen anymore. Therefore we were so happy that we got to see the mountain with sunrise during our last morning in New Plymouth!

Go with sunrise or sunset and capture the majestic mountain with soft light. Make sure to bring a tripod for long-exposure photos to smooth out the water and get some stunning reflections.  

There is no entrance fee to the lake, however there is a fence that opens before sunrise and will be closed after sunset. So make sure to leave directly after sunset, or you’ll have to camp at the lake. 

Read in our complete guide about the best things to do in New Plymouth


Pinnacles hike Coromandel Forest Park

The Pinnacles Walk is also known as the Kauaeranga Kauri trail and is one of the most popular and rewarding hiking trails in the Coromandel Peninsula. This is a long day hike but is also very popular to do as an overnight hike to see sunset and sunrise from this epic viewpoint called ‘The Pinnacles’. 

The trail is located in Coromandel Forest Park, near the town of Thames on the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula. It offers stunning vistas, lush native forests and breathtaking panoramic views at the summit of the Pinnacles. Definitely one of the photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand where you have to put in the effort for the reward! 

Read in our complete guide about the best things to do in Coromandel


Whangarei Falls

Whangārei Falls is a picturesque waterfall located in Whangarei city in New Zealand’s North Island. The stunning waterfall plunges 26 meters down over basalt cliffs into a natural pool that connects with the Hatea river. A visit to Whangarei Falls is easy with the 1-kilometre return loop track which brings you along several viewing points.

These viewpoints offer several photo opportunities, with the river as the leading line being one of the best photo spots. Make sure to visit either early morning or late afternoon for the softest light and to beat the crowds. 

Read in our complete guide everything about Whangārei Falls


Kuirau Park Rotorua

Right in the city centre of Rotorua you will find the only free, geothermal public park in New Zealand. This geothermal playground showcases the raw power and beauty of the Earth’s geothermal activity. You will see bubbling mud pools, several hot springs and an impressive steaming lake. The well-maintained walkways and boardwalks that meander through the geothermal area give you the opportunity to explore the various geothermal features up close.

It is a great place for photography. Especially during sunrise and sunset. The geothermal activity combined with the changing light during sunrise and sunset can create stunning photo opportunities. The warm hues of the sun’s rays blending with the steam and vibrant colors of the landscape can result in breathtaking images.

Read in our complete guide about the best things to do in Rotorua


Mount Taranaki view from Pouakai Tarns

The Pouakai Tarns walk is a 12.5 km out-and-back day hike to the beautiful reflective tarn with Mount Taranaki in the background. This famous photo spot with spectacular views is absolutely breathtaking, but only with the right conditions. You will have to be lucky to get the perfect conditions though. No (mid-high) clouds, almost no wind and some beautiful sunrise or sunset colours can add that extra bit of magic. 

Make sure to at least try and get to this viewpoint as it’s a pretty easy and straightforward hike with only 800 meters elevation gain over 6 kilometers. Check the weather forecast during the days you’re in New Plymouth to go on the best day possible with the highest chance of clear views. This is just one of those places to stays in your memory because of it’s unique and impressive sight.

Read in our complete guide everything about the Pouakai Tarns walk


Cathedral Cove

The Cathedral Cove is one of the most iconic and famous natural attractions in the Coromandel Peninsula. Located on the eastern coast of the Peninsula, near the town of Hahei, this stunning coastal landmark is part of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve.

The unique rock formations, beautiful beach, and impressive arch-shaped cavern are a must-visit in Coromandel. Thanks to the beautifully shaped cavern, the name ‘Cathedral’ was born and draws visitors from all over the world to this location. 

The main feature of Cathedral Cove is a massive natural arch that has been formed by the continuous erosion of the sandstone cliffs over thousands of years. Two beaches are connected by the arch known as Mare’s Leg Cove and Cathedral Cove Beach. 

There are several points of interest to capture here, with the most famous being the shot from inside the cave facing the ocean. Obviously the best time to go is with sunrise as this beach is located on the east side. 

Read in our complete guide about the best things to do in the Coromandel


Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park offers plenty of photo opportunities. In fact, it is one of the most popular photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand. Apart from Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, you can also find a beautiful photo spot along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The highlight are the three Emerald Lakes which are a stunning contrast against the volcanic landscape. 


But also outside of the Tongariro Crossing are plenty of photo opportunities. The landscape here is just incredible and makes you want to pull over to find great angles every few hundred meters. 


Mount Taranaki view from Kent Road

You might have seen it on social media or in other blogs… the famous road photo in Egmont National Park with Mount Taranaki in the background. The Kent road is leading perfectly straight onto Taranaki mountain, making it a fun and easy shot. However, be aware that you are on a public road. And people drive fast. Don’t risk your life, or that of others (!) for a picture. Use your common sense if you want to take a picture here. Park somewhere safe and always go out of the way as soon as you see a car approaching from far. 

To be honest, we personally think that there are way better photo opportunities with Taranaki mountain including a more natural scenery. A much better and safer opportunity for example is Lake Mangamahoe which is located just in the extension of Kent Road. Nevertheless, I wanted to include this location in the photo spots on the North Island New Zealand guide because some people might be looking for the exact location! 


Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Cape Reinga Lighthouse is located at the very far North on the mainland of the North Island. It’s an interesting place as the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean here, creating a patchwork of waves.

The picturesque Cape Reinga lighthouse is situated at the end of a windy path. You can perfectly use this as a leading line. Go with either sunrise or sunset for some magical colors, and you add some of the best photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand to your portfolio! 


Taranaki Falls  

The Taranaki Falls is a stunning 20-meter-high waterfall that cascades over a volcanic rock face. Located in Tongariro National Park, you can reach the Taranaki Falls via a 6 6-kilometer loop track which is a 2 – 3 hour return hike. 


The walk is beautiful along golden tussock meadows with views on Mount Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe volcano. You will walk along rugged volcanic terrain and through lush forest which makes the Taranaki Falls track a varied but fun and easy day hike. There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way. With the ever-changing weather circumstances in this area, clouds will come and go, making it an interesting contrast with the volcanic landscape. 

Read in our complete guide everything about the Taranaki Falls loop track


Mount Maunganui

Located along the eastern coast of Tauraunga, Mount Maunganui offers sweeping views of the surrounding coastline, cityscape, and the Ocean. As far as the eye can see, the crescent-shaped cape extends with two small islands just offshore.

Tackle the mountain early in the morning to catch the sunrise from the summit. The first light of the day casting over the coastline is a mesmerizing sight. Similarly, the sunset views from the top are equally stunning. The hike usually takes around 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit, depending on your pace and fitness level. 


Castlepoint Lighthouse 

Castlepoint Lighthouse is a historic and iconic lighthouse located in the Wairarapa region of the North Island, New Zealand. It stands atop Castle Rock and is New Zealand’s tallest lighthouse! Offering stunning panoramic views of the coastline and rolling hills, including rugged cliffs and rocky shorelines, the contrast between land and sea provides a dynamic and captivating backdrop for photography.

The lighthouse and surrounding area are particularly enchanting during sunrise and sunset. The soft golden light during these times casts a warm glow over the landscape, creating a magical atmosphere for photography.


Photo spots North Island New Zealand Summary

We hope you enjoyed our complete guide about the best photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand. Have fun during your New Zealand trip and be flexible with the ever-changing weather on the island. We have many more New Zealand guides which you can find at the bottom of this post.

How to get around in New Zealand 

To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a carcampervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots, but for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand. 

Car rental New Zealand

Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for these kind of roads.

The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.


Campervan rental in New Zealand

Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and fully connects you with nature.

We recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn. They have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, a 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!

More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the best photo spots on the North Island of New Zealand. We have many more New Zealand North Island guides but also New Zealand South Island guides, so make sure to check them out to plan your ultimate New Zealand road trip!

South Island New Zealand guides

35 best photo spots South Island New Zealand – The Ultimate Guide

20 best day hikes on South Island New Zealand – The Ultimate Guide


30 best things to do in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

22 best photo spots in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

16 best hikes in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

20 best restaurants in Queenstown – The Complete Guide

Queenstown Hill walk – The Complete Guide

Ben Lomond track – The Complete Guide

Moke Lake loop track & viewpoint – The Complete Guide

Bobs Cove nature walk – The Complete Guide


22 best things to do in Wanaka – The Ultimate Guide

15 best walks in Wanaka – The Complete Guide

Best places and hotels to stay in Wanaka

15 best restaurants in Wanaka – The Complete Guide

Mount Cook National Park

20 best things to do in Mount Cook National Park

10 best Mount Cook accommodations to book

Best Mount Cook helicopter tours to book

12 best Mt Cook walks – The Ultimate Guide

Hooker Valley track – The Complete Guide

Sealy Tarns track – The Complete Guide

Tasman Glacier viewpoint – The Complete Guide

Mueller Hut Track – All You Need to Know


20 best things to do in Glenorchy – The Ultimate Guide

Glenorchy walkway & lagoon track – The Complete Guide

Earnslaw Burn glacier valley and waterfalls – The Complete Guide

Fiordland National Park

20 best things to do in Milford Sound – The Ultimate Guide

6 best Milford Sound helicopter tours

Lake Marian Track – The Complete Guide

Milford Sound Cruise – The Complete Guide

Key Summit track – The Complete Guide

Franz Josef Glacier Country

Best Franz Josef heli hike tours –  All You Need to Know

15 best walks in Franz Josef – The Ultimate Guide

Lake Matheson walk – The Complete Guide

Franz Josef Glacier walk – The Complete Guide

Roberts Point Track – All You Need to Know

Fox Glacier Walk & Walking on Fox Glacier Guide

Hokitika Gorge walk – The Complete Guide

North Island New Zealand guides

20 best photo spots North Island New Zealand

25 best things to do in Rotorua – The Ultimate Guide

15 best things to do in Taupo – The Ultimate Guide

Best things to do in New Plymouth Taranaki – The Ultimate Guide

12 best things to do in Hawkes Bay – The Ultimate Guide

Best things to do in Whangarei – The Ultimate Guide

7 best KeriKeri waterfalls – The Complete Guide

Pouakai Tarns walk – All You Need to Know

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