Favourite Spots: Stephan’s must-see Queenstown photography locations

Queenstown is renowned for its postcard-worthy panoramas. And many of these stunning locations — when viewed through the lens of an award-winning photographer—take on a whole new meaning. Here, Stephan shares a few of his favourite Queenstown locations accessible to anyone.

Thanks to many years roaming the hills with my camera in hand, I know the landscapes and locations around the South Island well. Some are wildly remote, some require helicopter access, but the truth is that living in a stunning location like Queenstown, incredible locations are everywhere.

Here are a few of my favourite must-see destinations near Queenstown that I’ve had the pleasure of photographing over the years. Each location has its own unique beauty and aesthetic that continue to draw me back with my camera.

01 The Remarkables

The rugged Remarkables mountain range is the ever-present backdrop to the township of Queenstown. Unsurprisingly, it is a sight that features in the camera roll of everyone who visits here. With its jagged peaks and sheer, saw-toothed sides, The Remarkables is most impressive at sunrise and sunset. This is when the sunlight plays on its angular silhouette, or fog and cloud shroud it in mystery. The Remarkables is ever-changing and every time I photograph it, I am captivated.

The Remarkables shot from a Helicopter.

The Remarkables from Deer Park Heights.

02 Skippers Canyon

Carved out over many thousands of years by the Shotover River, Skippers Canyon is a spectacular sight and one not to miss. Located just 20 minutes from central Queenstown, the journey into the gorge is not for the faint-hearted. It involves traversing a narrow, winding road clinging to the canyon’s sheer walls. Skippers Canyon is steeped in gold mining history, but for me, it is a location that offers photographic opportunities not found anywhere else in the region. It is an incredible location for photographers and nature lovers alike.

Morning fog over the Shotover River.

03 Lake Wakatipu

From above, Lake Wakatipu is shaped like a lightning bolt, and its deep, dark water is a sight to behold. But you don’t have to take to the skies to appreciate it. From the ground, Lake Wakatipu is equally as stunning. It was once carved out by glaciers, and the mighty peaks of Walter Peak and Cecil Peak, which flank its shores, are evidence of this. Looking up the lake, you are enticed by the sight of Mt Aspiring National Park and the headwaters of Glenorchy. The main pier in the centre of Queenstown is the perfect spot to enjoy this view, especially at sunset, when vibrant hues play out over the lake.

Last light at Lake Wakatipu.

Paradise Wharf.

04 Moke Lake

One of my favourite “hidden gems”, Moke Lake is just 10 minutes from downtown Queenstown yet feels a world away. Nestled in a tranquil and picturesque valley Moke Lake is a popular biking and walking reserve. This location is one of my favourites as you immediately feel amongst wilderness and remoteness. Close by are Luna Creek and the Richardson Mountains – areas I have photographed many times. It is a wonderful place to find some silence and a place I never tire of capturing.

A calm and cold morning at Moke Lake.

05 Mount Crichton Loop Track

While many people head to Bob’s Cove for views and hiking trails, one of my favourite locations is the nearby Mt Crichton Loop Track. The track is located along the Glenorchy Road on the outskirts of Queenstown. Walking the entire track takes two to three hours, but I would suggest taking it at your own pace and exploring the sights along the way. Photographers will love Sam Summers Hut, a well-preserved relic from the Central Otago gold rush days. The Mt Crichton Loop Track is a vantage point I often use for photographing other locations, like Lake Dispute and Lake Wakatipu.

Sam Summers Hut.

12 Miles Creek Falls.

Miners Tunnel.

The sights that surround Queenstown seem to provide an unending supply of photography opportunities. And with each changing season and shift in weather, these locations deliver new and dramatic scenes. Whether you are a photographer, sightseer or nature-lover, I encourage you to get out and enjoy.

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