To help you plan for your New Zealand vacation, we challenged ourselves to compile a list of the top 10 most beautiful views in New Zealand–no easy task when you live in a country renowned for its jawdropping scenery. Over much heated debate, it was agreed that these iconic views were worthy of  a Top-10 crown. Which are on your must-see list?

 


 

1. TE MATA PEAK, HAWKE’S BAY 

View from Te Mata Peak overlooking Havelock North and Napier, Hawke's Bay
The peak has a network of trails for hiking and mountain biking. © Kirsten Simcox

Approximately 30 min south of Napier is the road to Te Mata Peak which offers stunning views of the bay, the Mahia Peninsula, and distant Mt Ruapehu to the west. The road itself passes intriguing rock escarpments and grazing land as it winds its way to the 399m summit. The uber-keen or romantic can set their alarms to watch the sunrise and be amongst the first in the world to view the new day. In the morning, the valley below is often shrouded in an ethereal layer of fog.


 

2. MT JOHN, LAKE TEKAPO 

Sunrise view over Lake Tekapo from Mt John Observatory
Sunrise over Lake Tekapo from Mt John Observatory. © Miles Holden

Just south of Lake Tekapo township is the turnoff to Mt John. At time of print, the road was open Thursday to Monday, 10.30am to 2.30pm, with a road-user charge of $8 per vehicle. Alternatively, travel by foot via the 1.5 hr Summit Circuit Track which starts next to the Tekapo Springs complex and climbs through exotic forest and tussockland to the top. The viewing platform at the summit provides a 360˚ panorama of the surrounding mountains, lakes, and the Mackenzie Basin. The region is one of only a few International Dark Sky Reserves worldwide making it worth a return to the Mt John Observatory here at night for some of the best astro views on the planet.


 

3. WEST COAST ROAD, SOUTH ISLAND

View of rugged coastline from the South Island's West Coast Road
The South Island's West Coast offers one of New Zealand's most scenic road trips. © Black Sheep Touring Co.

Naming a whole road to our list feels a bit cheeky, but we had to include it as the deliverer of some of our favourite outlooks in New Zealand. Squeezed between wild sea and dense bush, the stretch of SH6 between Greymouth and Westport is particularly scenic (with Honourable Mention to the stunning lookout at Knight’s Point 20 min north of Haast). The twists and turns require the driver’s eyes to be firmly fixed on the road, but regular, signposted pull-offs allow you to stop and take in the spectacular coastline.


 

4. BOB’S PEAK, QUEENSTOWN

A gondola ride up Bob's Peak provides views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range at the end of a family private tour
A gondola gives access to stunning views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables. © Destination Queenstown

Queenstown is renowned for its picturesque setting and while there are views all around, a ride up the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak in the centre of town offers a bird’s-eye view of the town, Lake Wakatipu and the aptly named Remarkables mountain range. There’s a 30 min loop track at the top of the gondola, or if you’re really wanting to stretch your legs, you can forego the ride and take the one-hour uphill walk from the trailhead on Lomond Crescent. Also at the top is perhaps the world’s most scenic (and fantastically fun) luge.


 

5. NUGGET POINT, THE CATLINS

Sunset at Nugget Point lighthouse, The Catlins on a self drive tour
Nugget Point is a must-stop on a self-drive tour of The Catlins. © Graeme Murray

A short (20-minute return), well-graded path takes you to the viewing platform at Tokata Lighthouse where a breathtaking seascape opens out before you. Rocky islets below lead like giant stepping stones to the edge of the earth, seabirds wheel and nest amongst them and in summer, large flotillas of sooty shearwaters drift on the water. Binoculars come in handy here to watch fur seals frolicking in the surf and to spy sea lions, penguins, dolphins, and other visiting marine life.


 

6. EMERALD LAKES, TONGARIRO CROSSING 

View of the Emerald Lakes on a Tongariro Crossing guided tour
View of the Emerald Lakes on the Tongariro Crossing. © Camilla Rutherford

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered one of the best day hikes in the world and offers completely unique views. Its other-worldly landscape is dotted with volcanic cones and craters, scoured volcanic rocks, mountain springs, and brightly coloured emerald lakes. The vast array of colours and textures from the mineral-laden earth and the surreal hues of the lakes makes this an easy addition to our list, if not the easiest to reach. A guided walk with Tongariro Guided Walks or Adrift Guided Outdoor Adventures is a great way to access this one-way route and learn about its geologic features.


 

7. AORAKI / MT COOK 

The view of Aoraki Mt Cook is highlight on a New Zealand self drive tour
The view of Aoraki Mt Cook is a New Zealand road trip highlight. © Rob Suisted

The majestic splendour of Aoraki / Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, is hard to miss on a clear day from any vantage point, but some of its best views are offered up from State Highway 80 as you travel along Lake Pukaki on route to Mt Cook Village. The startling blue of the lake, caused by refracted light hitting ‘glacial flour’–finely ground rock particles suspended in the water–adds to the gobsmacking beauty of the mighty mountain at its terminus. And for a chew with a view, it’s hard to go past lunch on the deck of the Hermitage in Mt Cook, with the Cloud Piercer as your backdrop.


 

8. LAKE MATHESON, FOX GLACIER 

View of Mt Cook from Lake Matheson on a Black Sheep self drive tour
Mts Cook & Tasman reflected on a perfect West Coast morning. © Supachart

Lake Matheson had to be included here as one of New Zealand’s most iconic views. On a clear, still day, the reflection of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman reflected in this glacial kettle lake is the stuff of postcards. What’s been described as the ‘view of views’ relies on Mother Nature to cooperate so it’s worth doing an overnight in Fox or nearby Franz Josef. The best opportunity to capture it is at dusk or dawn, when the air is stillest and before clouds gather on the peaks. The full loop around the lake takes approximately 1.5 hours on a well-graded, undulating track or there’s a 40 min return walk to the jetty viewing platform.


 

9. ROY’S PEAK, WANAKA 

A dayhike up Roy's Peak on a Black Sheep Touring Co. self drive tour provides stunning views of Lake Wanaka
Views of Lake Wanaka and beyond from Roy's Peak. © Miles Holden

This darling of Instagram is worthy of every heart-tap it gets, and is a prime example that with great effort, comes great reward. The all-encompassing panorama from this 1,578-metre summit is accessed via the well-formed, 16 km Roy’s Peak Track which passes through farmland, alpine herb fields, and golden grassland as it zigzags steeply up Mount Roy. From the top are fantastic views of Lake Wanaka, its islands, and the surrounding peaks, including Mount Aspiring / Tititea. Because this is a tramping track, check with the Department of Conservation (DoC) for the latest conditions and any restrictions, and go prepared for rapid and sometimes extreme weather changes.


 

10. MILFORD SOUND 

An overnight trip on a Black Sheep Touring Co. guided tour or self drive tour is the best way to see Milford Sound
Milford Sound's many moods are best captured on an overnight trip. © Ashley Hadzopoulos

Milford Sound is the jewel in the crown of an area endowed with overwhelming natural beauty. Mountains rise straight out of the water and rainforest clings to sheer rock walls as waterfalls tumble from hundreds of metres to the sea below. There’s a reason Rudyard Kipling described it as the eighth wonder of the world. An overnight cruise with Real Journeys is the perfect way to make the most of the everchanging mood and scenery of the fiord.

 

What helps this take out the top spot for us is that the road into Milford is a rolling postcard in itself, with glaciated valleys, snow-capped peaks, mirror-like tarns, and ribbons of water pouring down en masse from granite cliffs like streamers thrown joyfully from the deck of a departing ocean liner. With so many neck-craning distractions on route to Milford Sound, it’s worth considering going by coach or private guide and letting someone else do the driving so you can take it all in. Alternatively, particularly if you’re short on time, fly in and out for spectacular aerial views.


 

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…

 

Right up to the point of uploading this blog, our team was calling out ‘What about…?!’. The golden crescent of the Abel Tasman’s Te Puketea Bay, the perfect peak of Mt Taranaki, the sweeping views from Mt Maunganui…what would you include in the list?

 

We LOVE to talk about New Zealand. If want to hear more about our favourite places and want help planning your New Zealand holiday, don’t hesitate to Contact Us to talk to one of our Travel Shepherds.