Best Waterfall Photography Spots in New Zealand

Last Updated on September 18, 2022 by seanmichaelpritchard

Some of the world’s best waterfall photography spots are in New Zealand. According to Land Information New Zealand, the nation boasts 249 waterfalls!

This article will attempt to narrow down the selection of waterfall photography spots in New Zealand to only the best and most photogenic waterfalls in both the North and South Island.

Best waterfall photography spots in New Zealand: (click to jump)

  1. Bridal Veil Falls, Raglan
  2. Marakopa Falls, Waitomo
  3. Taranaki Falls, Tongariro
  4. Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, Arthurs Pass
  5. Thunder Creek Falls, Haast
  6. Purakaunui Falls, Catlins
  7. Lady Bowen Falls, Milford Sound

Before we get started, photographing waterfalls, and making the water appear silky smooth may be challenging, especially if you do not have the appropriate equipment.

Waterfall photography recommendations:

  • A DSLR or Mirrorless Camera. Although it is feasible to photograph waterfalls using a smartphone or point-and-shoot camera. To get professional-looking photographs, you’ll need a camera that can shoot in manual mode. This allows you to change the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture settings.
  • A sturdy tripod. To obtain sharp images you need to be able to eliminate any movement whilst taking your photo. While you could place your camera on a nearby rock or fence, you would be constrained in how far you could move and what section of the waterfall you could photograph. A tripod allows you to effortlessly alter your waterfall perspective while reducing camera shake caused by hand-held photography.
  • Neutral Density Filters (ND filters). A neutral density filter limits the amount of light entering the lens, allowing you to simulate low-light conditions. This is necessary if you wish to photograph waterfalls using different shutter speeds in strong light.

Top tips on how to photograph waterfalls: 

  • Reduce the ISO on your camera to the lowest setting available. Using ISO 100, for example, can improve image quality and allow you to extend shutter speed.
  • If your shutter speed is too fast, adjust the aperture to reduce the quantity of light flowing through the lens.
  • If your camera still won’t allow you to increase the shutter speed to create the silky-smooth water you want, add a neutral density filter to further reduce the light entering your lens.

Let’s go!


new zealand bridal veil falls
© russellstreet

1. Bridal Veil Falls, Raglan

Did you know there are seven waterfalls in New Zealand with the name Bridal Veil Falls?

The stunning 55-metre-high Bridal Veil Falls in Raglan is by far the best one! Also known as the Wairēinga Falls, it is only 15 minutes’ drive from town and a popular Waikato walking trail.

The Bridal Veil Falls track is a short 10-minute walk through native bush, mostly following the Pakoka River, to two observation platforms at the summit.

Both platforms provide breath taking panoramas and plenty of photography opportunities of the spectacular plunge waterfall.

And when you’re done with the fresh water you can head just down the road to the salt water for some of New Zealand’s best surf photography!

Where to stay in Raglan:  

All Rooms include access to a shared bathroom, while some have a balcony and others offer views of the sea. There is a communal garden and lounge. Guests can also enjoy the sauna provided.

Every room has a closet and a terrace with a garden. One unit even offers a view of the sea. Each unit is equipped with an electric kettle, some have a kitchenette with a dishwasher, microwave, and fridge. 

The Silos Apartments provide boutique rooms in repurposed cement silos on the Raglan waterfront, 0.6 mi from the town centre. All apartments include sea views, as well as free private parking and Wi-Fi.



north island new zealand waterfall
© Joshua Alan Eckert

2. Marakopa Falls, Waitomo

Marokopa Falls, one of New Zealand’s best spots for waterfall photography, is just a few kilometres from the iconic Waitomo Caves.

The short 20-minute return trek takes you through native tawa and nikau forest to the waterfall viewing area, which is a top spot for photography.

Where to stay in Waitomo: 

This award-winning vacation resort is about 650 yards from the world-famous Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The park contains a pool, an outdoor hot tub, and a barbecue area. There are a variety of accommodation choices to suit all budgets.

Only a 3-minute walk away are the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The swamp room is beautifully decorated and includes a wonderful soaking tub. Guests can unwind in the common lounge and garden.

Orchard Valley Glamping is located in Otorohanga, 7 miles from Waitomo Caves. On-site parking is free. The deluxe tent has its own hot tub!



BEST WATERFALL PHOTOGRAPHY SPOTS IN NEW ZEALAND
© Andrea S

3. Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park

Taranaki Falls is a short and easy hike in Tongariro National Park, one of New Zealand’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The two-hour circular route begins at Ngauruhoe Place, 100 metres below the Whakapapa Visitor Centre, with the waterfall perfectly located about halfway for a snack and photography break.

Taranaki Falls plunge 20 metres over the brink of a large lava flow that erupted 15,000 years ago from Ruapehu into a boulder-ringed pool.

Where to stay in Tongariro National Park:

Skotel Alpine Resort has a restaurant, a hot tub, and a fireplace terrace bar. Most rooms provide breath taking views of the mountains or the surrounding area. Rooms with private bathrooms are available, as are dorms with common bathroom facilities. All rooms include use of the communal kitchen and lounge area.

On the terrace, guests can take in panoramic views of Mt Ruapehu. All of the rooms are well-equipped. The accommodation also offers ski storage, a drying area, and a hot tub.

The stately architecture and décor of the ancient Chateau Tongariro Hotel, as well as its prime position in the Tongariro National Park make this a must stay if your budget can stretch. Guests can enjoy an onsite 9-hole golf course and a cinema.



devils punchbowl arthurs pass waterfall
© Sean Michael Pritchard
4. Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, Arthurs Pass

This stunning 131m waterfall may be photographed from the main road in Arthur’s Pass, but a trip to the base of Devil’s Punchbowl Falls is highly recommended.

The path to Devil’s Punchbowl Falls traverses two footbridges before ascending 240 steps through mountain beech woodland, in the incredible Arthur’s Pass National Park, to a viewing platform below the falls.

Where to stay in Arthurs Pass:

Rata Lodge Backpackers is located 7 kilometres from Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, Arthur’s Pass in Otira. A fantastic low-cost option that offers both dormitory and individual rooms.

Hotel Bealey is located 7 minutes from Arthur’s Pass Village and offers stunning views of the mountains, river, and valley. There is a restaurant, BBQ grills, and free parking.

The Grasmere Lodge in Cass, a short drive from Arthurs Pass, has an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a fitness centre, and a garden. This resort offers travellers excellent rooms as well as a terrace. Some of the property’s rooms include a patio with a view of the lake.


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thunder creek haast photographer
© Sean Michael Pritchard
5. Thunder Creek Falls, Haast

Thunder Creek waterfall is a 28-metre-high waterfall in Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand that plunges impressively into the Haast River’s pure glacier waters.

An accessible 10-minute return walk on a sealed path leads to an observation platform above the falls, which is ideal for long-exposure waterfall photography.

For a different perspective you can also try shooting close to the Haast river’s edge.

Where to stay in Haast:

Wonderland Makarora Lodge is nestled in a lovely native bush in Mount Aspiring National Park, just a 2-minute walk from Makarora River. The dormitories and rooms with shared bathrooms are excellent value for money.

Haast River Motels & Holiday Park provides reasonably priced, well-equipped rooms with private toilets. The holiday park is located in neighbouring Haast, about a 30-minute drive from Thunder Creek Falls.

 The Heartland Hotel offers a range of accommodations, including premium and family rooms. The furnishings are contemporary and clean. The hotel’s restaurants use fresh local ingredients, such as the famous fresh West Coast white bait.



purakaunui falls catlins waterfalls
© Sean Michael Pritchard
6. Purakaunui Falls, Catlins

Purakaunui Falls, surrounded by the natural woodland of the Catlins Forest Park and plunging 20 metres over three tiers, is one of New Zealand’s most photographed waterfalls and an excellent location for long exposure photography.

The Purakaunui falls Scenic Reserve is around 17 kilometres south of Owaka in the Catlins.

The Purakaunui Falls waterfall is accessible by a short 20-minute hike from the car park through beautiful podocarp and beech woodland, which makes the Catlins extra special.

Note: McLean Falls waterfall is near Purakaunui Falls and also well worth a visit if you’re in the Catlins region. This area really does have some of the best waterfall photography spots in New Zealand!

Where to stay in the Catlins:

Surat Bay Lodge, located in North Catlins, provides both private and dormitory guestrooms. The lodge is a 2-minute walk from the beach. Guests have access to two fully equipped common kitchens, two living/dining spaces, a conservatory lounge, and a garden with views of the ocean.

Kepplestone by the Sea provides comfortable apartments with either a garden or a sea view. The beach, where sea lions and seals may be seen throughout the summer months, is only 100 yards away.

The Yellow House offers sea views and accommodation with a garden and a balcony, about a 9-minute walk from Port Molyneux Beach. This stylish vacation property is frequently fully booked, so book soon to ensure your dates!



milford sound waterfall photography
© Sean Michael Pritchard
7. Bowen Falls, Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a must-see for waterfall enthusiasts and photographers visiting New Zealand.

The fiord comes alive with thousands of waterfalls flowing down the cliff faces, especially after heavy rain.

Lady Bowen Falls, Milford’s largest waterfall, makes for incredible photography opportunities. It drops 162 metres from a cliff into Milford Sound.

It also acts as the township’s water source and provides electricity to the township via a hydroelectric system.

Where to stay in Milford Sound:

Amber Court Motel offers modern rooms in a tranquil environment, just 2 minutes’ walk from the lake and a 10-minute walk from Te Anau’s shops and cafés.

Lakefront Lodge offers self-contained apartments on Lake Te Anau’s shoreline. The flats are all soundproofed and located on the ground floor.

The Fiordland Lodge is located within a World Heritage Site and offers stunning views of Lake Te Anau and the surrounding ranges. Private patios and gorgeous baths are available in Fiordland Lodge’s spacious guestrooms.


Final thoughts

I have spent seven amazing years travelling New Zealand, so it seemed only natural to select seven of the best waterfall photography spots in New Zealand!

While they are my favourites, this is just subjective.

With over two hundred other waterfalls to choose from, it’s safe to say you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practise your waterfall photography skills in New Zealand!

Don’t forget that once you’re done with waterfalls to make time for Lake Tekapo in lupin season!

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DISCLOSURE: I may earn a small commission from some of the links above. For the benefit of the doubt, please assume all links might be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

long exposure waterfalls in the middle of green trees

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