New Brighton Pier Photography Guide

During my time living in Christchurch, New Brighton was one of my favourite spots to visit to surf and take photography from the beach.

If you are looking for place in Christchurch to watch the sunrise, the New Brighton Pier should be at the top of your list!

This photography guide aims to give you some inspiration while taking photos of the New Brighton Pier.

So whether you’re a local looking for a new perspective or a tourist looking for a great place to visit, this should help guide you with everything you need to know. 

Here is what the guide will cover (click a link to skip ahead):

Ready to learn more about New Brighton Pier? Let’s get to it.

The history of the Pier

The original Pier in New Brighton was a wooden structure which debuted in 1894. It remained in place for 70 years. However, by 1965, it had grown so dilapidated that the Council ordered its demolition.

Over the next 30 years, some passionate locals petitioned for a new Pier to be built, setting up the Pier and Foreshore Society. The organisation’s fundraising efforts contributed about $2 million, which the Council matched, enabling the present reinforced concrete pier to be completed. 

Since then, the Pier has become a favourite addition to the city, among locals and tourists alike.

A visit to New Brighton will have you wandering along the pier, either watching the fishermen from above or the surfers below.

If you’re really lucky you’ll even be able to watch dolphins play out to sea, as they frequently visit this area.

Did you know the New Brighton Pier is also Australasia’s largest ocean pier?! The idea behind building the Pier was to connect people to the ocean. Being over 300 metres in length, allows you to stand above the ocean even at low tide.

Some interesting facts about New Brighton Pier: 

  • The length of the Pier expands to 300 metres
  • Its height is 7 metres above high tide
  • The width of the Pier is about 6 metres
  • The deck is made from 900mm thick pre-stressed concrete
  • There are a total of 17 piles, each being 1.4 metres diameter standing 20 metres apart
  • It was designed by the Christchurch City Council City Solutions Unit

new brighton pier long exposure at sunrise in christchurch
New Brighton Pier in Christchurch at Sunrise
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard

Where is New Brighton Pier?

This Pier is located in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the eastern seaside suburb of New Brighton.  

The suburb is separated into three areas that run along the southern shore of Pegasus Bay: North New Brighton, New Brighton, and South New Brighton. 

The sandy beach, which is ideal for surfing, spans for 18 kilometres from the mouth of the Waimakariri River in the north to the spit in the south. New Brighton is one of the best places in New Zealand to take surf photography from the beach.

For many decades, New Brighton was the only location in Christchurch where ordinary retail businesses could open on Saturdays, which resulted in this suburb becoming a hub to visit in the city. 

Unfortunately, retail activity decreased dramatically with the introduction of countrywide Saturday trading in 1980, followed by seven-day trading in 1990. 

The centre of New Brighton has seen better days, but the addition of the New Brighton Hot Pools and recent redevelopments in the neighbourhood hope to revitalise this area.

Getting there

New Brighton Beach is located around 8 km from the centre of Christchurch, which is roughly a 15 minute drive. 

If you’re relying on public transport, take bus 60 from the bus interchange.

Best time to visit New Brighton Pier?

It is best to visit this Christchurch location at sunrise for the best photography lighting conditions. 

You’ll usually find a few local Christchurch surfers in New Brighton getting up early to beat the crowds at sunrise. This is ideal to help you practise taking surf photography from the beach.

If you’re just looking for a fun day out, New Brighton is a great place to visit any time of day. 

There is something to do here for everyone. Whether you want to take the dog on a stroll on the beach, take the kids to the fabulous playground, or treat yourself to a nice relaxing soak in the hot pools overlooking the Pier.

surfer in water at new brighton pier
Example of Unique Surf Photography at New Brighton
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard

Where do you park?

There is plenty of free car parking at New Brighton, with a couple of car parks either side of the Pier overlooking the beach directly. 

On a busy summer’s day the car parks can get full, but you can also park all along Marine Parade road directly behind the dunes. 

There are lots of great walking tracks on the dune coastal pathway which gives a great perspective of the pier from different angles to the beach.

What facilities are at New Brighton Pier?

At the beginning of the pier is a contemporary library with seats facing large windows overlooking the ocean. With a good book in hand, this is a great spot to relax and unwind. 

Speaking of relaxing, New Brighton’s Hot Pools have gained popularity among city residents since its opening in 2020 and are well worth a visit if you’re in the area. He Puna Taimoana has five heated swimming pools, a separate plunge pool, a sauna, and a café. The views from the complex are incredible. 

Salt on the Pier is a bar and restaurant situated within the same building as the library. Saturdays is the cafe that adjoins the He Puna Taimoana complex. Both have good reputations within the area. 

The popular playground sits just to the north of New Brighton Library and has everything from water cannons and musical toys to swings. Kids absolutely love it here.

Near the children’s playground in the main parking lot, there is frequently a Mr. Whippy truck where you can buy ice cream and coffee.

There are plenty of public toilets, changing rooms and showers available if you fancied a dip in the ocean! 

The showers near New Brighton library are also handy to wash any salt water off your tripod after you have used it to take your long exposure shots or surf photography from the beach.

surf art photography at new brighton christchurch from the beach
An Example of Surf Art Photography at New Brighton
Ⓒ Sean Michael Pritchard

Top tips for taking photos of New Brighton Pier 

To make the most of your visit, here are a few photography tips for getting the best shots of the New Brighton Pier.

  • Get up for sunrise! Usually, there is less wind in the early mornings, so you can use long exposure too. 
  • Mid to Low tide is when you’ll be able to shoot amazing reflections of the pier.

Top tip: Arrive at this iconic Christchurch location just before sunrise to capture a couple images before the pier lights turn off.

  • Try to be creative, use different angles and take in your surroundings to find an image that is distinctive with your own photography style. You could even use a drone to get an aerial perspective if the weather conditions permit. Check out these drone tips for beginners.
  • Think about using composition techniques such as leading lines, rule of thirds or framing to create more engaging photos.
  • Use a variety of lenses, or a zoom lens, to create more depth in your images. Enabling you to focus on the details of the pier as well as the wider landscape. 
  • Add a subject in your image to enhance the story telling of your photography. For example, a surfer catching a wave, or a fisherman casting their net off the Pier.
  • New Brighton is a great location to practise surf photography from the beach, check out these tips. If you enjoy taking these action shots at New Brighton, you might also be interested in visiting these surf photography locations in New Zealand

It is certainly possible to capture some excellent shots of New Brighton Pier on one of the top phones for photography or one of the best compact travel cameras.

However, if you want to acquire amazing detail and sharp photographs that you can print larger and hang as wall art in your home, you’ll need to invest in a full frame camera.

SMP Photography recommends:
  • A DSLR or Mirrorless Camera. There are several wonderful full frame cameras, both DSLR and mirrorless, which are well-suited to the task.
  • A zoom lens such as the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens so you can capture both the wider landscape as well as have the ability to zoom for extra depth and detail.
  • A good camera bag with adequate protection to ensure your equipment is safe during transport.
  • Camera cover that is waterproof. This is New Zealand, and rain showers are not uncommon throughout the summer. Always be prepared to protect your valuable equipment.
  • Keep spare batteries well charged so you are not caught off guard by a low battery.
  • Spare memory cards. Especially if you are travelling, you’ll be shocked at how many images you snap and how rapidly your memory card fills up!

Where to stay

If you are visiting Christchurch and looking for somewhere to stay in New Brighton so you can make the most of being close to the beach. Here are some recommendations: 

A peaceful campsite within walking distance of the beach, the low-cost choice of cabins with shared bathrooms is ideal for budget-conscious travellers. The facilities are clean and well-kept, and the staff are courteous and helpful. Guests rated the beds as extremely comfortable!

A lovely bed and breakfast with kind and helpful hosts. The beach is only a 7-minute walk away from this house. Set among lovely grounds. Guests can use the barbecues and the shared kitchen. The Pier Lodge Bed and Breakfast’s décor includes several antique artworks and statues. 

A bright and lovely modern vacation property in a great position near New Brighton Pier. Flawlessly clean and tidy throughout. This property is a short walk to the town centre of New Brighton, which boasts a variety of exciting cafés and shops to visit. The New Brighton Hot Pools, which overlook the beach and are popular with residents, are also nearby.

Other places to visit close by 

Ruapaeroa/Travis Wetland in Burwood is within a five-minute drive from New Brighton.

Take the opportunity to see the sights and listen to the sounds of these special wetlands.

Many native flora and bird species live here so take your camera with you too, as you never know what species you’ll stumble across. 

Final thoughts

The Pier in New Brighton is a wonderful focal point in the city for photographers to enjoy.

It’s a great place to practise long exposure photography, especially on a day where there is a spectacular Christchurch sunrise.

Check out this article about my New Brighton photography and Carve Surf Magazine 2022 win.

Even if you’re not looking to take exceptional photos, New Brighton is a popular destination for a fun day out. 

From hot pools and cute cafés to wetlands and miles of shoreline, this unique coastal neighbourhood in eastern Christchurch provides plenty of opportunities for everyone to enjoy.

If you are interested in sports or action photography, remember to try taking some surf photography from the beach at New Brighton. 

Visited New Brighton and didn’t get the shot you wanted? Check out my online store for some great images of the pier which can be printed to hang as wall art in your home. 

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.

fishing surfing and walking on the big jetty in black and white

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