Sports Photography: Best New Zealand Locations

man in red jacket playing ice skates during day time

New Zealand is well-known for its extreme sports. If you are an action photographer, this nation has a variety of adrenaline-fueled extreme sports photography opportunities.

Sports and action photographers from all over the world travel to the birthplace of bungee jumping to find some of the greatest sports photography shooting opportunities on the planet.

New Zealand has something for everyone, from a world-famous rugby team to white water rafting through rapids.

Before we get into the top sports photography spots for action photographers in New Zealand, you need to know exactly what photography equipment you will need to bring with you to get the best sports photos which you are proud to share.

New Zealand sports photography recommendations:

  • DSLR or mirrorless camera with high ISO performance, autofocus tracking, and continuous shooting capabilities. Nikon and Canon have long been the top choices for sports photography cameras. Their flagship full-frame cameras are well-known to achieve the best sports photos for good reason. They boast the market’s quickest auto-tracking and continuous shooting abilities.
  • Lenses – For sports photography, you’ll need a high-quality fast lens. The difficult decision is whether to use a zoom lens or a prime lens to help you get the best sports photos. Prime lenses have a higher resolution than zoom lenses. The fixed aperture allows you to capture clear shots even in less-than-ideal lighting settings. The disadvantage is that they are less adaptable. They might make it difficult to get the picture if you are too close or too far away from the action. Zoom lenses on the other hand allow you to effortlessly zoom in or out on where the action is. Ultimately, what type of lens you choose will depend on what type of sports photographer you are and what action you will be photographing.
  • Rain Covers – New Zealand is known to be a country that can have four seasons in one day. Sometimes, you can’t escape getting wet while shooting sports and action photography, so be prepared! Protect both yourself and your camera.
  • Camera Rucksack – A high-quality backpack is worth its weight in gold. When travelling and shooting action or sports photography you need a decent bag to protect your pricey camera equipment. 
  • Monopod – A tripod may be bulky and problematic for sports photography. Plus, they are typically prohibited at many sporting events and venues. Monopods, on the other hand, are more adaptable and allow you to move fast to keep up with the action while still offering a third point of stability. 

Top tips for how to get the best sports photos when shooting sports photography

  1. Golden rule of sports action photography is to choose a faster shutter speed. It’s good to experiment with other effects such as motion blur, but if you want sharp shots of the action when the subjects are moving quickly, try to have a fast shutter speed over 1/250s.
  2. A possible disadvantage of a high shutter speed is that it allows less light into your camera lens, making action sports photography, especially at night, harder to capture. You can fix this by raising the ISO on your camera settings.
  3. Rely on your camera’s built-in auto-focus. Go for a continuous focus option, which is usually shown as AF-C. Trying to manually adjust your focus when shooting action photography is not ideal as it is likely you will miss critical moments!

Top sports photography locations in New Zealand to get the best sports photos (click to jump)

  1. Rugby Photography – Eden Park, Auckland
  2. Golf Photography – Kauri Cliffs, Northland
  3. Surfing Photography – Raglan
  4. Mountain Biking Photography – Rotorua 
  5. Running Photography – Hawkes Bay 
  6. Cricket Photography – Hagley Oval, Christchurch 
  7. Road Cycling Photography – Banks Peninsula 
  8. Bungee Jumping Photography – Queenstown
  9. Skiing Photography – Wanaka  

Let’s get to it!

NZ rugby all blacks photography
J Chou

Rugby Photography – Eden Park, Auckland

Eden Park is New Zealand’s largest sports stadium and home to the All Blacks, the country’s national rugby union team.

If you’re a sports or action photographer, you’d be insane to pass up the opportunity to photograph the action here.

The world-famous squad has been unbeaten at this venue in 47 straight test matches dating back to 1994.

Where to stay in Auckland: 

Haka Lodge is centrally located in Auckland CBD, a short bus or train ride to Eden Park. The lodge has options of both private and dormitory rooms. Dormitory rooms have shared bathroom facilities whereas private rooms offer a flat-screen TV and private bathroom.

Located in Mount Eden’s peaceful residential area, walking distance to Eden Park Stadium. Previous visitors have highly rated this bed and breakfast. It contains eight exquisite guest rooms, each with its own private bathroom. Every morning, a continental breakfast buffet is served.

The hotel is located in the heart of Auckland’s CBD. Smart design, trendy décor, floor to ceiling windows for natural light, and modern facilities assure your comfort in the attractive rooms and suites. It has fabulous on-site facilities! Enjoy a dip in the heated indoor pool, a workout in the gym, unwinding at the Atrium Bar, experiencing the wonders of the Grand Millennium Brasserie during your stay.

golf photography kauri cliffs NZ
Mark Spurgeon

Golf Photography – Kauri Cliffs, Northland

Look no further than Kauri Cliffs Golf Course if you want to photograph golfers in one of the most picturesque courses in the world.

Athletes tee off against a backdrop of 180-degree vistas of the Pacific Ocean.

Situated near Matauri Bay in Northland, the golf course offers breath taking views of the Bay of Islands and beyond.

This golf course is ranked number 80 in the world by GOLF Magazine. 

Where to stay in Northland: 

Surrounded by farmland, this BnB is private and isolated. The location is described as very peaceful by previous guests. Breakfast is included in the price of your stay and a multifunctional bench top oven, microwave, fridge/freezer, as well as the basic electric jug and toaster, are provided for you to be able to cook your own meals.

It is the ideal retreat, hidden away in beautiful surroundings just by the river. The river Cottage provides everything you need for an unforgettable stay. Perfectly equipped kitchen, featuring BBQ amenities on the terrace, as well as an outdoor bathtub for relaxing and admiring the night sky.

The luxury Lodge at Kauri Cliffs Golf Course is located on 6,000 acres in Matauri Bay. In addition to the world class golf course, there are three private beaches, and two tennis courts. Guests staying here have access to the incredible infinity pool, which includes a spa pool! There is also a fitness centre, a day spa, and a delicious onsite restaurant. All meals are included in your stay at The Lodge. Private suites and 2-bedroom self-contained cottages are available as lodging choices. Each has its own private terrace, a fireplace, a walk-in closet, and a private bathroom. Every cottage is privately nestled into the native forest and have wonderful views of the golf course and the Pacific Ocean.

person surfing in raglan new zealand

Surfing Photography – Raglan

Have you ever thought of photographing surfers?

New Zealand features an abundance of undiscovered empty waves, point breaks, and large wave spots.

Manu Bay, 8 kilometres west of Raglan, is one of its most famed surf destinations.

The lengthy, peeling left-hand break is touted to deliver one of the world’s longest rides.

The action in the line-up is always certain to be entertaining and provide some great opportunities for sports photographers to capture.

You could even get in close on the action with an underwater or waterproof camera!

If you’re looking for some inspiration read more on my win in the 2022 Carve Surf Photography Competition.

Where to stay in Raglan: 

All Rooms have access to a communal bathroom, and some have balconies or views of the sea. There is a lounge and a community garden. Guests can also use the sauna that is available.

Every room features a closet and a garden patio. One of the units even has a view of the ocean. Each apartment has an electric kettle, and some have a kitchenette with a dishwasher, microwave, and refrigerator.

The boutique rooms at The Silos Apartments are housed in converted cement silos on the Raglan waterfront, a short distance from the town centre. All apartments provide views of the sea, as well as free private parking and Wi-Fi.

action photography of mountain biking

Mountain Biking Photography – Rotorua 

Sports photographers will need to be quick to keep up with the endless action on display in Rotorua.

The Redwoods in the Whakarewarewa Forest are home to one of New Zealand’s oldest mountain biking networks.

With over 150km of constantly changing routes, various topography, and breath-taking views.

It’s no surprise that Rotorua is regarded as a prime riding location among mountain bikers.

The trails are classified as beginner to extreme, with the latter including very steep parts with massive drop-offs and other unavoidable obstacles such as man-made structures and jumps.

Where to stay in Rotorua: 

Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park is 8 minutes’ drive from central Rotorua and features soothing hot pools and an outdoor swimming pool. Guests can appreciate the natural bush setting. Dormitory, private room, and self-contained accommodations are all available.

B&B@The Redwoods is located near to the Redwoods Forest, 10 minutes’ drive from Lake Rotorua. Local stores and eating options are about a 5-minute walk away. Upon arrival, guests are greeted with fresh baked goodies as well as tea and coffee. Suites with distant mountain views provide luxury linen and a private veranda with a seating area.

Pullman Rotorua is a spotless, contemporary hotel in the heart of Rotorua. For visitors’ convenience, it features a restaurant, private parking, a fitness facility, and a bar on site. There is also a 24-hour front desk and room service available. The deluxe executive king suites provide spectacular views of the city.

people wearing running shoes

Running Photography – Hawkes Bay 

There are numerous running events hosted across New Zealand where you can hone your sports photography skills, but perhaps the most unique is The Hawkes Bay International Marathon.

This is a one-of-a-kind event that allows you to photograph athletes as they race beside the natural beauty of the ocean, vineyards, orchards, and Hawke’s Bay countryside.

Crossing a finish line that promises a banquet of food, drink, and hospitality.

It’s more than simply a marathon or fun run; it’s a spectacular event you’ll never forget. I recommend you base yourself in Napier for your stay, its art deco architecture is ridiculously photogenic too!

Where to stay in Napier: 

Toad Hall Accommodation is a 10-minute walk from the centre of Napier and has a rooftop patio with BBQ amenities. The beach is 3 minutes’ walk away. Guests get access to a common kitchen as well as a communal shared sitting room. The games room also features a table tennis table and billiards for you to enjoy. There are both private and dorm-style accommodation options available.

Motel de la Mer, located in the heart of Napier, provides ocean-facing accommodations with fully equipped kitchens. Some rooms offer a balcony with views of the ocean or the city. All rooms include electric blankets, heating, and air conditioning. Each has a private bathroom, and some include a Jacuzzi bath in the room.

The Art Deco Masonic Hotel, located on the waterfront with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, has historic Art Deco architecture. There are two bars and two restaurants for guests to enjoy. Each studio and apartment is uniquely designed and contains a flat-screen TV, a small refrigerator, and tea/coffee making facilities. Every room has a contemporary private bathroom. Most accommodations have access to a big rooftop balcony with ocean views.

sports photography of boy in full cricket gear

Cricket Photography – Hagley Oval, Christchurch 

Cricket is New Zealand’s most popular summer sport and a great opportunity to practise your sports photography if you are visiting over the summer months.

If you visit any local park on a weekend, you’ll be likely to see people enjoying a pleasant game of cricket on a sunny afternoon.

The Hagley Oval is an international cricket ground that hosts a variety of matches throughout the summers.

The atmosphere here is electric, and sports photographers can get relatively close to the action.

The cricket ground is conveniently located in Hagley Park in Christchurch city centre.

Where to stay in Christchurch: 

Hotel Give is centrally located near the Botanical Gardens, Canterbury Museum, and Hagley Park and offers a variety of accommodations such as self-contained studios, private luxury rooms, shared-bathroom rooms, and dormitory rooms.

Parkview on Hagley is located in the heart of Christchurch, overlooking Hagley Park. Within walking distance of the CBD, this 4-star hotel provides spacious suite-style rooms, free Wi-Fi, and free parking. The large guest rooms all include an open plan sleeping and sitting space as well as a kitchenette. Many of the rooms feature own balconies with park views.

The George is a luxury 5-star boutique hotel in the heart of Christchurch, overlooking Hagley Park and the River Avon. This is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and provides 52 elegant and comfortable guest rooms. Every room is big, with modern furnishings, and a modern bathroom. The property’s award-winning restaurant, 50 Bistro, features exceptional cuisine and also provides al fresco dining on the terrace.

photography of person riding road bike on the road

Road Cycling Photography – Banks Peninsula 

If you’re a sports or action photographer interested in road cycling, you should plan your journey around the annual Le Race.

This is a historical cycling event in New Zealand that dates back to 1935.

Le Race is a 100-kilometre road bike race that passes through the picturesque Canterbury region from Christchurch to Akaroa.

The route offers stunning vistas of the volcanic Banks Peninsula, which makes an excellent backdrop for sports photography.

The event offers numerous entry options, including solo, four-person teams completing the 100km, and even a tandem option.

Many consider Christchurch and Akaroa to be the heart and soul of South Island cycling.

Where to stay in Akaroa: 

Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park has a range of accommodation choices to suit all budgets. Private units have their own bathrooms and may contain a kitchenette, whilst cheaper ones share restrooms. Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park also has a seasonal outdoor pool and table tennis for visitors to enjoy.

The Akaroa Waterfront Motels are surrounded by beautiful gardens and have amazing harbour views. This property is about a three-minute walk from the beach. It provides self-contained accommodation with patio or balcony, and free on-site parking. Just outside the Motel, guests can go swimming, fishing, biking, and kayaking.

The historic Shipping Office offers breath taking views of Akaroa Harbour. Guests can enjoy a seaside meal at the restaurant and bar on site. The rooms are tastefully designed and have a spa bath. All rooms include free Wi-Fi and a balcony with views of the sea.

photo of man bungee jumping

Bungee Jumping Photography – Queenstown

If you’re in New Zealand, you owe it to yourself to see the birthplace of bungee jumping!

This extreme sport originated at the Queenstown Kawarau Bridge Bungy.

Arguably one of the best sports photos you can capture in New Zealand this is a must do for any action photographer.

The location is iconic, and spectators are welcome to enjoy the great atmosphere at the Kawarau Bungy Centre for free!

AJ Hackett even provides free transportation, in the form of the Bungy Bus, which departs from the Queenstown Bungy Centre, in the centre of Queenstown. 

Where to stay in Queenstown: 

Tahuna Pod Hostel is in the centre of Queenstown and has a huge balcony/BBQ area with spectacular views of the city. The property is within a short walk from several Queenstown pubs and restaurants. There are a variety of affordable accommodation options available, including single, double, and superior pods, as well as private rooms. Guests have access to common bathrooms, with numerous facilities on each floor.

Earnslaw Lodge has studio rooms and suites available. Each room has its own bathroom. Some feature a kitchenette as well. This accommodation is a 9-minute walk from the beach and a 12-minute walk from the heart of Queenstown. Some of the rooms have views of the lake and a bus stop is located directly outside the property.

The backdrop at QT Queenstown is set by views of the crystal blue Lake Wakatipu and the majestic peaks of the Southern Alps. This lovely lakeside resort offers luxury rooms with a dash of QT quirkiness. The hustle and fragrances of the Bazaar Marketplace will tempt those with varied tastes. Chefs prepare dishes in front of your eyes in a lively, interactive atmosphere, with tastes inspired by the stunning, fresh local food. Head to Reds Bar, where locals and visitors meet and enjoy their day’s events over an elegantly made drink or artisan brew.

extreme sports skiing photography

Skiing Photography – Wanaka  

If you’re an action or sports photographer looking for action in New Zealand throughout the winter.

Wanaka’s mountains are your best bet!

Kiwi snow lovers travel to the four ski resorts located here for their winter getaways every year.

From cross-country skiing and dog sledding at Snow Farm to world-class facilities at Treble Cone Ski Area and Cardrona Alpine Resort, there is something for everyone.

Where to stay in Wanaka: 

The Wanaka Backpackers Bothy is a short walk from the town centre. The facilities are all clean and well-maintained, and customers compliment the friendly employees. There are both mixed dormitories and private rooms with shared bathrooms.

Edgewater is located on Lake Wanaka’s shoreline. The hotel has beautiful lake views, a day spa, sauna, and a tennis court. On-site, there is a restaurant and a café, both with lake views. Guests may enjoy delectable New Zealand cuisine as well as a broad range of regional wines.

Guests at Lakeside Apartments have a private balcony with views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park. The shores of the Lake are about a two-minute stroll away. There is also an outdoor pool and a hot tub onsite. The BBQ area is excellent for a laid-back meal with stunning lake and mountain views.

Final thoughts

Kiwis are an active and adventurous bunch!

With so many sports to capture throughout New Zealand, you’ll be perfecting your sports action photography talents in no time. However, when it’s time to take a break from sport, go and check out lupin season in Lake Tekapo!

Whether you’re a professional sports photographer looking for opportunities to add to your sports stock photos or sports photography portfolio, or someone who simply enjoys taking the best sports photos, New Zealand has something for you.

I hope you have a chance to visit some, if not all, these top sports photography locations whilst travelling New Zealand!

Here is some more New Zealand photography inspiration: the best New Zealand waterfalls for photography!

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.

man in black and yellow jersey shirt playing rugby

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