Roadtrip in New Zealand

written by:
Elaine Li


Roadtrip in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries with vast landscapes. A country where the population of sheep is higher than humans. There is a strong sense of respect for Mother Nature and everyone plays their part in preserving its essence. It was also really interesting to see how the Maori culture is respected and embraced by all and people, old and new, share and build on the unique culture of the country.


New Zealand is made up of two islands. While their names make them sound a bit underwhelming (North & South Island) I reckon it is another way of keeping the world’s attention away to preserve their natural gifts. Both islands offer a vastly different experience of the country; however, as camping is the best way to experience New Zealand, it’s best to pick one and we decided to go with South Island. We got our hands on a motorhome at Christchurch and made our way down south towards Milford Sound via Aoraki/Mount Cook, Tekapo, Wanaka, and Queenstown.


Here are my five favorite spots from this trip!


  1. Lake Pukaki
  2. Peter’s Lookout
    The combination of the long windy road leading up to the most popular peak, and the glacial Lake Pukaki is the reason why it’s the most photographed spot in South Island. So popular that it’s even on the cover of the NZ driver’s manual!

To best capture this, you’ll need a long lens to compress the background (mountain) and foreground (road) together. I used a Canon 70-200 4.0 in the image below.

  1. Lake Wanaka

If you search #ThatWanakaTree on Instagram, you’ll find more than 30k images under the hashtag. The tree has somehow managed to be the only sprouting fauna wisthin the lake, and it’s an absolutely gorgeous subject to shoot. We came here for astro and sunrise. I find that the best moment to capture the tree is at night, where you see the tree in the foreground, the lovely snowy mountains in the back, and a sky full of stars right above you. While the little town of Wanaka does shed some artificial light onto the lake waters, by around 11pm it is dark enough for the purpose. Using a tripod is essential for capturing this still reflection (I wasn’t able to get a shot of the tripod since it was so dark, but you can imagine the need for one to create the shot below). I placed the tripod in the water, with the camera sitting just slightly above the waterline, getting that perfect symmetry at the horizon line.

  1. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

Mount Cook National Park is huge, and the best thing to do is to park your vehicle at DOC’s White Horse Hill Campground, then walk along Hooker Track till you reach Hooker Lake. This lake was my favorite spot to be at, with the majestic Mount cook in the background. While the cold winter winds make it frighteningly chilly around the lake, you can’t help but just sit and admire this natural majesty.

  1. Milford Sound

Milford Sound is slightly out of the way. Most people fly in or join a bus tour out of Queenstown. But we found that driving for 4.5 hours (one way) from Queenstown to be completely worth it. The weather conditions change slowly as you drive, with low moody clouds floating between the mountains and multiple thin elegant waterfalls flowing down. Milford Sound is like it’s own little universe, completely different from the rest of South Island. Due to the geographical nature, clouds are usually trapped within the mountains. At times, if you’re lucky, you can find clouds just a meter or two above the water.

No matter how many beautiful photos you’ve seen of New Zealand, photos can never do the place justice. Just being there and seeing it with your own eyes, breathing the air and feeling the surroundings is an experience on its own. Something a photo can never replicate. I highly recommend everyone to do a road trip around South Island in a motorhome. Hope you enjoyed these tips. Be sure to follow my Instagram (@lielaine) for more photos from my travel!

Elaine Li

Hong Kong

Elaine is a Hong Kong-based art director and freelance photographer. She specializes in city and street photography, and is known for her urban exploration and rooftopping work. With her passion in photography and power of social media, she has garnered over 150k following on Instagram, and work with a variety of brands as a social influencer.

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