Photography Travel

Do and see: 9 places to do a quick stop at in South Island, New Zealand


By now I’m sure you have read through all my other posts about what I did in New Zealand last year. Well, the fun’s not over just yet. In this post I will write some short summaries of other places I stopped at, that you can too, on our self-guided trip. Best of all, these are mostly free.

1. Dunedin Railway Station

IMG_1557This train station was built in the early 1900s, and has been fully restored. There is only one train that actually uses this station now, a tourist train. The station building itself is free and open to visitors as tourist attraction for its grand architecture and garden. Inside the building there are some small craft shops/galleries and a tourist information reception, and public toilets. There is free parking nearby. The platform is freely accessible.

Location: At the end of Stuart Street and along Castle Street, Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand.
Recommended stay time: About 30 minutes during a quiet time, no more than 1 hour as there isn’t that much to see inside.




2. Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

dsc9326-edit-lgPhotography by Mike Hollman Architects: Robert Tongue and Baker Garden Architects.

This is a large and free museum definitely worth your time for in Dunedin. There are a variety of exhibits, with a cafe and gift store. Exhibits range from life of the early native people, European settlers’ journey to and early and later life in New Zealand.

Replica of a ship’s interiors:IMG_1558

Sleeping quarters in the shipIMG_1560

Rules for European immigrantsIMG_1561

Early mud and timber/straw hutIMG_1563

Tram carIMG_1565

Tram car interiorIMG_1588

Location: At the end of Burlington Street and along Castle Street, Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand, next to the Dunedin Railway station.
Recommended stay time:
About 30 minutes during a quiet time, no more than 1 hour as there isn’t that much to see inside.

3. The Milford Road campsiteIMG_1774

There are several campsites in the Milford Sound area along Milford Road, some are powered and some are not. It was quite cold though, even in January when it is supposed to be summer. There are portable toilets. Not quite sure about running water though.

You can camp  here and go for a drive during the day to see the scenic areas along the road. These pictures were taken at the Kiosk Creek camp site. Camp fees apply. Read about Fees here.IMG_1758




4. Driving along the Milford Road and other scenic roads in South Island

Scenic spots are plentiful along the highways in the mountains around the Milford Sound area (and pretty much anywhere else in the South Island). Along the highway, sometimes there are look out opportunities, stop areas along the highway where you can stop your car and step out to stretch your legs and enjoy the view. I do have to say that sometimes it does get a bit monotonous. At other places along the road/grass fields, you can stop your car on the road side.

Scenes vary depending on location. Some places there are grassy fields, some places there are water, but almost all the places even in Queenstown, has mountains.

Grassy fields and cattleIMG_1782


A lookout opportunity along a road. There are places for cars and coaches to stop to allow people out. A coach came while we were here. Warning: Do be very careful in places like these and only visit during day light hours!!! There are no railings and civilisation is very far from these highways, and cell reception is not common.IMG_1811







An actual lookout near/along Milford Road with boardwalks and maps and information boards (not in pictures). I don’t remember the name of this place, if you do find it, this is a nice place for a (very short) stroll. The boardwalk in the picture leads down to the water from the road side and is in the trees, but there are signs along the road.IMG_1780






5. Bungy jump viewing at the Kawarau Bridge


The bungy jump viewing is free to the general public if you don’t want to do the jump yourself. Apart from that, the view of the water is magnificent, because that water is actually turquoise blue. Just look at it! No filter or editing! You can also do kayaking here, as seen in the picture. This is also a great place for photography. Unfortunately I only had a phone so I don’t have great pictures.IMG_2107

Click here to see a short video of someone jumping.

6. Aoraki Mountain/Mount Cook

The national park here has a year-round ski resort. You can also go climbing on the mountain on the actual glaciers. We stopped by the base of the mountain and it was pretty cold for me already (in summer in January). You can do a quick stop here if you have little time, or do not intend on going skiing/mountain climbing, and just have a look from the base.IMG_2235



7. New Zealand Alpine Lavender fields

So… I don’t know about you but I don’t like the smell of lavender or the taste of the oil. But if you like it, and don’t mind the extra hype, you can come here to their field and take photos for free. They have an onsite store in a shipping container and EFTPOS facilities. What surprised me is that it was literally in the middle of nowhere… a huge field along the road then BANG a shipping container shop.IMG_2320IMG_2347


I would only come here for photography but as you can see and probably already know, the purple of the lavender looks greyish and to be entirely honest, that’s the way it looks in real life. You can’t really get those colourful photos you see on the internet and in magazines/posters unless you edit the hell out of it in post production, which I am not a fan of. I like original, honest photography. You can buy lavender oil, soaps, little packs of dried lavender to put in drawers, and others. You can actually walk among the fields of the flowers and sit in the giant chair.

Location: 657 Mt Cook Road, Ben Ohau 7999, New Zealand, right near the south western tip of Lake Pukaki, between Twizel and Tekapo and about an hour after leaving Aoraki Mountain.


IMG_2379Recommended stay time: If you are just looking around and taking a few photos, no more than 1 hour. Free parking by the side of the road.

8. Mt John University Observatory

This area has a small reasonable fee per vehicle and free parking. You can join one of their paid night tours, or you can use this as a look out for some great views of Lake Tekapo. Located on the top of a hill/mountain, it is quite windy and cold. There is a full cafe here.











9. Church of the Good Shepherd and Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo village is a small strip of shops and restaurants that appeared suddenly on the side of the motorway as you are driving. There is an information center here that gives free vouchers and pamphlets for nearby attractions such as the hot tubs. You can also buy some souvenirs here. There was one in particular, a cute stuffed sheep that I did not see elsewhere on my entire trip to New Zealand. Regret not getting it.

A short 2 min drive away is the Church of the Good Shepherd by Lake Tekapo. The church itself is a popular subject of many photographs, however it is not allowed inside. The very small one-room cottage church is only open briefly (according to my experience) but isn’t spectacular inside, so you are better off photographing the outside and the water.IMG_2446

The beach/shore is quite rocky instead of sandy and can be hard to walk around. This area is very popular for photography.IMG_2436

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New Zealand Travel

Clay Cliffs, Omarama, New Zealand

The Clay Cliffs in Omarama are a major/recommended (by most travel websites and guides) tourist attraction. Actually, they are just some soft clay peaks, and in my personal opinion, isn’t worth too much of your time. Come prepared on a nice sunny day with the necessary lens, tripod and camera and you should be able to get satisfying shots in only a morning.

The location:
The Clay Cliffs are located in private property so can be a little hard to find. Particularly in this area, where there is nothing but empty roads surrounded by grassy fields in every direction. We spent at least 20 minutes looking for this area, expecting big signs or the like. The only signage was a small sign much like the street name signs you get, on the corner of a road, that said “Clay Cliffs”. The property is accessed via unpaved gravel/dirt roads.

This was the largest sign we encountered, on a gate to private road. There is a small charge of $5 per private vehicle or $20 per bus, New Zealand dollars. The sign says to pay at the Information Center, but when I was there, there was a small small container nearby to put cash in.


Some reviews on Tripadvisor from 2015 and earlier says the gate was locked, however when I went, the gate was open, although the attractiveness of the site is still equally questionable.

As the area is un-guarded, people are expected to act on honesty, and to READ THE SIGNS. Particularly the SAFETY signs. Like this one, that we encountered further up the road: IMG_2145In faded red letters at the bottom, the sign says: This waterway is infected with Didymo, which is an invasive freshwater diatom that produces brown mucousy stringy mats that clog otherwise clear, low-phosphorus water. As an invasive species and impossible to remove, you do not want to get these on your shoes.

What’s Here:
This isolated area on private property has little to offer besides photography and a hike. Although, you wouldn’t get very far hiking as the cliffs are just peaks and are very soft and crumbly, not solid rock and definitely not suitable for climbing vertically on its face, and the ground is made of broken clay bits that slide beneath your feed on steep places. Wear suitable shoes.

The only other thing to do here is photography. There is the potential to take some good photos here, but only in good sunny weather without rain. For examples, just have a search on the internet.

Getting here:
You might have to ask for general directions once you get to Omarama first, our GPS wasn’t very good at finding this place. Once in the local area, follow the somewhat vague signs. Local hotels would have advertisements and pamphlets for this place.

There are spaces for car parking here, it is a small open dirt field. According to the signs, the ‘car park’ is about 10 minute walk after a 4km drive. We parked too early and ended up being a 20-30 minute walk.

This is what the cliffs look like from some distance away as we approached on foot:IMG_2150

If you are renting a car and driving here, get a 4-wheel drive. You’ll need it to get up a short but steep step.  The road is narrow so drove slowly, go during the day time and watch out for other cars.



Looking up from within the ‘cliffs’:IMG_2213



Things to note:
The surrounding areas a sheep pastures and the sheep roam about freely. This also means the sheep droppings are everywhere.

Do not step where there is water near the waterways as they are infested with didymo. You do not want to bring it back with you.

Apart from photography I wouldn’t really recommend this as a must-see destination. Not only is it hard to find but is also a little disappointing once you arrive, especially when compared to the promotional pictures. For photography, go on a sunny day to make the most of the opportunity. Otherwise I recommend doing something else in New Zealand.

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