New Zealand Road Trip Part 1: Arrowtown to Glenorchy

Posted by David Travis on 15 May 2024

New Zealand Road Trip: Arrowtown to Glenorchy

This is the first of four articles showing pictures from four road trips I made while in New Zealand's south island in April this year. I made some of the trips more than once to capture the best light at sunrise and sunset to show off the autumn colour.

New Zealand is a photographer’s playground with outstanding scenery almost anywhere you look. But I found the best way to experience it was not on foot, but by car. When walking in New Zealand, I felt my experience was being curated with boardwalks, fences and "Please keep to the path" signs at many of the locations I visited. This made it difficult to explore the landscape at my own pace as I was often part of an endless queue of people. I appreciate that the reason for the well-defined paths is to protect the flora and fauna from over-tourism, but it made me feel chaperoned. It made it impossible to connect with the landscape in any meaningful way.

In contrast, when driving, I felt I had more flexibility to respond to where the light and weather conditions were most promising. I could cover larger distances in a shorter amount of time, enabling me to see more in a day. And I could travel with more equipment than I would have been able to carry if I was on foot.

I enjoyed my photography more when I explored New Zealand by car than when I attempted full-day hikes. I hope you find this reflected in my photographs and that you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Arrowtown to Glenorchy

Distance: 66km.

Map data from OpenStreetMap.

Arrowtown Hut

I planned my trip to New Zealand to coincide with autumn but I didn’t expect the colour to peak so early in my trip. This was taken at Arrowtown when I first arrived. This photogenic cabin is just by the car park.

OM-1 with Olympus 12-40mm lens at 18mm. 1/15s, f/5.6, ISO 200.

Autumn colour

The autumn colour in Arrowtown was off the charts. I used a telephoto lens for this shot to emphasise the effect.

OM-1 with Lumix 35-100mm lens at 44mm. 1/80s, f/5.6, ISO 250.

Crested Grebe

I stayed in an Airbnb near Lake Hayes so this became my go-to location at sunrise. On this particular outing, the light was overcast so not so great for landscape photography. But this Crested Grebe let me get close enough for a portrait.

OM-1 with Leica 100-400mm lens at 400mm. 1/80s, f/6.3, ISO 200.

Lake Hayes Jetty

When my wife saw this image she accused me of placing the leaves on the jetty, but, honest, they were exactly as I found them. There are trees overhanging this jetty but it's equally plausible that I was the beneficiary of another photographer's set design skills. I used a long exposure to still the ripples in the lake.

OM-1 with Leica 8-18mm lens at 8mm. 50s, f/8, ISO 200.


It’s not cheap to ride the gondola in Queenstown, but it’s the only way to get this unique view of Queenstown set in Lake Whakatipu.

OM-1 with Olympus 12-40mm lens at 30mm. 1/1250s, f/4, ISO 200. 16 image stitched panorama.

Arthurs Point

This location is named after Thomas Arthur who discovered gold in the banks of Shotover River in 1862. Nowadays this canyon is used by a jet boat company to provide an adrenaline-fuelled experience for tourists. You need to stand on a very narrow road to get this shot with cars and trucks passing perilously close. It’s a kind of adrenaline-fuelled experience for photographers.

OM-1 with Leica 8-18mm lens at 10mm. 1/30s, f/5.6, ISO 200.

Moke Lake

Moke Lake is a detour off the Glenorchy-Queenstown road but this was one of my favourite locations. When I visited on this blue sky day, the lake was perfectly still allowing me to capture this mirror-like reflection.

OM-1 with Leica 8-18mm lens at 14mm. 4s, f/9, ISO 200.

First light

I also went to Moke Lake at sunrise. On this day, there was low lying mist which added to the atmosphere.

OM-1 with Olympus 12-40mm lens at 12mm. 1/40s, f/8, ISO 200.

Jetty at Miekeljohns Bay

This jetty has been decaying for some time and all that’s left now is a few stumps. I thought it made an interesting minimalist composition leading your eye to the hills in the distance.

OM-1 with Olympus 12-40mm lens at 18mm. 13s, f/8, ISO 200.

View from Bennets Bluff

What a difference some light makes! I visited this location early on in my trip but the view was obscured by rain and heavy clouds. But on this day, the mountains, once barely visible, now provided that all-important background. I know: Arthurs Point. Miekeljohns Bay, Bennets Bluff… New Zealand takes a cavalier attitude with apostrophes.

OM-1 with Lumix 35-100mm lens at 85mm. 1/1000s, f/4, ISO 200.

One Mile View

New Zealand also takes a very literal approach to place names (North and South Island anyone?) This was taken at One Mile car park, which is (you guessed) one mile outside of Queenstown. The light on the Remarkables (not quite so literal a name) was transitory but appeared with a gap in the clouds. I used this rock formation to provide some foreground interest.

OM-1 with Leica 8-18mm lens at 14mm. 20s, f/8, ISO 200.

Glenorchy Wharf

I hadn’t planned to travel as far as Glenorchy on the day I took this picture, aiming only for Bennetts Bluff. But I got out earlier than I expected so I decided to crack on and get to Glenorchy before sunrise. It took a while for the light to appear — and when it did appear it was just for a few moments. But I liked this slash of light on the distant mountains.

OM-1 with Olympus 12-40mm lens at 25mm. 1/6s, f/8, ISO 200.

Seven Sisters at Sunrise

These trees, known locally as the Sisters or Seven Sisters, are to be found just to the right of the wharf at Glenorchy. To get this angle, I put on my wellies and waded out towards the trees. Then it was just a case of waiting for the light to appear (and hoping that the water stayed out of my boots).

OM-1 with Olympus 12-40mm lens at 19mm. 8s, f/8, ISO 200.

Glenorchy Hut

Photographing this hut is a rite of passage for anyone who visits Glenorchy. It’s normally busy with tourists taking selfies but I managed to get there early enough to have it to myself.

OM-1 with Olympus 12-40mm lens at 40mm. 1/80s, f/8, ISO 2500.

Sign up for Part 2

In the next article, I'll show photographs from a Garston to Frankton road trip. Sign up to my newsletter to hear when it's published.

If you liked this, try…

Connecting with the landscape

25 Jan 2024

Planning a landscape photography shoot

22 Feb 2024

Blog post image

Peak District Through the Seasons

06 Dec 2021

Keep informed

Find out when I publish a new project. No spam.