Mount Cook Highway, a breathtaking winding road on the side of Lake Pukaki in New Zealand
Landscape,  Nature,  Photography,  Travel

Scenic Alpine Roads in New Zealand-Part 2

New Zealand has everything a landscape photographer could dream of. As I said in Part 1 of this blog, we established our home base in Queenstown, a scenic alpine town on the side of Lake Wakatipu from which we set to explore all of the neighbouring regions, highlighting the most scenic parts of the alpine roads. I wrote this article as a supplement to my recently published New Zealand Landscapes Photography Book.

If you travel North along the S-shaped Lake Wakatipu, you arrive at Glenorchy and can explore the wilderness of the Southern Alps on the very remote Glenorchy-Paradise Road; If you go on the Southern Scenic Route via Kingston and Devil’s Staircase, you travel to Te Anau, which will be the starting point for exploring the fjords. Milford Highway in Fiordland National Park is the only way to go from Te Anau to Milford Sound, the most spectacular natural feature of New Zealand’s Southern Island.

From Wanaka, you can travel further on the scenic Haast Highway through lavish rainforests in Mount Aspiring National Park towards the Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

In my previous article, I showed how you travel from Wanaka through Lindis Pass to Lake Pukaki. From there it is worth taking the spectacular Mount Cook Highway towards the highest mountain in the South Island – Aoraki / Mount Cook.

4. Glenorchy-Paradise Road

Glenorchy is a charming touristic village situated at the Northern end of Lake Wakatipu. Across the lake, there is Kinoch, another remote location with a wharf, unspoiled alpine scenery with snow-capped mountains and golden pastures with sheep.

This is also the final leg of the Routeburn Track, which is world-renowned and one of the most spectacular hiking trails in New Zealand. From Glenorchy-Kinloch Road you can admire the famous Isengard, featured as a background in many fantasy movies and then, weather permitting, continue on Paradise road to even more remote wilderness.

5. Haast Highway

The scenic Haast Highway is the best way to get from the West Coast to Wanaka. There are many easy pull-offs along the way and trails that are well worth taking. I recommend devoting at least a day to this drive. There are pretty waterfalls on the way, picturesque Bruce Bay beach with sea stacks and extraordinary dramatic landscape created by the melting glaciers at the bottom of Franz Josef Glacier.

Glacier Country is one of only two places in the world where you can view glaciers descending into temperate rainforests. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are some of the most accessible glaciers in the world.

The land where the glaciers are located is sandwiched between the sea and the highest mountains in New Zealand. You can view the front of Franz Josef Glacier with a fairly easy valley walk. An extraordinary view of the dramatic landscape opens up at Robert’s Point Track, where you can see the glacier melting into the Waiho River, rugged terrain of ice, stone and water.

6. Mount Cook Highway

The winding Mount Cook Highway, on the side of Lake Pukaki in the direction of Mount Cook, is the most picturesque road in New Zealand’s South Island and maybe the whole world. Lake Pukaki gets its intense milky-turquoise colour from the fine rock-flour (ground by glaciers) which is suspended in the water. Allow yourself time to explore the Mt Cook region, as every view is a feast for the senses. A helicopter ride is also recommended.

7. Milford Highway

Milford Sound is the most famous fjord on the South Island of New Zealand. It is a fusion of spectacular natural features, glaciers, rainforests and waterfalls. You can hop on a day or overnight cruise and admire the spectacular nature of the fjord with sheer cliffs and waterfalls. But you can also make an adventure of the journey there on Milford Highway, with many pretty stops along the way.

For more about our Milford Sound experience please see my article on Albom Adventures: An epic overnight Milford Sound Cruise -Spectacular Photo Opportunities

Lake Gunn on Milford Highway in New Zealand
Beautiful reflections at Lake Gunn on the way to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand, South Island.

Daniela Constantinescu is the author of Most Photogenic and Inspiring New Zealand Landscapes on the South Island, available on sale at Blurb Bookstore.