Based on the number of images geotagged to specific locations, Instagram has announced New Zealand’s top 10 spots for 2017 that got followers excitedly exclaiming “Wow!”.

#1. MILFORD SOUND South Island

Milford Sound (realjourneys.co.nz)

Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. When British author Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book and Captain Courageous among other famous books, visited Milford Sound in 1891, he called it the “eighth wonder of the world”. Bordered by breathtakingly spectacular rock canyons, the 16km long Milford Sound is the best known of all the fiords in New Zealand and the only one that can be accessed by road. I have previously written a blog on this tourist magnet.

In 2008 Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards declared Milford Sound the world’s top travel destination.


Hobbiton (newzealand.com)

Hobbiton has become one of the most recognizable film sets in the world. The site needs a staff of 50 to handle the volume of tourists and the set is now one of the North Island’s most popular man made attractions. It is also the most visited farm in the southern hemisphere.

Over 500,000 visitors from as far away as Europe and America flock to Hobbiton every year to see what ‘The Shire’ is like in reality. In fact, some fans even arrive dressed as Elves and Hobbits. An increasing number of couples are choosing to marry in ‘The Shire’.

The whole area is presented exactly as it appeared in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. There are 44 Hobbit holes where Frodo, Bilbo and Sam, along with their little mates, relaxed. This is a manufactured place of tranquillity and gentle beauty with the sweet smell of honeysuckle in the air. It offers heaps of opportunities for Instagram photos.

#3. LAKE TEKAPO South Island

Lake Tekapo (atlasobscura.com)

Lake Tekapo is a 20km long glacial lake completely surrounded by mountains, including New Zealand’s impressive Southern Alps in the heart of the South Island high country.

The church of the Good Shepherd is one of Australasia’s most popular locations  for formal wedding photos.  In recent years it has been particularly popular with couples from China and South Korea who must think they have died and gone to heaven when they see this amazing setting. This place is made for Instagram images.

The other main attraction, apart from the dramatic scenery is the night sky over this lake. The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve has one of the clearest, darkest and the most spectacular night skies in the world. This makes

Lake Tekapo one of the best locations in the world to view the heavens at the observatories on nearby Mt John.

#4. MOUNT MAUNGANUI North Island

Mt. Maunganui (yoursoapbox.co.nz)

The beach at Mount Maunganui, a suburb of Tauranga, has been nominated the ‘Best Beach in New Zealand’ by TripAdvisor, and ranks among the top 25 best beaches in the world.

The wide expanse of white sand is popular with those wanting a swim in the warm ocean waves that gently caress this beautiful beach. As a result of the climate and the popularity of this area, there are numerous beach, ocean and multisport events held here year-round.

Rising 232metres above sea level, “The Mount” immediately identifies this beach to all Kiwis. This iconic landmark is respected by Maori and locals alike. Mauao means ‘caught be the dawn’ and this extinct volcanic cone is steeped in Maori history and mythology. Several historical pa sites (villages) can still be seen today from the popular walking track

#5. MT.COOK (AORAKI) South Island

Mt.Cook (Aoraki) (newzealand.com)

Mt.Cook, also called Aoraki meaning ‘cloud piercer’ in Maori, is Australasia’s tallest mountain and one of the most spectacular mountains in the southern hemisphere. The mountain is the striking highlight of Mt.Cook National Park which features 19 peaks over 3000 metres. This part of the South Island is a magnet for tourists who travel there to gawk at the lake and alpine landscapes. It is also a popular destination for hikers and mountaineers. There is a remarkable clarity to the air in this region which intensifies the quality of light providing particularly dramatic photos for publishing on Instagram (and Facebook). Mt.Cook can be viewed from a number of different locations but each is similarly spectacular

#6. LAKE WANAKA South Island

Lake Wanaka (lakewanakatourism)

Lake Wanaka is New Zealand’s 4th largest lake and a magnet for Instagram fans from all over the world who flock to the lake to grab a pic of the tree which has become possibly the most famous one in the southern hemisphere. This crooked willow tree stands in the water close to the shore in Roys Bay and is up there with the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and Big Ben as a must for Instagramers.

The unique tree started out as a fence post about 80 years ago and sprouted into an eye catching tree growing against a dramatic backdrop of the mountains of Mt Aspiring National Park, and in the foreground the clear blue waters of the lake. It’s an irresistible focal point for any snapper eager to capture some of the lake’s outstanding natural beauty.

Wanaka is also famous around New Zealand for its spectacular autumn colours. The leaves on the rows of tall poplar trees around the lake shore turn deep yellow and red, creating a spectacular display. For around three weeks in late March and early April, photographers flock to the town to capture the vivid colours reflected in the lake’s still water. It has to be one of nature’s most awesome colour shows anywhere.


Tongariro Alpine Crossing  (rankers.co.nz)

I guess this place is on the list because it allows you to get up close and personal with a living volcano. It doesn’t have the spectacular scenery of the other locations on the list but it does have angry earth that has the potential to erupt at any moment thus providing an element of danger which must be the main attraction of this tourist destination. The crossing meanders between the active volcanoes of Ngauruhoe and Tongariro providing panoramic views over the volcanic terrain. It also passes two craters as well as the Emerald Lakes. It is marketed as New Zealand’s greatest day walk. Hmmm.

#8. TAKAPUNA BEACH North Island

Takapuna Beach (Ceidrik Heward)

I’m not sure why Takapuna Beach made the Instragram top 10 list. I would’ve thought nearby North Head with spectacular 360 degree views across the harbour and city, as well as out to the Hauraki Gulf , would’ve been a much better location for images. Even Mt. Eden with views over the CBD would’ve in my opinion, been another better location. However, Takapuna Beach does have the best view of Rangitoto’s profile. This is the iconic volcano in Auckland Harbour. Takapuna has recently had a makeover with a row of restaurants built overlooking the beach. The shops have also been upgraded from cheap 2 dollar outlets to upmarket fashion and home furnishing stores. There are many more restaurant, cafes and bars in the area too, so I guess these have attracted those with phones hot to record “Look! I’m in Auckland” scenes for Instagram exposure.

#9. LAKE WAKATIPU South Island

Lake Wakatipu (nzphoto.info)

Close to one million tourists visited Queenstown last year so I’m surprised Lake Wakatipu is so low on the Instagram list. I would’ve put it second behind Milford Sound. Queenstown is Australasia’s “Adventure Capital” and is also the top alpine resort in the southern hemisphere. One of the manmade highlights of Lake Wakatipu is the iconic 106 year old steamer, Earnslaw. There are only two other ships like it in the world. Of course, the stunning scenery and various state-of-the-art water transport/activities are also popular with international tourists who are mostly of Instagramer age. It’s baffling Lake Wakatipu only comes in at 9 on the list.


Lake Pukaki (newzealand.com)

Peter Jackson used Braemar Station on the shore of Lake Pukaki to shoot complex action scenes for ‘An Unexpected Journey’ including the epic Warg chase.  ‘Lake Town’ was one of the largest outdoor sets constructed for ‘The Hobbit’ films and was built at Tasman Downs Station also on the shores of Lake Pukaki.  He also used this area for ‘Rivendell’ and the forest slopes of  ‘Misty Mountains’. The Company escaping from the mountains was filmed in this location too. I guess this is one of the reasons Lake Pukaki made the top 10 Instagram list last year.

This is big country with deep, vivid colours, the deep blue sky, the bright yellow tussock, the multi colours of the wild lupins growing everywhere, the brilliantly white snow capped mountain peaks, is nature’s technicolor show that never fails to impress. “It was a beautiful vista.” Dean Gorman who played Fili, remarked when he arrived at Lake Pukaki. The lake’s destinctive colour, a beautiful creamy blue, is caused by rock particles in the glacial water. When Graham McTavish who played Dwalin, first clapped eyes on this stunning landscape he got out his camera. “I took a photo that I sent to some friends and they refused to believe that it was an actual photograph, that I hadn’t photoshoped it. ‘That place doesn’t exist’ they said and I was standing in it!”

I guess that says it all!

Ceidrik Heward

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