Heading into Queenstown we felt instantly hit with the bustle of the tourist vibe and the outdoor buzz, especially after the calm, laid back mindset in Wanaka the days before. We spent a few days exploring the city and the surrounding area. This included an attempt at reaching the summit of Ben Lomond (I say attempt, as we had to settle for a lower down summit due to the amount of snow and ice present on the summit track), and a hike up Queenstown Hill. Both provided some great views over Queenstown, and the surrounding mountains.
One of the 'must do' things in this area is, without a doubt, the drive to Glenorchy. The road leaves Queenstown and hugs Lake Wakatipu until you reach the small picturesque village of Glenorchy. This is definitely one of the most scenic and spectacular drives in NZ.
Our next destination upon leaving Queenstown was Milford Sound. Once again, the drive to get there is absolutely spectacular.
No words can describe the pure beauty of this area, so I will just let my photos do it justice instead.
After our boat tour on the fjords (definitely the best way to see the area) we stayed out on the beach to capture the sunset over the sound and to capture the stars. Unfortunately, just after the sunset, some clouds came in over the mountains and blocked some of the stars over the peaks.
Then we headed South, towards the coast.
The South Coast has plenty of stunning coastline to explore with a number of beautiful waterfalls just in-land too. It was also here, at Curio Bay, that we caught our first glimpses of the Yellow-Eyed Penguins.
Further along the coastline, towards the East, is Nugget Point Lighthouse. This was another location that I had been looking forward to. I planned to shoot the lighthouse under the stars, and at sunrise. Another highlight here, is just down the hill from the lighthouse. A small bay with a penguin hide. Here we caught some more glimpses of Hoiho - Yellow Eyed Penguins.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a fully clear night for the star shots, but I did get a small 5 minute window in the cloud to capture the Lighthouse with the milky-way before it clouded over.
Having the hide near the lighthouse was great for me and my (penguin daft) partner, as it meant she could wait in the hide and watch the penguins head out to sea in the morning rather than having to stand and wait with me taking photos of the sunrise.
We carried on further north along the east coast next. Through Dunedin, and out to the Otago Peninsula. Another destination with promise of yet more wonderful wildlife! Our first stop was some of the beaches to see if we could see Hookers Sea Lions.
After, we took a trip out to the Royal Albatross Centre to see the albatross chicks and a Blue Penguin colony. This spot is the only place that Royal Albatross nest and breed on a mainland. It was really special to see these huge sea birds up close. Along the cliff there are also a number of breeding Spotted-Shags.
As with most penguins, we had to wait until just after sunset to see them coming in, back to their nests for the night. So we came back at this time to see them.
Our plan after this was to head north along the coast to Oamaru, before heading in land to Lake Pukaki and Tekapo and then complete a loop back to the coast to Timaru. Along the way we found another Yellow-Eyed Penguin colonies. Here we were treated to a number of penguins coming in to shore and see them meeting up with their partners and heading to their nests.
The last highlight along this part of the coastline was the Moeraki Boulders, a cluster of huge boulders that are scattered along a stretch of the beach. They are in prime positions for some photos at sunset, and sunrise. So, naturally, that is when we went!
Scott van Schayk - Force Media Photography & Film.