Top 10 Instagram spots in New Zealand

SINGAPORE - Aden, Gingham or Reyes?

When you make a trip to the far south of Down Under, you can leave your Instagram filters at home.

New Zealand is wild, raw, and postcard-perfect, with movie fanatics paying homage to its famous movie set, Hobbiton, and die-hard surfers swearing by its monster barrels.

The country is a Mecca of sorts for all types of photographers - from lens-slinging professionals to mobile phone-toting travellers - with many trudging through the untamed terrain on yearly "pilgrimages".

With 268,021 km square feet to cover, here are 10 Instagram worthy spots recommended by Tourism New Zealand that you shouldn't miss.

See the next page for the full list of places. 

1. Waiheke Island

Whether it is snapping a shot looking back to the mainland, a glass of wine with cheese platter at Stonyridge Vineyard, or landing in a bay on an Auckland Seaplane, Waiheke Island provides more than a few options when it comes to getting that memorable shot.

Recently named Lonely Planet's world's top 10 regions to visit in 2016, Waiheke Island is definitely a desirable place to visit this year.

2. Mount Maunganui

Just three hours south of Auckland, the seaside town looks picture perfect from the peak of Mount Maunganui - the best vantage point and a popular walk for tourists and locals alike. The foot of the hill gives way to Tauranga Harbour where its internationally recognised surf breaks. Its warm ocean waters and white sand beaches have long been a favourite Kiwi beach holiday destination.

3. The Hobbiton Movie Set

Film fans literally go crazy here. The set was made famous by Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series, drawing thousands to make the eventful journey from far and wide. The 12-acre location sits within gentle rolling hills on a quiet country road near the farming town of Matamata.

It is an easy three-hour drive from Auckland and within easy access of other popular tourist destinations including Rotorua, Waitomo, Tauranga and the city of Hamilton. Hobbit holes aplenty, the Green Dragon Inn, and the Party Tree make Hobbiton truly deserving of the third place spot on the Instagram-worthy list.

4. Sky Tower

Standing at 328 metres high in the heart of Auckland city, the mighty Sky Tower offers 360-degree views of Auckland from the twin Waitemata and Manukau harbours across to the Waitakere Ranges in the west.

5. Takapuna Beach

To the north - and easily seen from the top of the aforementioned Sky Tower - is Takapuna Beach. Only a 15-minute drive from downtown Auckland, Takapuna Beach is a great place to cool off from the summer sun. With the Takapuna shops just a stone's throw away, taking a stroll along the beach with an ice cream always makes for a great photo opportunity.

6. Lake Tekapo

The beautiful turquoise lake is surrounded by snow-capped peaks including Mt John, home of the Mt John Observatory and a grandstand view of the night sky in a world renowned dark sky reserve.

On Lake Tekapo's shores sits the Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the most picturesque little church buildings on the planet.

7. Piha

Back to the North Island and on Auckland's famed west coast, Piha is a dramatic black sand beach just a 45-minute drive from downtown Auckland. Don't miss the majestic Lion Rock which stands guard over the wild coastline and its renowned surf break.

8. Lake Wanaka

Looking across Lake Wanaka toward the Southern Alps you won't be able to resist whipping out your camera. The lake's mirror-like surface clearly reflects the surrounding towering mountains, perfect for that symmetrical shot.

The lake is also home to 'That Wanaka Tree' - a famous tree that has appeared on social media so often that it has its very own hashtag #ThatWanakaTree.

9. Te Papa Tongarewa

The museum is a must-go for any visitor to Wellington. Showcasing a bi-cultural experience across five areas - Art, History, Pacific, Māori, and Natural Environment, Te Papa offers an insight to New Zealand's colourful history.

After all, what is travelling without valuable learning experiences?

10. Skyline Queenstown

The view over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu from the top of the gondola is outstanding. The best part? It's not limited to trekkers!

Once you are up there, you won't want to come back down. But for an extra thrill, you can ride the luge, bungy, paraglide, or do the downhill descent on Ziptrek's zipline.

debwong@sph.com.sg