Lucy’s Favorite New Zealand Elopement Locations
It’s no secret that I love New Zealand. Let me walk you through some drop dead gorgeous New Zealand elopement locations in my favorite country of all time. This is where I experienced at least 4 of my top ten best days of my life ever. Including that one time, a lake was so pretty that I had to pull over to the side of the road because I was crying too hard from the SHEER PRETTINESS to drive! My favorite hike of all time, my favorite sunrise of all time, my favorite backpacking night of all time, my favorite beach of all time.. you get the idea – all here in New Zealand. Let me walk you through the most beautiful elopement locations on earth.
About this Guide
This guide is a starting point to finding the perfect New Zealand Elopement locations for you. The information here is from my first hand experience on the islands. You can start to get a sense of the majesty and diverse landscapes that are available. At the bottom, you’ll find two sample timelines for elopements on each island. If you’re just starting to dream of a New Zealand elopement, take the next step and get in touch to see my interactive map. Here you can explore the locations used in this guide, and click on each one to see details and exact locations. You will be spoiled for choice anywhere!
New Zealand North Island
The South island of New Zealand gets a lot of hype. But the North Island is spectacular too! There are so many great New Zealand elopement locations tucked in the North Island. There are spectacular waterfalls; beaches, cliffs and seaside caves; volcanic steam vents and boiling mud; epic hikes to mountain peaks and more. The Waitakere range of mountains just west of Auckland are a treasure trove of beauty close to the city. The black sand beaches of Piha and Huia are graced with amazing sunsets. East of Auckland, the Coromandel peninsula is a vacation destination for many locals. And the infamous Cathedral Cove is found here. Inland, lake Taupo is the central point for hikes in the redwood forests, the blue and green geothermal pools and the bizarre boiling mud pools of Waiotapu.
On the North Island, explore Mts Taranaki, Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngaruhoe. Enjoy the well maintained trails and numerous swing bridges! But keep in mind, not all hikes need to have summits. The Tongariro crossing is one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. It takes you across red volcanic cone and mysteriously colored lakes in the alpine region. On the South Island, the 7 overnight backpacking routes called the Great Walks are famous, but there are plenty of day hikes with excellent scenery too. Hikes around Wanaka, Queenstown, Manapuri, Nelson Lakes, Mt Aoraki and the Farewell spit will keep you enthralled. The Hooker lake Track, to the iceberg-filled alpine lake in front of NZ’s tallest peak, is a MUST do.
New Zealand Lake Locations
Lakes also provide a perfect background for great New Zealand elopement locations. Lake Wanaka’s distinctive tree is a popular tourist spot – it’s so famous that it’s simply known as “That Wanaka tree.” It’s best to visit it at sunrise. But Lake Hawea, a cousin of Wanaka, is backed by a very impressive wall of mountains that will make your jaw drop in every season. Lake Te Anau is a hot spot for seaplane and helicopter tours and is the starting point to a journey to Milford Sound. For stunning water so turquoise you can see it from space, don’t miss a chance to visit lake Pukaki. My other favorite lakes are Tekapo, Dunstan, Wakatipu and Rotoiti.
New Zealand Slang & Maori Words
Kia ora! That means ‘be well’, but is often used as “hello”. Hiking is called ‘Tramping’ in New Zealand, and trails are called ‘Tracks’. The longer you spend in the country, the more you’ll understand the true meaning of the phrase “yeah, nah” which mostly means yes and “sweet as” which means “awesome!” Many of the place names and phrases are in Maori. Beware, before you embarrass yourself- “wh” is pronounced as “f” when speaking. You will also see “ng” together at the start of many words. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but just pronounce it like you would pronounce “ng” in the word “fang” 🙂
Aotearoa – The Maori word for New Zealand that means The Land Of The Long White Cloud
Haere ra – Goodbye
Aroha – Love
Real Fruit Ice Cream – simply the best and freshest dessert on the planet
Ocean & Beach Locations
New Zealand truly has it all. The abundant coastline means there are all types of beaches – white sands, pink sands, black sands, rocky pools and everything in between. Tide pool hoppers rejoice! The North Island is definitely better for beach lovers because of the diversity and weather. The west coastline of the north island has the sea caves, cliffs, and black sands of your dreams. You can spend a week just exploring the many amazing views and chasing sunsets off the beaches. On the south island, the area around the Farewell Spit is a peaceful sanctuary for wildlife. I’m talking baby seal pups playing in tide pools on a vast expanse of white sand beach. It’s dotted with large offshore rocks, and I even found penguin footprints on the sand here! The Abel Tasman national park has that pristine coastline you dream of.
When to plan a New Zealand Elopement
Because it’s located in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are backwards from us northerners. The summer season is from December to the end of February, fall is from March to April, and so on. So if you’d like to escape the cold months here in North America, get your booty down to New Zealand to enjoy the best temps. In every season, the further south you go the colder you will be, especially at night. In the summer, you will need to pack many layers for this reason. There are glaciers here, and glacial meltwater rivers as blue as.. well, glacial meltwater. The west coast of the south island from Greymouth to Haast rarely has clear skies, so be prepared for frequent rainstorms, but don’t let that deter you.
Waterfall Elopements in New Zealand
Waterfalls make fantastic focal points and backgrounds for elopements. Whether you want to stand at an overlook or feel the water running around your ankles as you say your vows, consider eloping at one of NZ’s amazing waterfalls. The aptly named Bridal Veil Falls is a pure stream that falls almost 200 feet off a cliff and into a bowl surrounded by jungle. Um, yes please! There is nothing like the anticipation or hearing the roar of a waterfall ahead of you down the trail, and many of them can be accessed by short, manageable hikes. One of my favorite falls is right by a natural bridge, where you can find glow worms without entering a cave. The steep ridges of the South Island are home to countless falls so if you love em, trying eloping on the south island!
The Maori name for Milford Sound is Piopiotahi, and its perhaps the best known place in New Zealand. My gosh, it will just take your breath away. Tucked away on the southwest coast, this remote inlet is famed for its epic scenery. Mitre peak’s triangular shape looms over the sound and massive waterfalls tumble right into the ocean alongside it. Taking a boat cruise 15 kilometers to the mouth of the ocean will win you the chance to see seals, penguins, dolphins and more. Ask me about what time of day is best to take this once in a lifetime boat ride. I’ve got the intel. Nothing will make you feel more alive than an elopement in this majestic landscape. For a more private experience, check out Doubtful sound.
South Island of New Zealand Elopement Locations
The first thing you need to know is that there’s a place that’s literally called “Paradise” and it lives up to its name. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’ve living on middle earth, come to New Zealand. Moss coated forests, glaciers, canyons, scrub-dunes, rocky cliffs, peaks and valleys dominate the island. Many of the areas are more remote and require more driving to access. But if you’re already going all the way to New Zealand, it’s worth going the extra mile for. Swing bridges dot the trails as the terrain is steeper than all get-out. This is one of the best places in the world for an adventurous couple that wants to elope privately. I can’t wait to show you around my favorite spots!
How to elope in New Zealand
Most of the time, you don’t need a special permit to get marred on public lands in New Zealand. This makes planning a breeze, and last minute backup plans a cinch. The first step to planning a New Zealand Elopement is to book your flights, after checking the country’s travel requirements. Then chat with a guide about your desires and must-haves. (Hello!) I’ll help narrow down areas that will tick your boxes and more. Then you’ll book your accommodation and any excursions, and you’re pretty much ready to go. Planning an elopement should feel like planning an epic vacation instead of a large scale event. I’ll help you every step of the way. Get started by contacting me and telling me about your dream!
North Island Elopement Timeline
Here is a tentative North Island elopement timeline so you can see what a day could look like. It was difficult to make this timeline knowing that there are so many other possibilities for amazing elopements on the North Island! If you had a second day, do a day trip to the Waitakeres or the geothermal area surrounding Waiotapu and Tongariro.
7:00 Sunrise first look at Cathedral Cove
8:00 Brunch together and enjoy the scenic drive to Waitomo
2:00 Waitomo Glow Worm Cave tour on an underground river
4:30 Picnic sammies, real fruit ice cream and drinks
5:50 Hike down to Kopa falls and explore the rocks at the base
6:00 Say your vows near the thundering falls, get a little wet
7:45 First dance under the stars
South Island Elopement Timeline
Here is an example South Island elopement timeline so you can start imagining your day. If you have more time, my second choice of itineraries would start on the northern end and explore Abel Tasman, the farewell spit, and the beaches of the west coast.
8:00 First look at Monkey Creek
9:00 Grab coffee, pastries and savory pies at the Cafe
10:00 Morning boat cruise on Milford sound, look for penguins and get sprayed by Stirling Falls
12:00 Hike to a secluded lake surrounded by mountains to say your vows alone on the shore
1:00 Picnic lunch pies and champagne
3:00 Drive to Te Anau and take a scenic helicopter ride
5:00 Land on a glacier and explore it
6:30 Return to Te Anau
7:00 Take a rowboat out on the lake at sunset
8:00 Fancy Dinner
I’m a nomadic elopement photographer with an obsession for travel. My photography style emphasizes the amazing landscape of your dreams and the authentic moments that make you two..well, you two! I love my job and my nature-loving clients. New Zealand has always been my favorite country. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Top five days of my life:
1. Seeing spinner dolphins at first light in Milford Sound, New Zealand
2. My wedding day at a treehouse in Colorado
3. Diving the freshwater limestone cenotes in Mexico
4. My first U2 concert (there was lots of crying then too.)
5. Seeing lake pukaki and hiking to Hooker lake to catch the sunset on Mt Aoraki, New Zealand
I offer full day, 1.5 day and 2 day elopement photography in New Zealand and other amazing destination locations. See my pricing and package details here. I would love to chat with you and help see if an elopement with me is what you’ve been dreaming of. Get in touch below!
Here’s a preview of my interactive location map for my booked clients:
This map is like a virtual tour of both islands of New Zealand with color photos I’ve taken of each place. So you can see all the great spots without leaving your living room. If you’re planning from afar, this is a visual key to picking out the elopement spot that works for you. Details like what seasons and time of day are best for each location are included. It will help you plan your activities, accommodations, and your day’s itinerary. Lastly, it’s easy to have a great backup location picked out with this map in front of you. Having that Plan B in your back pocket will keep your planning stress-free!