2 days of adventure on new zealand's south island
If you know anything about me (Hannah), you know New Zealand became 90% of my personality after living there briefly from 2018-2019. The fjords, the mountains, the beaches, the glaciers, the Lord of the Rings filming locations, the COFFEE(!!!) – this island country has everything an adventurer could ever want. And one of the best things about eloping in New Zealand is that it’s located in the southern hemisphere, which means our winters are its summers! That makes November-April prime time to flee from the rainy USA to New Zealand for great weather and snow-free trails.
Last November, I had the privilege of capturing Jess and Joe’s multiday elopement in two of the most stunning landscapes of New Zealand: the Southern Alps and Fiordland National Park. It was complete and utter magic ✨ Picture misty mountains, breathtaking fjords, and an overall sense of awe-inspiring beauty. Inspired by the scenery from Lord of the Rings, Jess and Joe decided to ditch the traditional big wedding and head off on an epic adventure across the south island. I had a blast being their tour guide and taking them to all of my favorite spots, from iconic vistas to secret wildflower meadows without a soul around.
Day 1: glaciers, mountains, and lakes
We spent day 1 of our adventure exploring the Misty Mountains (aka the Southern Alps), with a mix of sunshine and moody mountain clouds. Anne Timms flew all the way to NZ to style Jess’s hair and makeup as we looked out over the incredible landscape from their hotel room. After a first look on the balcony and quick hike to a viewpoint, we met up with their incredible celebrant Philippa Thomas for the ceremony. Jess and Joe shared their vows under the towering Mt. Sefton as passing hikers cheered them on. After exchanging elvish rings and sharing a smooch, they were officially married! 🥳
We celebrated with a 6-mile sunset hike to one of NZ’s most famous glacial lakes filled with icebergs. Jess and Joe frolicked across the swinging bridges and picturesque boardwalks, soaking in the scenery. The fickle mountain weather finally caught up to us at sunset with rain and wind, and the newlyweds popped on brightly-colored parkas for the journey back to the cars. Even with this jam-packed day, we still had even more adventuring ahead of us!
Day 2: fjords, waterfalls and wildflowers
Day 2 featured some wildddd weather – but the torrential rain didn’t stop our plans! Our next stop was Fiordland National Park, with epic clifftops and fjords stretching out as far as the eye could see. The bride and groom helped each other get ready for the day at their stunning riverside cabin, with an outfit change for Joe and additional flower crown for Jess. On rainy days, hundreds of waterfalls appear on the cliffsides and make everything even more beautiful! We ventured to the beach, catching a glimpse of Mitre Peak and the gushing Bowen Falls before retreating into the rainforest for more photos. We were the only people crazy enough to be out in this deluge!
For sunset, I took Jess and Joe to one of my favorite places in all of New Zealand: a field on the side of the road 😝 But not just any field – this one was filled to the brim with wildflowers! Similar to Iceland, these lupine flowers are considered an invasive species that are frequently doused with pesticides, so we didn’t feel too bad about smushing a few for some photos (here in the PNW, that is a major no-no)! The rain and the sun blended together to create epic, moody magic – the perfect way to end our experience. We grabbed one final commemorative shot of the newlyweds in front of their cutie campervan, which they had taken all across the country on their 2-week trip. All in all it was an absolute dream to shoot this magical elopement, and I can’t wait for my next trip back! ❤️