Mount Hikurangi - Eric Hanson

8 Great Places To Watch The Sun Rise

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty than watching the sunrise paint the sky with its glorious colours. Keen to do a bit of sun-chasing yourself? Keren Sim finds some stunning spots to visit.

Mount Hikurangi – Gisborne

From our position in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand is lucky to be one of the first places in the world to wake up to a new day – and Gisborne is the first city in Aotearoa to do so. For a truly special sunrise viewing, consider hiking up nearby Mount Hikurangi, the highest non-volcanic peak in the North Island and the first place on the mainland to greet the new dawn. This is the sacred maunga of Ngāti Porou and a place of great significance for Māori history and culture – to get the full experience, there are local guided tours available.

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Maungauika/North Head – Auckland

The spectacular views from Devonport’s North Head in Auckland make it fantastic for sunrise-watching. This historic reserve offers an expansive outlook over the water to the city centre, as well as Rangitoto Island and the wider Hauraki Gulf. Once you’ve managed to peel yourself away from the view, spend some time exploring the many other attractions, including a series of tunnels and military fortifications dotted throughout, a remnant of North Head’s past as an important coastal defence point for Auckland.

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Maungawhau/Mount Eden – Auckland

Another Auckland favourite for good reason, Maungawhau stands 196m tall – making it the highest volcano in the city. As you might expect, this means you can enjoy wonderful views over Auckland and out towards Waitematā Harbour from the summit. Find a comfortable spot, settle in and enjoy the sun’s rays as they peek out over that glorious vista. Plus, to reward yourself after that brisk walk, why not pop into Mount Eden village on your way out and enjoy a coffee and a hearty breakfast from one of the many great cafes in the area.

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Tapeka Point – Russell

If you’re heading to the Far North, the historic town of Russell is well worth a visit for more reasons than one, but if you’re an avid sunrise watcher, make sure you add Tapeka Point to your itinerary. A short walk up to the summit of this hill will reward you with sweeping 360° views across the stunning Bay of Islands, including nearby Paihia and Waitangi. Tapeka Point beach is also a great base to explore the Bay of Islands from (whether over land or on the water) and comes equipped with a boat ramp, swimming pontoon and ski lane. For fishing enthusiasts, Rocky Beach, on the other side of the point, offers plenty of good rock fishing spots to explore as well.

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Waikawau Bay – Coromandel

Tucked away in the Coromandel, Waikawau Bay offers the quintessential white sand and crystal-clear waters that Kiwi beachgoers know and love. Despite being fairly popular with both locals and visitors to the area, it still retains that untouched charm that characterises the best New Zealand beaches – and it makes a wonderful spot to settle in for the sunrise. You can watch nature’s beauty on show right from the beach itself, or if you’re feeling adventurous, the nearby Matamataharakeke walking track also offers superlative views over the bay from the lookout point. A DOC-administered campsite nearby offers plenty of powered and unpowered spots for those wishing to stay a little longer.

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Milford Sound – Fiordland

Milford Sound is arguably one of our most breathtaking natural wonders (and we’re lucky enough to live in a country full of them!), so it’s no surprise this is a sunrise-chaser’s paradise. For those yearning for a mountain view rather than a beach, seeing the first rays of dawn break through the snow-capped peaks, reflected in the tranquil waters of this Fiordland stunner, is a simply majestic experience that’s not to be missed. There are many ways to get to Milford Sound via land, water, and air, but the drive down is particularly rewarding with several scenic gems to discover along the way. Just make sure to plan ahead to avoid traffic as the road can get very busy, particularly around cruise times.

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Saint Clair Beach – Dunedin

Situated just minutes from central city Dunedin, St Clair Beach is a lovely white sand spot that’s popular with local surfers. Stroll along the esplanade, watch the waves lapping against the shore, and take in the beauty of the sunrise from this relaxed seaside spot. As the day breaks, there are plenty of other things to do along this sunny stretch of sand – grab a coffee from one of the many cafes lining the promenade, or take a dip in the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool at the southern end of the beach (perfect for when the weather’s not as warm!).

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Kaiteriteri – Tasman

Another golden sands beach for the picture books, Kaiteriteri is a favoured South Island spot that’s located just 15 minutes from Motueka. A short walk up the headland at the south end will give you more of an elevated view for sunrise, and will also lead you to Little Kaiteriteri, the next bay over – a good option to explore if the main beach itself is crowded. Settle in and soak up the rays as they suffuse the horizon with an early morning glow. This gorgeous beach is also the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, so it makes a great starting point for further summer adventures.

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