Love is in the air this month, and with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it’s the perfect opportunity to set some time aside to celebrate love or romance. Forget about the commercial aspects of Valentine’s Day and immerse yourself (and your loved one) in the romance of sharing a glorious sunset. This special moment is also ideal to share with a beloved friend or family member for a lasting memory together. Wendy Montrose shares a few of her favourite spots to catch a sunset.
Wellington Botanic Gardens
Last year, Wellington Botanic Gardens was the most popular place in New Zealand to pop the question. If you’re planning to get down on a knee this Valentine’s Day, pack a picnic, ride the cable car to the gardens, and pick your spot. Beside the duck pond, at Space Place or with the glowworms in the Main Garden, there are 25 hectares of gardens to choose from.
The Sky Tower, Auckland City
Elevated vantage points like Auckland’s Sky Tower are the place to be to catch magical sunsets. Soaring high above the street, the Sky Tower is perfect for watching the sun go down. Why not make a night of it and indulge in dinner at New Zealand’s only revolving restaurant while you enjoy unobstructed 360-degree views of the horizon?
Ramp up the romance factor with a sunset at a relic of a bygone era, a lighthouse. One of the most spectacular sites along the Wairarapa coastline, Castlepoint is particularly dramatic in a sunset with its rocky cliffs, the lighthouse and Castle Rock. Explore the scenic reserve with a 30-minute walk over the reef and past the lighthouse.
Mount Maunganui’s iconic mountain, Mauao, can be seen for miles around and the view from the summit is worth the effort it takes to get there. Pack a picnic and your camera and enjoy 360-degree views as the sun goes down. You’ll need a good level of fitness for this one and a torch for the descent. Two scenic tracks take you to the top, which at 232 metres high, is a 40-to-50-minute walk. Both tracks leave from the ocean side of the Base Track.
Wānaka is one of the most popular sunset spots in New Zealand with that tree and its unbeatable backdrop being one of the most photographed views in the country. If you fancy someplace quieter, Beacon Point is a favourite for photographing the lake at any time, but especially so at sunset. An easy and well-maintained shoreline track from Penrith Beach or Bremner Bay provides great lake and mountain views along the way. The walk, about 30 minutes long, suits all ages and abilities.
With its steep hills and Victorian buildings, Dunedin is drop-dead gorgeous at sunset. Grab a feed of fish and chips from the Flying Squid in Albany Street and head up to the Signal Hill Lookout for stunning views just a short drive from the centre city. To get there, head north towards Opoho and follow Signal Hill Road all the way to the end.
Koekohe Beach is worth a visit to catch a truly epic sunset among the Moeraki Boulders. Originally forming in ancient sea floor sediments around 60 million years ago, the spherical stones, or more accurately concretions have been exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs. There are still boulders coming loose from the mudstone and falling onto the beach making it a great place for a sunset selfie with your sweetheart.
A pleasant 20-minute walk through farmland takes you to stunning Wharariki Beach where the scenery easily rivals the recognised wonders of the world. At the northwestern tip of the South Island, with its windswept sand dunes and sculpted cliffs, there’s no more dramatic a place to watch a sunset. The weather at Wharariki is wild, and swimming is prohibited but you might be lucky enough to see penguins and seals coming home after a day’s fishing.