Single crystalline zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoneedles have been grown on Au coated Si (1 0 0) substrates in an inert gas atmosphere by physical vapor deposition (PVD) process. A mixture of ZnO and graphite powder was used as precursor for the production of nanoneedles. Their structure has been assessed by a range of techniques including scanning electron microscope (SEM), high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM), Raman spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The synthesized ZnO nanoneedles have tip diameter around 30 nm and average length of 5 μm. The XRD patterns and HRTEM measurements revealed the highly crystalline phase of wurtzite single crystalline structure, with a preferred 0 0 0 1 growth direction. Field emission from these nanoneedles was investigated and a low turn on voltage of 5.07 V μm−1 at a current density of 10 μA cm−2 was observed.