Looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities? A refreshing and romantic experience in New Zealand that will surely light up your visit is stargazing. New Zealand is known to have some of the most spectacular sites to see the stars in the world. With little light pollution and off the grid locations you can see stars pretty much anywhere throughout the country. However, if you are wanting to visit the best spots this is where we recommend.
Firstly, what is a Dark Sky Reserve? You may have heard of this term before and if not you will in the locations mentioned below. To put it simply this status is awarded by the Dark Sky Association to areas that protect their night environment through sustainable outdoor lighting. Regions that achieved this status have managed to restrict electricity and light pollution in their area often with policies put in place by local groups.
Great Barrier Island
A 35-minute flight or a 4 ½ hour ferry trip away from Auckland CBD will take you to Great Barrier Island. Although it is only a short trip out of the city it feels like a different world stepping foot onto this remote island. Visitors enjoy the benefits that come with being so secluded including the wildlife, privacy, native bush and the tranquil ambience. Great Barrier Island was the first in the world to be designated a Dark Sky Sanctuary. This status is a result of community support, being away from the lights of the city and relying only on solar and generator power. All these factors allow for the perfect conditions to see the night sky light up with stars.
Good Heavens Dark Sky Experiences are based on Great Barrier Island with trained Dark Sky Ambassadors; a local group that know the island like the back of their hand. Whether you are looking for a private experience from your accommodation or a group tour to the darkest locations these guys are your go to for a special tour. There is even an option to ‘dine with the stars’ as a private experience. Enjoy a closer look with binoculars provided, comfortable seating, blankets and hot beverages to keep you cozy.
Tongariro National Park
Popular for day hikes Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a stunning 19km hike that combines coloured lakes, an active crater, steam vents and much more. It is no wonder that this park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the day in peak season the tracks are usually packed with people but very few walk the tracks at night. This is an opportunity for those looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy a private night experience that will allow you to see some of the best views in the world with a magnificent star show in the background.
Adrift NZ tours will guide you up the track starting at two in the morning … while that may seem impossible for some to get up at that hour trust us when we say it is well worth the early wake up. As you climb to the top and look out you will not only get to see a fantastic view of the stars and moon shining over Mount Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom) but also get to watch the sunrise from an active crater.
Located at the bottom of New Zealand’s north island is the Wairarapa District, just a half hours drive from the capital city – Wellington. A rural area that offers tourists a wide range of activities from wine tasting to star gazing. This region is an up and coming star gazing area that aims to have the next Dark Sky Reserve. Martinborough in the Wairarapa is said to have extremely dark and clear skies which are ideal for seeing the constellations and sometimes even the milkyway. Keep an eye out for this region to see if they are going to become another Dark Sky Reserve.
Take a tour with Under The Stars who organise private stargazing experiences and group events. What’s unique about this tour is that visitors get the chance to learn the night sky through early navigation and legends are told. Also, something different that this tour offers is an introduction to deep sky astrophotography. Telescopes and binoculars are also available for use.
Arguably the most famous area to see the stars is in the South Island is the Mackenzie region. This remote part of the country is home to the world class Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Within this Dark Sky Reserve is Mt Cook, Tekapo and Twizel which all offer exceptional tours to see the stars. Being the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world this is definitely one that stargazers must visit. away from the city lights and free from light pollution take the time to study the stars and galaxies as well as learn the history.
Choose from a range of stargazing tours in this region and learn more about the universe. Be amazed as you stand in awe surrounded by silhouettes of mountains with starry backdrops. Popular tours include Big Sky Stargazing at the bottom of Mount Cook or a visit to Tekapo’s Mount John Observatory. Enthusiastic guides, unforgettable stargazing and quality equipment combine to make this area an exceptional place to visit.
Fancy watching the stars in the snow or even a night ski? You can do just that in the Queenstown region of New Zealand. Take a gondola up the mountain on a clear night to look over the stunning region and enjoy a star filled sky. While this region may not be a Dark Sky Reserve it sure is a top location to not only see the stars but also for its stunning landscapes and known as the adventure capital of the world. If you get the chance Rakiura/Stewart Island is also recognised as a Dark Sky Sanctuary which is just a little further south.
Stargazing in New Zealand
Skyline Queenstown are the top tour company in the area to see our galaxy. Experience a guided tour to Bobs Peak and use the powerful telescopes provided to discover a magical sight. If that wasn’t enough, they also offer a complimentary hot chocolate to warm up after. Don’t worry if the weather is bad, they have an indoor option too