August 2017: Stargazing in New Zealand

New Zealand’s skies are some of the clearest in the world.

Aramoana Beach, Dunedin
Much of the country has no light pollution, and with two internationally recognised dark sky areas, New Zealand is becoming a bucket list destination for a new wave of “astro-tourists” and lovers of the night sky. 

The skies are beautiful any time of year, but if your clients come in winter, they might be lucky enough to catch the symphony of colour that is the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights. Identical to the Northern Lights, the Southern Lights bring spectacular hues of purple, green, yellow and blue that dance silently across the night sky.

Where to go? 

The skies above the South Island’s Mackenzie region, which includes the country’s highest peak Aoraki Mt Cook, have been officially declared an International Dark Sky Reserve. Covering 4,300 square kilometres, it is the largest reserve of its kind worldwide and is known as one of the best stargazing sites on earth. 

In June this year, Great Barrier Island off the north-eastern coast of Auckland became the first island in the world to be designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

With much of the island “off the grid”, light pollution is minimised, allowing for great viewing of the spectacular night sky.

The Southern Lights are seen mainly further south, in and around Lake Tekapo, Dunedin, Queenstown, Southland and Stewart Island. To maximise their chances, your clients should aim for a clear winter's night close to a new moon in either July or August.

Stargazing with a difference 

While the night sky is there for everyone to see on their trip to New Zealand, there are several products that will maximise your clients’ stargazing experience.

North Island 

They can catch the Cable Car up to Wellington's Carter Observatory, perched high above the city, to discover the stories and significance of New Zealand's southern skies. 

Known for its interactive experience, the Carter Observatory is New Zealand's national observatory.

Skyline Rotorua offers top-of-the line telescopes to give stargazers the chance to view an amazing array of sights, from the iconic Southern Cross, to nebulas, planets, the Milky Way and other galaxies.

The Auckland Stardome is an observatory and planetarium that has special shows for children as well as a planetarium and space gallery.

South Island 

At Aoraki Mt Cook’s Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre and Planetarium, Big Sky Stargazing begins with an introduction and orientation in the Digital Dome Planetarium highlighting the unique features of the southern night sky.

The informative astronomy guides then take your clients on a short drive (transport provided) to the outdoor stargazing site. 

Nearby turquoise Lake Tekapo is possibly one of New Zealand’s most photographed stargazing spots. Book your clients on one of Earth & Sky's tours at Tekapo's Mount John Observatory. Here, they’ll enjoy professional telescopes and knowledgeable, passionate guides for an unforgettable stargazing experience.

At Tekapo Springs, visitors can now soak in a natural hot pool while stargazing into one of the clearest night skies in the world.

They can enjoy an after-hours soak whilst listening to relaxing background “astro music”, as qualified “Star Guides” point out the brightest features in the night sky.

If your clients want to take away more than just the memory of the night skies, you could book them on a night-time photography adventure with Quiet Light in Fiordland.

A little further south, Queenstown also offers magical stargazing.
Visitors can catch a gondola high into the mountains with Skyline Stargazing and enjoy picking out constellations through the lenses of telescopes.