New Zealand is definitely a haven for stargazers. With clear skies and very little light pollution, stargazing in New Zealand is possible from pretty much anywhere and you will be blown away. If you want to take your stargazing to the next level though, you really need to check out some of these awesome destinations.
1. Queenstown – Night Skiing
Winter is the perfect time of the year to indulge in a bit of night skiing in Queenstown. The season starts in early July and you will be able to night ski at the Coronet Peak ski resort on Friday and Saturday nights. The floodlights mean that stargazing whilst you ski is not going to be the best, however as you drive back to Queenstown from the slopes, take the time to pull into one of the viewing stops and take in the amazing skies above Queenstown. There is something pretty special about skiing under the stars so make sure you add it to your bucket list.
Find out more about night skiing: https://www.coronetpeak.co.nz/
2. Wellington – Zealandia at Night Tour
Located just a short hop from downtown Wellington is the amazing Zealandia Ecosanctuary. This place is pretty amazing and if you want to try something a bit different, then try their night tour. Departing around 30 minutes before sunset, this two and a half hour tour is a great way to not only get up close and personal with the nocturnal animals that call the sanctuary their home including native kiwi, but it’s also a great chance to stargaze. The torches all have a red filter so they won’t disturb the wildlife and this also means there is very little light pollution – perfect for spotting those constellations.
Book your tour today: https://www.visitzealandia.com/Visit#tours
3. Stewart Island – Rakiura National Park Night Tour
Another great place to take a night tour is on Stewart Island. New Zealand’s third island is located off the southern tip of the South Island and is home to the Rakiura National Park. Home to native kiwi, you can take a night tour into the park to head out kiwi spotting, however, a big draw for a lot of people is the opportunity to see the Aurora Australis – the Southern Lights. Whilst they are not quite as famous as their northern counterparts, the Aurora Borealis, the Southern Lights are a sight to behold. There is a super-low level of light pollution down here making stargazing a cinch. The dark night sky provides the perfect backdrop to the magnificent dancing lights of the Aurora Australis. Wow!
Find out more about a night tour on Stewart Island: https://www.stewartislandexperience.co.nz/things-to-do/wild-kiwi-encounter/
4. Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve
The Aoraki National Park is home to a 4,300 sq km chunk of land that was designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012. It’s the world’s largest IDSR and the first to be awarded ‘gold’ status (which basically means there is no light pollution at all). This is without a doubt one of the best places in the Southern Hemisphere to stargaze and a place where you could stay all night, looking up at the never-ending stars in the night sky. If you are visiting Aoraki Mt Cook and staying in the region, a walk out in the evening will reveal a truly stunning canvas above.
Find out more about stargazing in Aoraki Mackenzie: https://mackenzienz.com/activities/stargazing/
5. Lake Tekapo – Mt John Observatory
Located in the Aoraki Mackenzie region is Lake Tekapo which is famous as one of the best places in New Zealand to stargaze. The night sky above Tekapo is truly magical and if you really want to enhance your experience, take a trip to the top of Mt John and visit the observatory up there where you can join the night tour and use the country’s most powerful telescope to spot up to 50 million stars. That’s a lot of stars right there!
Discover the Earth and Sky night tour: https://www.darkskyproject.co.nz/tours/summit-experience/
6. Tongariro Crossing – Night Hike
The Tongariro Crossing is known throughout the world as one of the best one-day hikes. With an undulating landscape full of sulphurous lakes and set in the midst of the towering mountains of Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom), Tongariro and Ruapehu, the Tongariro Crossing is also one of New Zealand’s busiest walking tracks. If you want to avoid the crowds and do some serious stargazing, book yourself onto a night crossing. Heading off at around 2am, you will be guided by your headlamp and your guide as you pass between the eerie shadow of the mountains before watching an amazing sunrise from the top of red crater. Now that’s a Tongariro Crossing experience you will never forget.
Find out more about night crossings: https://www.adriftnz.co.nz/guided-walks/
7. Auckland – Shakespear Regional Park Night Hike
If you are up in Auckland, it is worth taking a drive 45 minutes north of the city to discover Shakespear Regional Park. The park is New Zealand’s most visited and accessible open sanctuary, integrating conservation, recreation and farming. Completely pest free, the park is also home to some of New Zealand’s most threatened native wildlife. Whilst there are no guided tours, the park is open to pedestrians 24 hours a day and we can highly recommend a night trip to the top of the lookout. If you’re lucky, you may get the opportunity to see some of the recently reintroduced kiwis, however, what you will see is an amazing sky above – a great place to stargaze. With the city skyline in the backdrop and looking out over Rangitoto, this is an awesome place to stargaze. It’s also an amazing spot to watch the sunrise!
Find out more about the regional park: http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/shakespear
So there you have it, our top 7 places to stargaze in New Zealand. Have you been anywhere else where you have been blown away by the night sky in New Zealand? Drop us a comment below or let us know on our Facebook page – we’d love to find more great places to stargaze in NZ.