The best time to see the southern lights or Aurora Australis in Aotearoa New Zealand is from March to September, when the dark night skies are longer. Head to far-flung islands to discover one of NZ's unique experiences.

Find out more where to get a billion star view of some of the clearest skies from earth.

Take a look at the best places to stargaze in New Zealand.

1. Dark Sky Project, Takapō (Tekapo)

Dark Sky Project (formally Earth and Sky)(opens in new window), based in Takapō (Tekapo) offer an astro-tourism experience within Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. 

Embark on an interactive journey delivering insight into the world of tātai aroraki (Māori astronomy) and partake in the Dark Sky Project stargazing experience at Mt John Observatory. 

Using immersive visual displays, visitors can explore the science-based narrative of how living beings came to be. Delve into the depths of the Milky Way with the impressive 125-year-old recently restored Brashear telescope.

Explore Lake Takapō (Tekapo)

2. Big Sky Stargazing, Aoraki / Mt Cook

Located within the Hermitage Hotel, Big Sky Stargazing(opens in new window) treats you to a 60-90 minute tour of the crisp night sky of Aoraki / Mt Cook.  

Near New Zealand's highest mountain, on a clear night, you'll be shuttled to Star Base where your expert Big Sky Stargazing guides share their knowledge of the solar system and celestial wonders. 

Sit back and relax with a hot drink and admire the stars above. 

At the end of the tour your guides will present you with a digital photo of yourself against the night sky. 

Explore Aoraki Mt Cook

3. Tekapo Springs Star Gazing, Takapō (Tekapo)

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is the largest Dark Sky in the world. At a whopping 4,300 square kilometres and with minimal light pollution its no wonder people visit from all over the world. 

The ultimate in stellar relaxation, Tekapo Stargazing(opens in new window) is the only guided hot pools and star gazing experience in New Zealand. 

Firstly, your guide will escort you to the best stargazing spot nearby to entertain and educate you using a combination of astronomy and storytelling. 

Followed by exclusive use of the 38-degree hot pool. Simply lie back on a floating hammock and relax under the stars. Your guide is poolside to share local stories about New Zealand myths and legends combined with the science behind constellations, planets and galaxies. Bliss! 

4. Twinkle Dark Sky Tours, Stewart Island

Explore Stewart Island's Dark Sky Sanctuary. With the chance to view craters on the moon and the centre of the galaxy, a Twinkle Dark Sky Tour(opens in new window) will show you some of the most stunning sites in our solar system.

Due to its remote southern location, Stewart Island/Rakiura is virtually free of light pollution. 

In 2019 Stewart Island/Rakiura officially became an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. At nearly 47º south, this is possibly the southernmost astrotour in the world, and one of the best places to observe the magical Aurora Australis (Southern Lights). 

Explore Stewart Island

5. Stonehenge Aotearoa, Wairarapa

Set in the countryside in the Wairarapa region, Stonehenge Aotearoa(opens in new window) is an open-air astronomical observatory which showcases a modern version of the mysterious ancient monument of Stonehenge and adapted to New Zealand's conditions. Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve is recognised as the only internationally recognised Dark Sky Reserve in the North Island and is the most accessible of the 20 protected Dark Sky Reserves in the world. 

A daytime guided tour aims to educate you about the henge, Māori starlore, Polynesian navigation and archeoastronomy (how people and cultures in the past have read the skies).

Under the stars on the guided night tour expert stargazing guides provide informative stargazing tours of the Wairarapa night sky. At the end of the tour you will know how to navigate the visible solar system, know the difference between stars and planets and have gained knowledge about the science of space.

Towns in Wairarapa region

6. Horizon Tours, Dunedin

The Otago Peninsula coastline surround Dunedin provides a clear, breathtaking view of the night sky and a magical backdrop of coastal bird calls echoing across Hoopers Inlet. In the right conditions, this rural coastal area is a prime location for viewing the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights). 

Join a unique star gazing journey with Horizon Tours(opens in new window) to learn about celestial features of the Southern sky while sharing stories and waiata (song) about how Māori viewed the night sky.

Learn celestial points of significance and listen to stories detailing Māori myths of creation, of how Te Ao Marama (the world of light) emerged. Learn about how Māori relied on detailed astronomical knowledge, or tātai arorangi, to navigate the ocean.

Enjoy manaakitanga (hospitality) with a light supper and hot beverage as you marvel at the skies above.

Things to do in Dunedin

7. Good Heavens, Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary and the first island sanctuary in the world.

The island owes it's dark skies to minimal light pollution perhaps also due to the island being off-grid.

Join a stargazing tour with Good Heavens(opens in new window) and sit back in the comfortable ''moon chairs'' as the waves lap against the shore while gazing up and learn about the constellations and galaxies above. 

The high-powered telescope gives great views of the Milky Way, planets and the starry night sky. 

Make a night of it and package the tour with a meal on the ‘Dining with the Stars’ tour.

Explore Great Barrier Island

8. Adrift Tongariro, Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Have you ever thought of stargazing in the early morning? Stargazing is not just for the late night hours. 

Experience a guided Sunrise Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike with Adrift Tongariro(opens in new window)

The tour begins sometime between 1am - 3am (weather and sunrise dependant) and your experienced guide leads the way to a special part of the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Hike under the Milky Way, the Southern Cross and enjoy the dark starry skies without the crowds. If you're lucky you may even see some shooting stars. 

Breakfast is served at the Red Crater as the stars slowly disappear and the orange hues of the sunrise appear. 

Things to do in Ruapehu region

9. Pukaki Wine Cellar and Observatory, Lake Pukaki

The tastiest way to view the Southern skies is with a wine and nibbles at Pukaki Observatory and Wine Cellar(opens in new window).

Located at Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat at Lake Pukaki, in the heart of the Aoraki International Dark Sky Reserve, the observatory is set in a rural location with absolutely no light pollution.

The roof of the observatory slides back to reveal the dark night sky for both naked eye and telescopic viewing.

Included in the tour, your guide can teach basic tips and tricks to capture some great night sky photos. 

A private astrophotography session with a professional photographer can also be booked in advance. The photographer will meet you on site for a personalised workshop to develop your astrophotography knowledge and technique. 

Located just a short drive from Twizel.

Visit Twizel

10. Skyline Stargazing, Queenstown

From the centre of Queenstown take the gondola for an awe-inspiring Skyline Queenstown Stargazing Tour(opens in new window)

Once at the top, your knowledgeable stargazing guides will lead you up Bob’s Peak to a specially-constructed platform. High above the city lights and in the darkness the platform allows for an epic stargazing experience using both the naked eye and telescopes. 

Using the Southern Cross as a base, your guide will teach you how to navigate the solar system, galaxies, clusters and nebulae. 

After the tour enjoy a complimentary cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine in Stratosfare Bar before taking the gondola back down to the town. 

Things to do in Queenstown

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