Mount Cook Mackenzie

In the heart of the South Island lies the aqua waters of Lakes Pukaki, Ohau and Tekapo. Soak up alpine grandeur by day and admire starry galaxies by night.

Together with Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, these lakes form the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve. The world’s largest dark sky reserve, its gold-rated status is due to the quality of its almost completely light-pollution free skies. Here, the heavens appear closer to earth – it’s the best place in New Zealand to go stargazing. Big Sky Stargazing and Mount John Observatory are both nearby, or join one of Earth & Sky’s tours.

Christchurch - Canterbury
Inky, starry skies, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Julian Apse

This part of New Zealand is far away from city lights, making it perfect for star gazing.

During the day, there’s plenty of ways to make the most of the dramatic alpine landscape. The Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail winds through this region, and while cycling its full 310km (192mi) length may not take your fancy, hiking or cycling a shorter section of the trail is a great way to explore the aqua lakes and fields of golden tussock that surround Lakes Pukaki, Ohau and Tekapo.

Christchurch - Canterbury
Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Tourism New Zealand

Cycle or hike past turquoise lakes and the soaring Southern Alps on this well-formed trail.

Don’t miss a visit to the Church of the Good Shepherd. Perched on the edge of Lake Tekapo, the tiny stone church was built as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie country.

Christchurch - Canterbury
Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Tourism New Zealand

Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo

Exploring by paddle power for a few hours is another way to soak up the beauty of these landscapes. Kayaks are available for hire on Lake Tekapo – make the most of the high sunshine hours and still days this region is known for.

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is nearby. Take a stroll in the valleys underneath Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain, or visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre for a glimpse of the region’s pioneering history and most famous mountaineer.

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