Dark, clear skies, unique celestial features and otherworldly landscapes make stargazing in New Zealand a breathtakingly magical experience.
Here, the heavens appear closer to Earth.
See constellations and shooting stars in glittering dark skies; much of New Zealand has no light pollution and is home to some of the most accessible observatories in the world.
Here are some of the best stargazing experiences in New Zealand.
Recently, 4,300 square kilometres of New Zealand’s South Island was recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest reserve of this type worldwide. Covering much of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region, the Dark Sky Reserve has been labelled as one of the best stargazing sites on Earth.
For stargazing at Mount Cook, head to Big Sky Stargazing(opens in new window) at the foot of Mount Cook or join one of Dark Sky Project(opens in new window) (formerly Earth & Sky) tours at Tekapo's Mount John Observatory. Here, you'll enjoy professional telescopes and knowledgeable, passionate guides for an unforgettable stargazing experience.
New Zealand's very own Great Barrier Island is one of only five Dark Sky Sanctuaries and in June 2017 was named the first Island Sanctuary of the world. Enjoy Good Heavens Dark Sky Experiences with stargazing packages for individuals or groups including "Dining with the Stars".
Recently, Stewart Island/Rakiura was officially recognised as the world's fifth International Dark Sky Sanctuary and the second Island Sanctuary in the world. Local policies acknowledge the value that the Stewart Island/Rakiura community places on environmental protection and help to preserve the pristine skies.
If you travel New Zealand in winter, you might be lucky enough to catch the symphony of colour that is the Aurora Australis.
Identical to the Northern Lights, this phenomenon is caused by the collision of atoms and energy-charged particles above the North and South Poles. These collisions are brought to life by spectacular sheets of purple, green, yellow and blue that dance silently across the night sky.
The Southern Lights are seen mainly in the southern half of the South Island, in and around Lake Tekapo/Takapō, Dunedin, Queenstown, Southland and Stewart Island. To maximise your chances, aim for a clear winter's night sky close to a new moon in either July or August.
Winter in New Zealand is also a time to celebrate Matariki, the Māori New Year. During the months of June and July, the Matariki star cluster reappears above the horizon, ushering in a new year according to the Māori lunar calendar.
You can take part in festivities around New Zealand that mark Matariki, such as light shows on the Auckland Harbour Bridge or at Te Papa Museum in Wellington. This is a great opportunity to learn more about this star cluster and the significance it holds in Māori culture.
If you would like to go stargazing in the North Island, head to Castle Point in Wairarapa or The Coromandel.
Or, you could 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. The Auckland Stardome is an observatory and planetarium that has special shows for children as well as a planetarium and space gallery.