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 Come and gaze at the heavens at our New Zealand Dark Sky places. You won't be disappointed.


As one of the World's best star gazing locations, New Zealand dark sky places offer you an unforgettable viewing experience.

At the time of writing, New Zealand had three dark sky protected regions, with a fourth park in the planning stages.


The Legend

According to Maori legend, the stars were placed in the sky by Tãne, an ancient god, and were used by the ancestors to guide them across the sea to their new home in Aotearoa. The stars have a very special place in Maori culture and history.

Our perfect conditions

Our pristine, dark skies, offer some of the best viewing conditions on Earth. With a similar size to the U.K., but a population of around five million, we have virtually no light pollution to obscure your view of the heavens.

Increasing light pollution around the World is gradually excluding the stars from view, with almost eighty percent of those living in North America having no view of the stunning Milky Way.

Fortunately, that same galaxy is visible to nearly ninety seven percent of all lucky New Zealanders!

So as you can see, our New Zealand dark sky places are some of the best in the world.

Why us?

As embodied in our Tiaki, Kiwis have a deep and healthy respect for our nation.

The sky is sacred to us, and we want to protect what is unique for our visitors, for future generations and for our Whanau (family).

To do this, we decided to celebrate by establishing several dark sky places throughout New Zealand.

Tekapo Mt. John Observatory image courtesy Miles Holden and TNZ

How did we get our New Zealand Dark Sky places accredited?

Of course we couldn't just declare ourselves "dark sky".

The IDA (International Dark-Sky Association), based in the United States, sets the rules for every dark-sky place on Earth. They oversee the accreditation of the various reserves and sanctuaries, and ensure that strict standards are observed to maintain that accreditation.

The application and assessment process can be lengthy and complex, but certainly not beyond some very dedicated New Zealand communities.

The Lindis in the Ahuriri Valley North Otago

Where can I find New Zealand Dark-Sky Places?

At the time of publication, we have four dedicated dark sky places:

  • the gold-rated International Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin (South Island)
  • a dark sky sanctuary on Great Barrier Island (on the North Island near Auckland)
  • another dark sky sanctuary at Stewart Island (the far south of the South Island)
  • a dark sky park at Wai-iti (close to Nelson at the top of the South Island).

The Mackenzie Basin

This is the only "gold" reserve south of the equator, and one of only a few in the world.

Several decades ago, the region recognised the benefits of minimising light pollution within settled areas.

The beautiful town of Takapo (also known as Lake Tekapo village) sits on the shores of the turquoise Lake Tekapo.

It's now a world leader as a star gazing hub, with several viewing options available including guided tours.

Takapo is home to the University of Canterbury Mount John Observatory, which sits on a peak around fifteen minutes drive from Takapo village.

The region also offers you some other wonderful experiences such as lazing in hot pools or even sleeping under the stars.

Tekapo Springs even offer a tour where you can gaze at the stars whilst floating in a hot pool! Now that is uniquely New Zealand!

The town of Takapo is around 3 hours drive south of Christchurch on the South Island.

And it's also home to one of New Zealand's most photographed landmarks, the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Great Barrier Island

Around one hundred kilometres north of Auckland, in the Hauraki Gulf, the remote Great Barrier Island achieved Dark Sky Sanctuary status in 2017. The island's isolation and lack of light pollution made it an easy choice for the people at the IDA. The island relies on solar power, has no street lighting or traffic signals, and very little in the way of development.

The island has a very willing group of qualified Dark Sky Ambassadors ready and waiting to show you the wonders of their night sky.

You can fly to Great Barrier Island from New Zealand's largest city Auckland (around 30 minutes flight time). Or, you can catch a SeaLink ferry from Auckland for the ninety kilometre journey (around four and a half hours).

Night sky at Castlepoint in the Wairarapa. Image courtesy Daniel Rood and TNZ

Stewart Island

The residents of Stewart Island saw the success of their northern friends on Great Barrier Island, and thought "why not us".

With the world's best views of the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis), Stewart Island was a natural fit for Dark-Sky accreditation.

Maori legend has it that the sunsets, sunrises and the glow of the Aurora represent the blushing of an ancient chief named Te Rakitamau.

Stewart Island is accessible by air from Invercargill (around 20 minutes flight time) or by ferry from Bluff (around one hour crossing time).

Wai-iti

More recently, in mid 2020, Wai-iti, near Nelson on the South Island, was granted Dark Sky Park accreditation.

This status is reserved for smaller areas, and the accreditation is a tribute to a dedicated group of local astronomers, whose efforts have now placed the area on the world "dark sky map".

Of course if you are in the region, don't forget to take in everything else that the Tasman has to offer, including the bays and beaches of the Abel Tasman National Park.

Nelson is easily accessible by road from Christchurch (around 5 hours drive), or by air from several major centres including Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. Nelson is around one and a half hours drive from the ferry port at Picton.

But wait, that's not all!

Keen to showcase our night skies, several other regions are also working on their New Zealand dark sky accreditation.

Keep an eye open on the progress of Dunedin (in the South Island) and the village of Martinborough (in the Wairarapa ) near Wellington.

The IDA website will keep you up to date on their progress, and of any future New Zealand dark sky places.

The brilliant night sky at Tekapo on the South Island - image courtesy Miles Holden and TNZ

How about a guided tour?

Of course you can just come to one of our very special New Zealand dark sky places, pull up a chair, and gaze to the heavens.

But if you want a more educational experience, here's some links to a few of the more popular guided dark sky experiences available:

Some very special places to stay

SkyScape

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to lay in bed and gaze up at the universe?

Well, you can do just that in the Mackenzie Basin.

Near the town of Twizel on New Zealand's South Island, SkyScape is a stunning glass roofed property, located on a working sheep farm, deep inside the Mackenzie New Zealand dark sky reserve.

Picture yourself relaxing in the comfort of your plush bed as you watch the ever-changing night sky through your glass roof!

With outstanding views of the surrounding ranges, SkyScape also offers you a delightful continental breakfast, or you can add the option of a wonderful dinner featuring local produce.

You can also hike through the surrounding countryside or even take a guided tour of the farm.

SkyScape is another uniquely Kiwi experience that you shouldn't miss.


The Lindis

Concealed in the beautiful Ahuriri Valley, the Lindis is a unique luxury lodge, offering guests an almost unparalleled level of luxury and service.

Nestled into the surroundings, the lodge blends seamlessly with its environment.

The floor to ceiling windows allow uninterrupted views of the pristine landscape.

Relax in the lush lounge area as you enjoy a drink, or perhaps a game of billiards before dinner.

Experience fine dining with a mouth watering selection of local produce, before retiring to your luxurious suite.

For information on availability and pricing click HERE.

When you visit New Zealand why not take the time to come and enjoy our special New Zealand dark sky places. You won't be disappointed.

And if you have any questions at all, just Ask Us.

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