Missing for a month, the Matariki cluster of skies just re-appeared in our skies in time to wish New Zealand a happy Maori New Year! What better time to look to the skies and reset? Packed with certified Dark Sky parks and largely free of light pollution, our Kiwi neighbours know a thing or two about stargazing.
Feeling starstruck? Make a start by looking up when you next visit these top 8 locations for the best NZ stargazing.
Aotea (Great Barrier Island)
It is all about the sky on Aotea, which means ‘white cloud’ in Maori. One of New Zealand’s largest islands, its residents live completely off the grid. No electricity means no streetlights, which means no light pollution and clear night skies. Aotea was the first island to be accredited as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, meaning its wilderness is perfect for grabbing a gander of twinkling twilights. It is a short ferry ride or plane trip from Auckland.
Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve
This South Island sanctuary has next to no light pollution, and a Gold Status to prove it. The stars stand out against the craggy peaks of the region’s mountains. This is a great place for spotting the Southern Cross, the Magellanic Clouds and the Milky Way, unique to the Southern Hemisphere.
Rakiura (Stewart Island)
Rakiura translates to ‘glowing skies,’ so the clue is all in the name! This island is located way down south. Therefore it isn’t just good for prime NZ stargazing, but also for spotting the Aurora Australis, the southern hemisphere’s Northern Lights. Get a good vantage point at Observation Rock viewing platform, 30 minutes on foot from Oban.
Tongariro Night Crossing
It might not be an official International Dark Sky space, but this alpine crossing has all the lakes, volcanoes and constellations you need for dramatic after-dark scenery. Most people conquer the famous hike by day. Armed with a head torch, follow a guide past Nngaurahoe, Ruapehu and Tongariro mountains at night instead.
The Atea a Rangi, Waitangi Regional Park
This Hawke’s Bay spot is special indeed. The Atea a Rangi is a star compass designed to teach traditional navigation using the skies. A visit here is a great way to learn about Maori tradition and early arrivals from across the oceans.
Martinborough has its sights set on Dark Sky status. Castlepoint lighthouse makes for an atmospheric viewing point for the rise of the Milky Way.
Otaga Peninsula, Dunedin
You may also spot the Southern Lights from the Otago coastline, under the right conditions. Regardless, this is a great NZ stargazing option for budding night photographers.
Auckland natives or daytrippers can venture just over an hour by car from the North Island city to the stunning Tawharanui Peninsula. Wake up the morning after your stargazing session to swim or walk the beautiful beaches.