5 Stargazing Sites in New Zealand© Unsplash
5 Stargazing Sites in New Zealand

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2024]

© Unsplash
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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Where to Go Stargazing in New Zealand

Have you ever seen the Milky Way‘s satellite galaxies or the Southern Cross? Or seen a sky so clear that you can watch a satellite move through the sky amongst shooting stars?

New Zealand literally holds some of the best stargazing locations in the world; the Aoraki Mt Cook Mackenzie region is the largest International Dark Sky Reserve. With frequent clear skies, minimal light pollution, and by being in the Southern Hemisphere, you can see unique star features on tours using specialist equipment, or simply walk out of your front door and look up. So where are the best places and tours for stargazing in New Zealand? Find out in the list below.

1. Auckland

Little do visitors realise that even in New Zealand’s largest and most populated city, the stargazing is incredible. What’s more, it’s the easiest stargazing location to get to for most. Auckland covers a vast area with pockets of dark skies in regional parks, such as Piha, the Hunua Ranges and Shakespear Regional Park. Join the Social Nature Movement for one of their informative and fun stargazing tours in any one of these locations, whether it’s their 2-hour Dark Sky Stargazing Tour, catching a cosmic event atop Mt Eden on the Cosmic Tour, or paddleboarding, sea kayaking or hiking during a Full Moon Tour. SNM also offers stargazing tours on Great Barrier Island (see below).

Location: Auckland, North Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Social Nature Movement

2. Lake Tekapo

In the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, Lake Tekapo is one of the top locations in the world to stargaze and see the Southern Lights. Wait until after dark to check out the observatory on top of Mt John or Cowen’s Hill with the Dark Sky Project. Alternatively, daytime tours are available at the indoor exhibition of the Dark Sky Experience, showcasing astronomy from Maori legends to recent discoveries. For an affordable small-group tour, check out Chameleon Stargazing. Find out more about Lake Tekapo in the 10 Best Things to Do in Lake Tekapo.

Location: Lake Tekapo, Canterbury, South Island.

5 Stargazing Sites in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com

3. Twizel

By day, explore The Lord of the Rings scenery. By night, explore the night sky. Twizel is also part of the 4,300 kmĀ² (2,672 miĀ²) that is the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. There are fewer commercial operators in this underrated stargazing site, with the intimate Alpha Crux being a worthwhile option, but simply sitting back and gazing at the dark clear skies is a highlight in Twizel. That’s along with the 10 Best Things to Do in Twizel.

Location: Twizel, Canterbury, South Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Jack Austin - ChristchurchNZ

4. Aoraki Mt Cook

Our last location in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Stargazing from any of the campgrounds or the outskirts of the national park’s tiny village makes for a worthy stargazing site when the weather is clear. Otherwise, Big Sky Stargazing offers stargazing tours with powerful telescopes at their stargazing base to make the most of the night sky. If the weather isn’t playing ball, check out the Planetarium of the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, as listed in the 20 Best Things to Do in Aoraki Mt Cook.

Location: Mt Cook Village, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, Canterbury, South Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

5. Great Barrier Island

Get well and truly off the beaten track to the far-flung Great Barrier Island, one of the breathtaking island escapes in Auckland. It was the first island in the world to be established as a Dark Sky Sanctuary, and with a multitude of multi-day hiking trails and places to camp, there’s no lack of opportunities to stargaze. For an enhanced experience, join either the Social Nature Movement or Good Heavens for an educative experience with your guide using a powerful laser pointer to tell the story of the stars.

Location: Great Barrier Island (see how to get there in our Great Barrier Island Guide), Auckland.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© ATEED

6. Queenstown

Sheltered by mountains, Queenstown often has clear skies for a spot of stargazing. Our advice is to get to high places to enjoy the best views, such as Deer Park Heights, Fernhill, Queenstown Hill and more. For a better view using telescopes, join Skyline Queenstown at the top of the gondola. The 1-hour experience includes learning how to navigate using the Southern Cross, as well as exploring the Milky Way through 11″ Celestron telescopes. Couple your experience with some of the 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown. Plus, learn more about getting the best Milky Way views in The Best Time to See the Milky Way in New Zealand.

Location: Queenstown, Otago, South Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Unsplash

7. Dunedin

Another South Island beauty, it’s easy to get away from the city lights of Dunedin by escaping to the Otago Peninsula. There is no lack of beaches or hilltops where you can soak in the stars, but guided experiences with Horizon Tours take stargazing to the next level, teaching Maori astronomical knowledge while gazing at an array of celestial features, which you can get a preview of in our guide of What to Look for When Watching the Stars in New Zealand. Enjoy Maori hospitality (manaakitanga) with a light supper and hot beverages provided. Plus, check out the other 20 Best Things to Do in Dunedin.

Location: Dunedin, Otago, South Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© DunedinNZ

8. Wellington

Yes, even in the heart of the capital, there’s a place to learn and observe all things “celestial”. The very affordable Space Place at the top of the Wellington Cable Car boasts an array of multimedia and interactive exhibitions, as well as a full-dome planetarium. Check out their special events for beginner astronomy classes and for viewings through the historic Thomas Cooke telescope. Learn more about what to do in the capital in the 25 Best Things to Do in Wellington.

Location: Wellington Central, Wellington, North Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Mark Gee - WellingtonNZ

9. Stewart Island

Another one of New Zealand’s “Dark Sky Sanctuaries“, Stewart Island is also New Zealand’s third-most populated island. With around 80% of the island being the Rakiura National Park, light pollution is hardly an issue. Stargazing is good just about anywhere when the sky is clear, but tours with Twinkle Dark Sky Tours allow you to get more from the experience through powerful telescopes, cosy camp chairs and infectious passion and enthusiasm from your guides. Find out more about the island in the 20 Best Things to Do on Stewart Island. Plus, Stewart Island is also one of the 5 Best Places to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand.

Location: Oban, Stewart Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© NZPocketGuide.com

10. The Catlins

At the southern depths of the South Island, the remote Catlins Coast is not only a fantastic place to revel in nature through its waterfalls and wildlife, but it’s a breathtaking location to stargaze and see the Southern Lights when they come to life. Although there are no official stargazing tours at the time of writing, the campgrounds provide ample opportunity to sleep under the stars. Check out what The Catlins is all about in the 15 Best Things to Do in The Catlins.

Location: The Catlins (between Fortrose and Balclutha), Southland, South Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Unsplash

11. Arthur’s Pass

Climb high and away from civilisation to Arthur’s Pass National Park. Stay in the small Arthur’s Pass Village or take a trip to the nearby Castle Hill to find some of the most sensational stargazing sites in New Zealand – but be prepared for the cold; we have extra tips in The Best Time to See the Milky Way in New Zealand. While you’re in the area, make the most of the amazing hiking trails and sights listed in the 10 Best Things to Do in Arthur’s Pass National Park.

Location: Arthur’s Pass Village, Canterbury, South Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Unsplash

12. Cape Campbell

Some of New Zealand’s best stargazing spots are a bit of a mission to get to, and one such example is Cape Campbell. Located at the easternmost point of the Marlborough region, this isolated cape has no light to spoil your stargazing apart from a lighthouse that, admittedly, only adds to the ambience. The lighthouse is a 30-minute one-way detour off State Highway 1 but the views are well worth the venture. See more of the 10 Loneliest Lighthouses in New Zealand.

Location: Cape Campbell, Lake Grassmere, Marlborough, South Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Tamzin Goldsworthy -MarlboroughNZ

13. The Coromandel

Beach lovers’ paradise by day, amazing stargazing at night; who could say no to the Coromandel Peninsula?! Apart from simply looking up on a clear night, you can join Stargazers in the sheltered Kuaotunu Valley just north of Whitianga for their astronomy tour and accommodation experience. Daytime and nighttime tours are available at their Observatory, which features the Coromandel’s largest telescope, a 14″ Celestron in a solar-powered 3.5 m rotating dome. Learn more about exploring this side of the country in the 25 Best Things to Do in The Coromandel.

Location: Whitianga, Coromandel, North Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Unsplash

14. Fiordland National Park

The national park famous for sights such as Milford Sound and three of the New Zealand Great Walks, it’s no wonder that the Fiordland National Park provides magnificent stargazing. From the many campgrounds to the multi-day hiking trails to even just a short drive into the park, Fiordland hardly fails at putting on a spectacular show (apart from when, ya know, it rains; did we mention that Fiordland is one of the wettest places on Earth?). Discover more about Fiordland in the 15 Best Things to Do in Fiordland National Park.

Location: Te Anau, Fiordland National Park, Southland, South Island.

15 Best Places & Tours for Stargazing in New Zealand šŸŒ  [2023]© Unsplash

15. Stonehenge Aotearoa (Wairarapa)

It’s like England’s Stonehenge but with a much better view of the sky. Stonehenge Aotearoa in Ahiaruhe in the Wairarapa district has been constructed for its precise location in New Zealand, mimicking ancient stargazing techniques. Learn about Egyptian, Babylonian and Indus Valley, Celtic, Polynesian and Maori starlore on this unique stargazing tour in New Zealand.

Location: Ahiaruhe, Wairarapa, Wellington, North Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

Frequently Asked Questions About Stargazing in New Zealand

As for all of those niggly questions the internet has about stargazing in New Zealand, here are some answers:

Is New Zealand Good for Stargazing?

Yes, New Zealand is very good for stargazing; magnificent, some might say! Home to several International Dark Sky Reserves and as one of the most developed nations with a lower population, isolated in the South Pacific, the skies are dark enough for clear stargazing.

Where is Best for Stargazing in New Zealand?

The best stargazing in New Zealand can be found in its International Dark Sky Reserves, such as Aoraki Mt Cook, Lake Tekapo, Twizel, Stewart Island and Great Barrier Island. See the list above for much more detail.

Can I See the Milky Way in New Zealand?

Absolutely! You can easily see the Milky Way in New Zealand, especially around midnight when the skies are at their darkest. For more information, check out The Best Time to See the Milky Way in New Zealand.

How Much Does it Cost to Stargaze in Lake Tekapo?

Stargazing tours in Lake Tekapo range from NZ$75 to $160 per adult. See more general expenses for a trip to New Zealand in How Much Does a Trip to New Zealand Cost?

More on Stargazing in New Zealand

That’s it for our guide to the best places and tours for stargazing in New Zealand… As well as stargazing in New Zealand, did you know that you can also see the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) in New Zealand too? Find out more in The Best Times and Locations to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand.

Also, check these guides:

Finally, complete your NZ bucket list with the 101 Things to Do in New Zealand: The Ultimate List.

Sources:

The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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