Stargazing in New Zealand: the after-dark wonders of Aotearoa await

The starry night over Aotearoa's Great Barrier Island

A celestial journey await you in Aotearoa with our insider guide of the best stargazing spots and after-dark experience in New Zealand.

Something astronomical is happening in Aorangi Forest Park and the Kiwi districts of South Wairarapa and Carterton, which have recently been certified an International Dark Sky Reserve under the collective name of Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve. This certification is almost as rare as a unicorn sighting, with fewer than 25 areas worldwide currently holding the title. Cue the collective gasp!

Prepare to have your mind blown as we shine the spotlight on Aotearoa’s awe-inspiring starry nights. Thanks to New Zealand’s untouched and diverse landscapes, you’ll find yourself in a stargazing paradise. Picture it: vast expanses with minimal human presence, creating a canvas untouched by the glow of excessive light pollution. It’s like the universe’s VIP lounge, just waiting for you to join in on the game of naming stars and constellations. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an adventure where the celestial playground awaits your curious gaze and will leave you starstruck.

And don’t forget that our experts at Westpac Concierge are on hand to curate the Kiwi itinerary that suits your needs. From flight tickets to hotel and restaurant bookings, often including exclusive benefits, and recommendations of things to do, they’ll take care of everything so that you can focus on unlocking the secrets of the universe. If you’re a Westpac cardholder, you might already be eligible for our complimentary service. Simply click the button below to find out. Your stargazing adventures await!

What to look out for in Aotearoa’s night sky

Stargazing in New Zealand, the after-dark wonders of Aotearoa await

Here’s a cosmic revelation for you: more stars twinkle above the Kiwi lands than in the northern hemisphere. Our southern sky also proudly boasts the three brightest stars – Sirius, Canopus, and Alpha Centauri.

But wait, there’s more. New Zealand’s awe-inspiring view of the heavens also treats you to an extraordinary spectacle – the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. These captivating galaxies, visible to the naked eye, are a sight to behold, a privilege reserved for those venturing south of the equator. There’s also the Pleiades, here known as Matariki, a dazzling cluster of more than 1,000 stars whose ethereal beauty holds a great cultural significance. The rise of Matariki during midwinter marks the beginning of the Māori new year. Other open clusters adding to New Zealand’s celestial wonder include Jewel Box and the Wishing Well clusters.

Now, here’s the cherry on top: during winter, you can lock eyes with the heart of the Milky Way directly overhead.

Stargazing in New Zealand: our recommend places where to go

Venture away from the city lights for the most breathtaking views.

Lake Tekapo

The Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo is one of the top places for stargazing in New Zealand

With its remote location and pristine dark skies, this picturesque lake offers an unobstructed view of the heavens above. But what makes it truly extraordinary is the presence of the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. Imagine gazing at the stars with this charming stone church as your backdrop—it’s a scene straight out of a movie! Lake Tekapo is also home to the world-renowned Mount John Observatory, where you can join guided tours and delve into the mysteries of the universe.

Stewart Island (Rakiura)

The country’s southernmost island offers a rare opportunity to witness the wonders of the night sky while surrounded by the rhythmic sound of crashing waves. Here, the absence of artificial light allows the stars to shine remarkably bright. What’s more, Stewart Island/ Rakiura is located within the auroral zone meaning that you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the aurora australis.

Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

The starry night over Aotearoa's Great Barrier Island

Located off the coast of Auckland, Great Barrier Island/ Aotea has been designated a Dark Sky Sanctuary for its efforts towards actively safeguarding its nightscape. As you immerse yourself in the island’s untouched wilderness, the experience of stargazing takes on a whole new level of enchantment. Great Barrier Island also offers several opportunities for immersive astronomy escapade, and you can join stargazing treks which provide expert insights into celestial objects and the indigenous legends attached to them.

Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve

Camping under the starry sky, Aorangi Forest Park, Wairarapa, New Zealand.

Aotearoa’s newest, and second, Dark Sky Reserve not only offers breathtaking stargazing opportunities but also showcases the region’s stunning biodiversity and natural beauty. From exploring native forests to wandering along pristine coastlines, Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve invites you to marvel at the wonders of nature during the day and the beauty of the night sky after the sun sets. It’s also an area of great cultural importance, steeped in Māori heritage and legends, many of which are intertwined with the stars and celestial bodies.

Our top three after-dark experiences to enjoy in New Zealand

Sleep under the stars

PurePods' transparent ecolodges offer fantastic stargazing opportunities in New Zealand

Thoughtfully designed to harmonise with nature, PurePods’s transparent ecolodges offer a luxurious and sustainable take on a camping adventure. Found on Stewart Island/ Rakiura, the lodge’s  and  are nestled within native bushes, behind a predator-proof fence, in an eco-sanctuary. Picture yourself witnessing stunning sunsets that paint the sky in a staggering display of colours. As evening falls, you may even have a chance to spot elusive kiwis as they emerge from their hidden retreats. And when night envelops the land, the starry heavens take centre stage, inviting you to partake in a celestial spectacle like no other.

Soak and stargaze

Tekapo Springs offers the only hoy pools and stargazing experience in New Zealand,

Set against the stunning backdrop of Lake Tekapo, Tekapo Springs is a hot springs complex inviting you to relax at its three hot pools, steam and sauna facilities, and Glacial Day Spa. But if you ask us, the highlight of the show is the two-hour Tekapo Star Gazing experience – the only guided hot pools and star gazing experience in New Zealand. Imagine indulging in the exclusive use of a hot pool, its soothing waters maintained at a heavenly temperature ranging from 37.5C to 38.5C. As you recline on a floating hammock, it feels as though you’re luxuriating among the stars themselves. Let the celestial wonder of the night skies wash over you as you enjoy cosmic tranquility.

Learn from our ancestors

Stonehenge Aotearoa is a contemporary adaptation of England famous prehistoric Stonehenge site and one of New Zealand most famous stargazing sites.

A contemporary adaptation of the iconic prehistoric monument situated in England, Stonehenge Aotearoa bridges the realms of Western astronomy and Māori cosmology. Here, Māori astronomical traditions and the rich tapestry of celestial stories passed down through generations take centre stage. Embark on a guided night tour that imparts the skills to navigate the visible solar system. Immerse yourself in the celestial wonders that unfold above you as you discover how to identify and interpret constellations and track the movement of the stars. The journey is educational and awe-inspiring.

We hope this has inspired you to go on a stargazing adventure in New Zealand and we invite you to rediscover our ultimate two-week itinerary that’ll take you from the Te Ika-a-Māui or North Island over the Cook Strait to Te Waipounamu or the South Island. We’ve also curated lists of the top 10 things to do in Auckland and the 5 best luxury lodges in New Zealand.

Aude Camus

Parisian-born Aude visited her first restaurant aged just a few days old – now she's always ready for her next meal. When not interviewing award-winning chefs or looking for a new restaurant to visit, you’ll find her planning her next getaway from Hong Kong where she’s lived since 2015. Her travel writing has appeared in online publications such as Destination Deluxe and The Hotel Journal, and she runs a lifestyle platform for French expats living in Hong Kong.

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