Thousands of glittering constellations simply take your breath away in the Mackenzie Region.
International Dark Sky Reserve
In 2012, the 4300sq km area was declared as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is the southern hemisphere’s sole dark sky reserve and one of only eight in the world. With “light pollution” strictly controlled this is a stargazing experience that is second to none.
Around the world, the ability to see stars is diminishing due to light and air pollution. As the Mackenzie Region is almost totally free from light pollution, “to put it simply, it is one of the best stargazing sites on earth,” Bob Parks, Executive Direct of the International Dark-Sky Association.
View and understand the elements of the beautiful Milky Way.
Learn firsthand how to search and track the southern night sky from our expert stargazing guides.
Sir Edmund Hillary statue under a stunning night sky
Stargazing Options in the Mackenzie Region
There are many stargazing activities in the region with a number of companies offering personalised day and night sky tours.
1. Tekapo’s Earth and Sky
Explore the universe from the Mount John Observatory or Cowan’s Observatory. View planets, stars and distant solar systems with Earth and Sky who run several day and night sky tours. Their experienced guides impart their astronomy knowledge and share their enthusiasm for the universe and the science. A tour can include viewing the milky way, distant star clusters, planets or the craters of the moon.
By day the mountain top Astro Café is the perfect place to sip on a latte while enjoying the spectacular 360° alpine panorama. With its unique glass walled and roofed building, Lonely Planet said it was “possibly the best place on the planet for a coffee.”
2. Aoraki / Mount Cook Stargazing
You can explore the southern sky every clear evening during a Big Sky Stargazing tour from the Hillary Deck with their expert astronomy guides. Telescopes ensure a close look at stars, planets, moon craters and distant galaxies. This is also the home to a full-dome planetarium including a 3D theatre and 126 seats. This gives you a way to see a virtual tour of the southern night sky.
3. Tekapo Star Gazing
The ultimate in stellar relaxation, Tekapo Star Gazing combines the stunning Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve with the soul-warming hot pools of Tekapo Springs. A two-hour experience, including an introduction to the night sky complemented by three high-powered telescopes and a focus on mythology and legend. The second half of the tour is where it really gets magical – in a 38-degree hot pool, let the real world melt away as you lie back with the help of a floating hammock to ensure ultimate relaxation and easy sky viewing.
An exciting indoor experience can be run if weather doesn’t allow an outdoor experience.
4. Ashley Mackenzie Villa – Pukaki Observatory and Wine Cellar
Ashley Mackenzie Villa in Twizel offer their guests the opportunity to explore the universe using the latest technology for stargazing and astro-photography. Their exclusive observatory gives guests the ability to explore the inspiring southern night sky while enjoying refreshments and nibbles from their wine cellar.