With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing coming up on 20 July 2019 the world’s attention will be turning skywards this summer. But did you know one of the best places in the world to gaze at the universe above is New Zealand with a host of unique star-gazing experiences?
First, Lake Tekapo is also one of the only places in the world where you can lie in a natural 38-degree hot-spring pool and gaze at the stars above after an astronomy and storytelling session with the outfit at Tekapo Springs. Relax on a floating hammock and feel like you’re soaking in the stars as you explore the wonder of night skies with one of the guides here.
In Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is New Zealand’s premier astronomical research centre, the Mount John Observatory. Here you can observe the universe through a telescope on one of their Earth and Sky Observatory tours. Then, brush up on your astrophotography skills on the newly launched night-time tour of the Church of the Good Shepherd. With its breathtakingly beautiful backdrop of Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps, this pioneer church is one of New Zealand’s most photographed landmarks.
Also in MacKenzie country, just outside of the Dark Sky Sanctuary is a collection of bookable cabins, nestled within native scrub and tussocks, made predominantly of glass for the ultimate stargazing experience: from the luxury of your own bed!
On the South Island, ski resort Cardrona is another excellent astro-tourism spot, sitting between Queenstown and Wanaka, it has very little light pollution and is accessible from either town for star-gazing tours in the mountains.
And then there’s Stewart Island – already loved by travellers for its pristine natural rainforests (85% of the island is protected as a national park) – which recently applied for Dark Sky Sanctuary status. The Māori call it Rakiura ‘the land of the glowing skies’.
Last year, the 390 residents of the island’s only town Oban, replaced all their street lights with dimmer ones and banned outdoor lighting except where safety is an issue. If you do get here, make sure you pack a torch, it really is so dark you almost cannot see your feet when you’re walking along the paths at night.