Trip Planner

Stargazing in Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie

New Zealand's Lake Tekapo is renowned for its incredibly clear starry nights. It is home to Mount John Observatory one of the clearest places in the Southern Hemisphere to view the night skies.

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

In June 2012, over 4,300 square kilometres (the purple area on the map) of New Zealand's South Island was recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve - the largest such reserve in the world.

International Dark-Sky Association's Executive Director, Bob Parks, commented that, "the new reserve is coming in at a 'gold' level status. This means the skies are almost totally free from light pollution."

"To put it simply it is one of the best stargazing sites on earth."
Bob Parks, Executive Director, International Dark-Sky Association

Our ability to see starlight is diminishing due to light and air pollution. Half of the world's population cannot see stars because of night light pollution.

The view south from Mount John Observatory

Mount John, above the Tekapo township, is considered one of the most accessible observatories in the world. The observatory is home to 6 telescopes, including the country's biggest telescope which measures 1.8m across and can observe 50 million stars each clear night.

Many places overseas have lost touch with stars in the sky but the Mackenzie district still has a pristine dark sky.

Aoraki / Mount Cook stargazing

Aoraki / Mount Cook is far from city lights and therefore has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand - perfect for viewing the night sky.

You can explore the southern sky every clear evening from the Hillary Deck with our expert astronomy guides. Telescopes ensure a close look at stars, planets, moon craters and distant galaxies. For more information, visit Big Sky Stargazing.

Mount John Observatory - Earth and Sky stargazing tours

Explore the heavens at Mount John Observatory. View planets, stars and distant solar systems with an Earth and Sky daytime or nightime tour. Or by day visit the mountain top Astro Café and sip on a latte while enjoying the spectacular 360° alpine panorama.

"Possibly the best place on the planet for a coffee."
Lonely Planet review for Astro Café