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Mackenzie Country is one of the most sparsely populated areas on the South Island, and so has some fantastic stargazing opportunities owing to such little light pollution. 4,300 square kilometres of New Zealand’s South Island is recognised as a UNESCO International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest reserve of this type worldwide.
Dark Sky Reserve
Covering much of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie region, the Dark Sky Reserve has been labelled as ‘one of the best stargazing sites on earth’. As a designated Dark Sky reserve, it gives you the ability to observe the stars in dark conditions similar to those before the Industrial age.
Situated near the town of Lake Tekapo in the heart of the South Island, Dark Sky Project offer both daytime and nighttime stargazing tours of the Mount John Observatory, which is run by the University of Canterbury. After walking or driving up to the summit of Mount John, enjoy the superb views over Lake Tekapo from the warmth of the Astro Café.
Alternatively, the Cowan’s Hill Stargazing Tour is a shorter exprience for those pushed for time. In a specially designed dome not far from the town, your guide will talk you through the astrological objects and wonders found from peering through your telescope.
Dark Sky Sanctuaries can also be found on Great Barrier Island, the world’s first Island sanctuary and Stewart Island on the southern tip of New Zealand has been officially recognised as the the worlds second sanctuary. If you’re very lucky and visiting in the winter you may also be able to catch the aurora australis on the southern half of the South Island.
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