Breathe in and feel the exhilaration grow as your eyes adjust to the darkness.
Above you, an endless canvas of stars is splattered across the sky as your Murihiku Southland stargazing experience bursts into full celestial bloom. You might even get a front-row seat for the greatest natural light show on Earth, the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights, as they are more commonly known. The Land of the Glowing Skies is waiting for you — what are you waiting for?
Experience the wonder of Rakiura Stewart Island, where beauty and remoteness create an otherworldly atmosphere that is free of light pollution. The name, Rakiura, translates to “glowing skies” and originates from the legend of Te Rakitāmau, a Māori chief whose marriage proposal was declined. It is said the red skies above the island reflect his blushing embarrassment. Recognized as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2019, Rakiura Stewart Island is the southernmost Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world, offering visitors one of the best places to view the starry night sky.
End your day in awe-inspiring fashion. Te-Rua-o-Te-Moko Fiordland is a natural wonderland that boasts pristine beauty and minimal light pollution, creating the perfect environment for an unforgettable stargazing experience. Fiordland National Park is on track to becoming the largest Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world, providing many great vantage points to watch the sunset behind the majestic Fiordland Mountain ranges. Once night falls, the Milky Way stretches across the southern sky, offering stargazers an unparalleled view of the universe.
While the Northern Lights are well known throughout the world and are often on people’s bucket lists, its Southern counterpart, the Aurora Australis, is no less spectacular. This natural phenomenon lights up the sky with…
The Northern Lights may be world-famous, but don’t overlook their stunning Southern counterpart: the Aurora Australis. This incredible natural phenomenon illuminates the sky with vibrant ribbons of pink, red, and green light that are just as spectacular as their Northern cousins. Southland’s dark winter nights provide the ideal conditions to witness this breathtaking display. Although difficult to predict, the optimal time to catch the Aurora Australis is between April and September, with the best conditions occurring when the sky is clear, and there is little or no moon.
Welcome to “big sky country,” where Southland’s stunning natural beauty provides the perfect backdrop for stargazing. Astronomers know the best spots to visit at night, and besides Rakiura and Fiordland, the Catlins region is at the top of the list. Famous for its pristine white surf beaches and wildlife, the Catlins also offers stunning night-time settings at Waipapa Point Lighthouse and Curio Bay. If you’re staying in Invercargill, don’t worry – there are plenty of prime stargazing opportunities nearby, including Awarua, Omaui, Ōreti Beach, and Bluff Hill.
Winter in New Zealand isn’t just about stargazing and the Aurora Australis – it also heralds the start of Matariki, the Māori New Year. During June and July, the Matariki star cluster emerges above the horizon, marking the start of a new year in the Māori lunar calendar. Matariki is meant to bring people together to share the joy of a new beginning, honour the past, and look forward to the future with hope and inspiration. Celebrate this special occasion by attending Matariki celebrations throughout the region, with the light show in Queens Park Invercargill being a particular highlight.
THE NIGHTS COME ALIVE
Experience the magic of Southland’s starry skies with the help of the region’s talented operators. Venture out with Twinkle Dark Sky Tours and explore Rakiura International Dark Sky Sanctuary, and view everything from craters on the moon to the centre of the galaxy. Experience the ultimate stargazing by staying at a PurePod glass eco-cabin on the island, offering uninterrupted views of the night sky in remote locations. For a tranquil fiord experience, board an overnight cruise in Milford or Doubtful Sound and immerse yourself in the beauty of Southland’s starry nights.