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 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?
Rakiura Stewart Island’s beauty and remoteness means it is virtually free of light pollution, making the island night sky experience among the best on Earth. The name Rakiura, often translated as ‘glowing skies’, refers to the story of Māori Chief Te Rakitāmau. It is said the red skies of Rakiura reflect the blushing embarrassment of Te Rakitāmau after a marriage proposal was declined. In 2019, the island was recognised globally as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. As the second island but southern-most Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world, it offers one of the darkest locations to view the night sky.
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 ribbons of pink, red and green light. During winter Southland’s remarkable long nights provide an ideal environment for this natural wonder to be observed. While difficult to predict this glowing occurrence, the best time to catch these amazing skies is between April and September and the optimal conditions are when the sky is clear with little, or no moon.
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…
Saving the best for the end of a long day, Fiordland’s stunning natural environment and lack of light pollution makes for a truly amazing stargazing experience. In fact, Fiordland National Park is set to become the second largest Dark Sky Park in the world. Take your pick out of many great vantage points to watch the sun set behind the Fiordland Mountain ranges and wait for the stars to shine. Stargazers from here get the best view of the Milky Way stretching itself across the southern sky.
The wider Southland region is known as ‘big sky country’ by day - and a stargazers’ paradise by night. Southland’s dark winter nights make for the best conditions to take to the night sky to spot the Aurora Australis. The Catlins are known for their landscape and wildlife, and astronomers know it's also a perfect destination at night. Visit Waipapa Point Lighthouse, or Curio Bay for stunning night-time settings. Staying in the city? You’ll be excited to know that there are a range of options close to Invercargill for prime stargazing opportunities such as Awarua, Omaui, Ōreti Beach, and Bluff Hill.
The nights come alive
If you are looking for an unforgettable night sky experience, venture out into the night with one of the regions talented operators. Explore Rakiura Stewart Island’s Dark Sky Sanctuary with Twinkle Dark Sky Tours. A tour with these experts will allow you to view anything from craters on the moon, to the centre of the galaxy. Or head into Fiordland with Douglas Thorne from Southern Photography Adventures who will teach you to use your camera to capture beautiful images of the stunning sky above Fiordland National Park.
We’ve already mentioned that winter is a great time for stargazing and catching the Aurora Australis, but winter in New Zealand also marks the start of Matariki, the Māori New Year. The Matariki star cluster emerges above the horizon throughout the months of June and July, bringing in a new year according to the Māori lunar calendar. You can attend various Matariki celebrations around the regions, the light show in Queens Park Invercargill is definitely a must-see such as light shows. These are an excellent chance to discover more about this star cluster and its importance in Māori culture.
Come and explore Stewart Island's Dark Sky Sanctuary with Twinkle Dark Sky Tours! From craters on the moon to the center of the galaxy, a Twinkle Dark Sky Tour will show you some of the most stunning sites in our solar system and…