Did you know that New Zealand has the biggest Dark Sky Reserve in the whole world? Well we didn’t, but since we found out I couldn’t stop thinking about it – as some of you already know, I am a HUGE fan of night skies! For days I talked Will into a camping-under-the-stars vacation and here we are, driving South, towards the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve.
One of the best night skies in the world!
New Zealand is made up of three major cities: Auckland and Wellington, the capital, in the North Island and Christchurch, in the South Island. Outside the urban areas, endless wild lands with dark, clear skies and very little (or none) light pollution are the perfect destinations for star spotters! I couldn’t resist the idea of seeing how the stars looked on this remote side of the world and there are simply millions in the skies above Wanaka. To have the best possible view of the night sky we drove South, to the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, the biggest in the world, which includes the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the villages of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook.
LAKE TEKAPO ♦ MILKY WAY AND SHOOTING STARS
We decided to camp for a couple of nights beside Lake Tekapo, in the heart of NZ’s South Island, where there were many other free campers getting ready for the night to come. The weather forecast promised clear skies and chilly temperatures. We set our alarm at 3 am, we rolled out of the car and had a long walk along the side of the lake. Mesmerised by a very clear and visible milky way, we spent the night counting millions of stars and whispering secret wishes to shy shooting stars. It was a magical night and we managed to take a few good pictures too!
The “dark sky reserve” is located in the middle of the Southern Alps on the New Zealand South Island. Other golden-rated places in the world can be found in the United States, Namibia and Scotland.
AURORA ♦ AUSTRALIS
Visiting New Zealand in winter – March to September, you might even be lucky enough to experience the Aurora Australis – lesser known than the Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) but it is just as impressive! New Zealand is one of the closest countries to the South Pole where the aurora originates, so if you head far enough south, you might just see a light show like no other! The Aurora Australis is known to light up the South Island’s skies with green and pink displays.
To get alerts on the best times to see an Aurora, follow the Aurora Australis New Zealand – Current Alerts facebook page.