The Best Time to See the Milky Way in New Zealand

The galaxy’s core is visible at its finest during New Zealand’s coldest months in a completely dark, moonless night sky.

Come to the southern region of the South Island in July or August to catch a glimpse of the spectacular Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights. Aim for a clear night close to a new moon for the most dazzling illuminated display and memorable photo opportunities.

Join in the Māori Matariki celebrations during June and July. At this time, the radiant Matariki star cluster glitters above the horizon, marking the beginning of a new lunar year in the Māori calendar.

Where can I see the Milky Way in NZ?

Welcome to clear New Zealand night skies, filled with luminous stars that sparkle like polished diamonds. The incandescent stars heighten the sky's ethereal appearance, bringing the universe even closer.

A person looks through a telescope at night at Skyline Queenstown while gazing upon the Milky Way which is lighting up the sky above them.
Image credit: Skyline Queenstown

Visitors from all corners of the globe come to enjoy stargazing in New Zealand. They return home to share their unforgettable experiences, stories and magical night-time shots.

To get the best view of the Milky Way in New Zealand, you need to escape the bright city lights and head for the rural areas and nature reserves.

The best places in New Zealand to see the Milky Way are:
Do I need a telescope to see the Milky Way?

No, you don’t! This hazy band of starry lights is visible to the naked eye. You just need to escape the lights of the big cities, turn off your torch, look up and get lost in the enchanting night sky.

Where are the best places to see the Milky Way in the South Island?

The South Island offers amazing views of the Milky Way. Here are our favourite spots to escape the light pollution and immerse yourself in the galaxy!

Bob’s Peak

Why not combine stargazing with an adrenaline-charged activity and a bite to eat? Head up Bob’s Peak with Skyline Queenstown, where you can experience an exhilarating Luge ride. Barrel down the mountainside around corners, through tunnels and over dips on Skyline’s Queenstown Luge. Admire the mystical sights of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies above head, along the way.

Section of Luge track lit up by colourful lights at night, with the moon high above lighting up the surrounding mountains.
Image credit: Skyline Queenstown

At the end of your thrill ride, head to the Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar. Share a world-class meal with your friends and loved ones as you take in the sweeping views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and surrounding mountains. Sip on local wine and watch the flickering constellations in the magnificent dark skies of the South Island.

Lake Tekapo

One of the country’s most incredible stargazing sites is at Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo is located in the Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park. Here you’ll find the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. This gold-rated Dark Sky Reserve is the only one of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and is protected from light pollution. Here you can view the Milky Way galaxy, mesmerising constellations and the iconic Southern Cross by simply looking up.

The Church of the Good Shepherd standing alone at night with the core of the Milky Way glowing in the sky above.
Image credit: Stuff

Also in the Dark Sky Reserve is the Mount John Observatory. Here you can take interactive tours and learn more about the night sky and view the glittering stars through a powerful telescope.

Stewart Island

Take a 1-hour ferry ride to Stewart Island and visit Rakiura National Park. In the Māori language, Rakiura means “the land of glowing skies” and it's easy to see why. Come for hiking during the day, and stay for some incredible stargazing and photo opportunities after sunset.

An incredible time lapse image of the night sky as seen from a vantage point on Stewart Island, a Dark Sky Reserve.
Image credit: Stuff

The best North Island stargazing spots

The North Island of New Zealand has some absolutely stunning areas which you can view the Milky Way in all it’s glory. Here are our top spots.

Great Barrier Island

A person shines a laser beam across a night sky, point at the constellations that light up the sky above.
Image credit: 100% Pure New Zealand

Fly or take a boat to Great Barrier Island. The International Dark Sky Sanctuary delivers an awe-inspiring star gazing experience.  Enjoying almost zero light pollution, the pristine sky in this area is second-to-none!

Mount Ngongotaha

Open most Friday and Saturday nights is the incredibly fun Skyline Rotorua Luge. Dash down Mount Ngongotaha amongst gargantuan Redwoods in your very own gravity-fuelled cart. Try to keep your eyes on the track as you catch a glimpse of shooting stars, leaving crystalline images in their wake.

Three riders luge down the track at night, illuminated by red and blue lights.

By now, you will have worked up a ravenous appetite! Head to Skyline Rotorua’s Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar. The Stratosfare team works with Kiwi farmers and growers to bring you delicious, regional food. Bask in the glow of gleaming celestial lights from your dining table, as you savour an exquisite meal.

Visit and explore our part of the world to view the surreal, natural beauty of the Milky Way in NZ. If you’re lucky, you might even get a glimpse of the Southern Lights. New Zealand is the place to witness this unique phenomenon and take some breathtaking cosmic photographs.

Here at Skyline, we’re here to make your stargazing trip an extraordinary one - there’s something here for everyone to enjoy. Visit our blog page for more ideas on ways to fill your days and nights here in 100% pure New Zealand nature.

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