New Zealand’s ultimate stargazing adventure

Join us on the Summit Experience for an incredible journey to the stars. High atop Mount John’s 1,029- metre peak, you'll be at the heart of the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve. Let our skilled guides open your eyes to the Southern night sky with captivating tales and facts.


We get you stargazing where others can’t go

Lake Takapō (Tekapo) is the best place to stargaze and our Summit Experience is the best way to stargaze in Lake Takapō. It’s your ticket to a rare and exclusive glimpse of the galaxy from New Zealand’s only professional research observatory. In fact, it’s the southernmost facility of its kind on the planet.

The skies are the drawcard. But watching them surrounded by world-renowned observatory domes and research work is a real bonus.


Stargaze in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

Our guides take you deep into the cosmos, sharing with you what it all means, and why it matters. You’ll never see it the same away again.

You’ll start by looking at the stars with the naked eye, as our guides point out the sights with handheld lasers. It’s a great way to develop those stargazing skills for when you’re back home.

Then you’ll dive deeper, with full use of our high-powered telescopes. That includes the impressive 16” telescope in our private observatory dome.

Every night sky reveals something new. The incredible Milky Way. Far-off planets. Star clusters, solar systems, constellations. You might even glimpse a distant galaxy.


An exciting adventure… with the right level of comfort

The two-hour experience includes transport to and from Mount John. It gets cold up there, so we provide extreme cold weather (ECW) jackets to keep you warm.

Because Mount John is a working mountaintop observatory, it requires some basic fitness. You’ll need to be confident walking 100 metres on a gravel incline, and able to climb a couple of steps in the dark. Our guides are there to help, but if you think you may need a more accessible tour, check out our Crater Experience at Cowan’s Private Observatory.


A clear-sky stargazing experience

We’re committed to making sure your Summit Experience is magnificent. If it looks like the weather will block the stars, we will cancel the tour with a full refund. If you’re not able to join us another night, consider our Virtual Stargazing Experience.



Seasonal Pricing:  October 2023 - September 2024



Child (min. age 10 years)



It’s time to embark on your stargazing adventure

Ready for an unforgettable night under the stars? Mount John is waiting for you. Book your Summit Experience for a magical and enlightening stargazing journey.




Silhouette of three people from behind looking at the milky way

What to Expect


University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory, Mount John Summit, Lake Takapō


Using 14” telescopes, or observatory dome, and with the naked eye.

Minimum Age

10 years and above.

Length of Tour

2 Hours

Tour Times

Various times throughout the year, depending on time of sunset. Available 7 days.

Tour Itinerary

Check In

Please check in at least 20 minutes before your tour time, at our Dark Sky Project Base.

ECW Jackets

We’ll loan you an extreme cold weather (ECW) jacket, to keep you warm on the mountain’s peak.

Transport From Base

We’ll take you on a comfortable 15-minute bus journey to the Mount John Summit.


You’ll get the chance to stargaze with the naked eye (guided by the handheld lasers of our guides), powerful telescopes, and even through our Mount John Observatory dome.

Transport Back to Base

We’ll take you back on the bus to the Dark Sky Project base, where you started your experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Summit Experience

When and where to check in?

Please arrive at Dark Sky Project, 1 Motuariki Lane, 20 minutes before your tour begins. (Get Google Maps directions here.) From here we’ll take you to the Mount John Observatory, your portal to the stars.

What should I wear for The Summit Experience?

Dress for a night among the stars. The summit's altitude calls for warm clothing and sturdy footwear, regardless of the season. We’ll loan you an extreme cold weather (ECW) jacket, but it helps to start with something warm. Please avoid any clothing with lights or bright flashes.

Is The Summit Experience stargazing a family-friendly activity?

The Summit Experience welcomes families with children aged 10 and above. For a more comfortable experience with younger children, you might like to try the Virtual Stargazing Experience.

How accessible is The Summit Experience?

Guests will need to be confident walking 100 metres on a gravel incline, and able to climb a couple of steps in the dark. More accessible options include The Crater Experience and Virtual Stargazing Experience. Feel free to contact us to discuss your accessibility needs.

Can we book the day of the tour?

Same-day bookings are possible, but please note that spots are limited and often fill up quickly.

What happens if there's bad weather?

The Summit Experience relies on clear skies. If the weather is bad, we offer a full refund, or you have the option to reschedule or receive an open-dated voucher for future use.

Can I take photos during the experience?

Yes! But please ensure your camera's flash is off to maintain the observatory's dark environment. Our guides can also provide tips for capturing the night sky.

What are my chances of viewing The Milky Way and The Southern Lights?

The visibility of celestial wonders like the Milky Way or Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) depends on several factors, including weather and moonlight. But each clear night offers its own breathtaking view of the cosmos.

When's the best time for a Summit Stargazing Experience?

Every season presents a unique stargazing opportunity, with winter months often providing ideal conditions for clearer and darker skies.