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.
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.
10 years and above.
Length of Tour
Various times throughout the year, depending on time of sunset. Available 7 days.
Please check in at least 20 minutes before your tour time, at our Dark Sky Project Base.
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
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.
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.
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.
Same-day bookings are possible, but please note that spots are limited and often fill up quickly.
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.
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.
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.
Every season presents a unique stargazing opportunity, with winter months often providing ideal conditions for clearer and darker skies.