Your gateway to stargazing

Dark Sky Project is based in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. This place is special for anyone who loves stargazing. It's the biggest Dark Sky Reserve in the world, right here in New Zealand's stunning landscape. When you’re here, you have access to some of the darkest and purest night skies on Earth. So join us, and get ready for an unforgettable stargazing adventure.

What are Dark Sky Reserves?

In a world of increasing light pollution, Dark Sky Reserves are special windows to the stars. They are areas where the night is kept as dark as possible. No city lights, no light pollution. These reserves protect the night sky so everyone can enjoy it.


What makes the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve special for stargazing in New Zealand?

The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is one of the world’s best places to see the stars. It’s wide, open vistas are free from light pollution. Those who live and work in and around it are dedicated to keeping the sky dark. This means you can see stars, planets, and the Milky Way in beautiful clarity. It’s the best place in New Zealand to look at the night sky.


View of the night sky over looking lake

Our vision: protecting and championing the night sky

The Dark Sky Project began with a conversation between Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa.

It was a particularly clear, cold night. The two were standing on Mount John. Hide turned to Graeme.

“You New Zealanders take your stars for granted! You don’t appreciate what you have! If we had a sky like this in Japan, we would create a park to protect it.”

So they did.

The comment set in motion a sequence of events Graeme calls ‘divine intervention’. After a whole lot of work, the Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Group, chaired and led by the Hon Margaret Austin, decided to seek International Dark Sky Reserve status. A year later, after more work still, they succeeded. In 2012, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve was born.

Their mission and our purpose remains to this day. To advocate for the appreciation and preservation of our night sky, in the face of increasing light pollution. That was further recognised when our Dark Sky Reserve became the first to achieve gold standard status in recognition of its pristine skies.

And every time someone takes a stargazing tour with us, that mission is affirmed even more.


Hide Ozawa Quote

Join us on our South Island stargazing adventure

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in Takapō (Tekapo) is perfect for stargazing. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, you'll love it here. The skies are clear, making the stars look incredible. And when you join us, you join part of the story. A story of loving and protecting the night sky.

Book your visit. See the stars in a unique way. Be a part of something special.

DSP Group Photo 2021 08 05

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View across Lake Tekapo to snowcapped mountains with milky way

Frequently Asked Questions

Dark Sky Reserve

Where can I learn more about Dark Sky Reserves?

The International Dark Sky Places program certifies Dark Sky Reserves. You can find more about their work and Dark Sky Reserves generally at

Why are Dark Sky Reserves important?

Dark Sky Reserves are important for a few reasons.

  • They protect the night sky from light pollution. This lets us see stars, planets, and galaxies in greater clarity – or when we might otherwise not see them at all. This is important for astronomy and education, but also for our cultural and natural heritages. Stars and the night sky have played an important part in many cultures for millennia.
  • They help the health of wildlife. Many animals rely on natural patterns of light and dark to navigate and to live their lives. Light pollution can disrupt this, and Dark Sky Reserves help reestablish a natural state.
  • They offer people a unique stargazing and tourism experience. This contributes to sustainable tourism, and helps build local economies.
How does The Reserve contribute to dark sky preservation?

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is dedicated to protecting the night sky from light pollution. We advocate for sustainable lighting practices in the surrounding area and educate visitors on the importance of preserving our natural night skies.

What is light pollution?

Light pollution is artificial brightening of the night sky. It’s caused by things like streetlights and buildings. This kind of light makes it difficult to see stars, planets, and other celestial bodies. It can also affect wildlife and natural ecosystems.

Dark Sky Reserves like Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve work to minimise this light pollution. We help provide a clear, dark sky for optimal stargazing

What makes The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve a gold-standard reserve?

Gold standards are reserved for the best Dark Sky Reserves. They’re those with the lowest light pollution, darkest skies, and best night sky stargazing opportunities. That fits Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve perfectly.

For more details, see Dark Sky International’s guidelines:

When is the best time for stargazing at The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve?

Any time of year offers a unique experience at Lake Takapō (Tekapo). The best stargazing is often in winter, when the skies are clearest, but each season brings its own charm. There's always something special around Takapō, from lupins in spring to water sports in summer.

Do you need to know much about astronomy to go stargazing?

No – we’re only too happy to introduce you to it! The Dark Sky Project and Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is perfect for everyone, from stargazing beginners to seasoned astronomers. We offer a variety of tours and experiences, and cater to different levels of knowledge and interest.