Plan your visit

 

Haere mai - welcome 

Dark Sky Project is located in Takapō (Tekapo), in the Mackenzie District of New Zealand's Te Waipounamu (South Island). It is one of the most accessible Dark Sky Reserves in the world, and the first gold-tier Reserve. 

Takapō is approximately a three-hour scenic drive from both Queenstown and Christchurch, and is on the main highway between the two cities. The drive offers some of the most spectacular scenery in Aotearoa New Zealand - we recommend allowing plenty of time to stop and take it all in!

All experiences depart from Dark Sky Project Base which is located at 1 Motuariki Lane on the Takapō lakefront (in between the Four Square supermarket and the YHA). Takapō is a small township and the building is very recognisable with its unique and large observatory dome. You can't miss it!

General information

For information on Takapō, the Mackenzie District and surrounding regions, we recommend visiting the New Zealand, Christchurch, Queenstown and Mackenzie visitor websites. These sites have everything you need to know about the respective regions, including accommodation, places to eat, and attractions and activities. 

Flying

The closest international airports are in Christchurch and Queenstown, which are both approximately a three-hour drive from Takapō on State Highway 8. There are a number of international airlines that operate in and out of these airports - please refer to their websites for more information.

If you are flying domestically within New Zealand, Air New Zealand and Jetstar offer services to both Queenstown and Christchurch. The closest domestic airport is in Timaru, approximately a 70-minute drive. Air New Zealand is the only commercial carrier operating flights in and out of this airport. Pukaki Airport is a private airfield, about a 30-minute drive from Takapō.

Self-driving and public transport

If you are ferrying across to Te Waipounamu (the South Island) from Te Ika-a-Maui (the North Island), Takapō is about a seven-hour drive from Picton, which is where the ferry arrives. From Christchurch or Queenstown, Takapō is about a three-hour scenic drive. There are also many car and campervan rental options with pick up points across New Zealand.

Please take care on the roads at all times and please be aware of the New Zealand road rules. In winter, snow and ice can cover roads, and Mackenzie's high country location means a few hill slopes and winding sections. For information on safe driving in New Zealand, visit the New Zealand Transport Agency. You will be driving through some of the country's most spectacular scenery - we recommend allowing a generous amount of time for travel and stop-offs (you won't be disappointed!).

For those not wanting to drive, there are public bus (coach) options available. Intercity Buses and Kiwi Experience run regular bus services to and from Takapō. For more information, visit the Mackenzie visitor website.

Best time to stargaze

We are often asked 'when is the best time to stargaze?' The simple answer is: it is always a good time! No matter what time of year, you'll always see something above that will blow your mind! The sky is often clearest during the cooler, winter months and at its darkest when there is no moon. That being said, the moon is incredibly fascinating in itself!

What's visible in the sky changes all the time. Our knowledgeable guides tailor tour content to what is in the sky on that particular night and season, and will showcase the very best of the night sky whenever you choose to visit. They're always happy to answer any questions you have. They're passionate about the night sky and love to inspire others to be too!

Our indoor Dark Sky Experience operates all year round, in all weather conditions and during the day. It has been specifically designed to offer a unique, authentic Aotearoa (New Zealand) experience that visitors can enjoy during the day. 

Weather and climate

Takapō has its own unique micro-climate so commercial weather predictions are often inaccurate. It’s best to allow some time and flexibility when planning a trip to the region to ensure that you get the most out of your experience and have the best possible chance to enjoy the stars with a clear night.

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for your visit and experience is to pack for cold weather - even in the midst of summer. The Mackenzie region is an alpine environment meaning it is cool at night, even during the summer nights when it is hot during the day. In the winter it can be extremely cold, and there can often be snow or ice on the ground (which, against the lake and mountain backdrop, is simply stunning!).

Extreme Weather Condition (EWC) jackets are provided on all of Dark Sky Project's outdoor experiences but please remember to dress very warmly, with shoes suitable for walking on uneven terrain. Gloves and warm hats are advisable all year round.

For more information on the climate, we recommend visiting the Mackenzie visitor website.

Frequently asked questions

We understand it can take time to plan your visit and experience with us. We've put together answers to frequently asked questions about our experiences. If your question isn't answered here then please contact us. If you have a question about the Mackenzie or our surrounding regions please contact the appropriate visitor office via their website.

 

Useful links

We recommend visiting the following websites to help with your planning:
Tourism New Zealand
Mackenzie Tourism
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism
Queenstown Tourism
Driving In New Zealand