Mt John Observatory – Lake Tekapo
From Mt John enjoy magnificent panoramic views by day, and in the evening, with clear skies and low light pollution, it is one of the best locations in the world to go star gazing. To improve and maintain night sky clarity, the local council have ordinances stipulating no lights in Tekapo shine upward.
During the day, if you are reasonably fit, you can walk up Mt John, or for a small toll you can drive up to the top (the road is only open to the public during the day.) From the summit you are rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views over the McKenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo, the township, and surrounding mountain ranges. You can take a tour through the Observatory operated by Canterbury University - home of NZ's largest telescope. Or simply relax and enjoy the view from the Astro Café.
At night go star gazing, in one of the best sites on the planet, with Earth and Sky on a two-hour tour.
Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is the largest dark sky reserve in the world. Looking with the naked eye you will be impressed with how much you can see, however looking through one of their powerful telescopes is a truly amazing experience. You can't help being impressed with the sheer number of galaxies, constellations, planets and stars that are visible.
At the time we visited in the height of summer, they operated two evening tours. One at 9pm and the other at 11pm. When we called in, the early tour was fully booked, so we booked the late session.
There's something quite special about arriving at the depot at 10.30pm and being kitted out in genuine Antarctic Expedition Jackets. As instructed we were dressed warmly with layers of thermal, merino, jackets, gloves, shoes and scarves. You can be forgiven for thinking the Antarctic gear will be surplus to requirements. But no, once you step off the tour bus at the summit, it's unbelievably cold – even in the middle of summer!!!!
Details of observatory tours and recommended clothing, click here: video:
You don't need to be a budding astronomer to get a thrill out of this tour, and for most Kiwis and international visitors, a once in a life time experience.