You’d be hard-pressed to beat New Zealand for stargazing.
It’s home to two Dark Sky Reserves (only 21 across the globe are accredited by the International Dark-Sky Association) as well as two Dark Sky Sanctuaries.
Thanks to low levels of light pollution across much of the country, you can count on excellent starry vistas, with several hotels, lodges and cabins making the most of the night sky views – and with the Matariki public holiday coming up this year on July 14, there's no better time to think about booking one of these stargazer's havens.
Nightsky Cottage, Ruapehu
Walk down a 50-metre boardwalk to your own private bush cottage experience, set in a lush hectare of native bushland in the central North Island bordering Tongariro National Park. This secluded eco-retreat takes luxury stargazing to new heights, with architecturally designed skylights in the lounge and a good vantage point from the front deck. It also boasts side-by-side bathtubs, a toasty warm log fire and two bedrooms with luxury king-size beds.
Cabot Lodge, Fiordland
Grab an evening drink and a pair of binoculars (there's a pair in every suite) then settle in for a gaze at the night sky from this lodge’s prime location in Fiordland National Park. With four suites available (or you can book the whole thing exclusively for up to 10 people), a booking here comes with access to a spa pool, hiking trails and a fishing jetty, as well as all-inclusive drinks, set-menu evening meals and breakfast. Its remote position in Fiordland – which is currently working toward becoming an accredited Dark Sky Park – means it’s subject to hardly any light pollution, and is the perfect spot to stargaze after dark. There are even star gazing maps in the library – plus, the view over Lake Manapouri and the surrounding mountains is spectacular.
Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Located in Mount Cook National Park (the world’s largest Gold Status International Dark Sky Reserve) this hotel is the ultimate base for eager stargazers. Book into one of the comfortable, contemporary rooms and you’ll have unforgettable mountain views by day and a clear view of millions of stars at night. Big Sky Stargazing tours depart from here; stay warm with a hot chocolate while peering at the glittering darkness through a telescope under the expert guidance of a resident astronomy guide. No matter the weather, the 360-degree indoor dome planetarium provides an even closer look at the planets, stars and the moon.
Purepods, various locations
Dotted around the South Island with one on the lower North Island, Purepods are crafted with glass walls and ceilings so you can enjoy the surrounding landscape in total privacy. The Hananui and Tokoeka Purepods on Rakiura Stewart Island offer particularly blazing night sky views, as they’re inside the boundary of our southernmost Dark Sky Reserve. If you are extra lucky, you may even get to see the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, from these locations (usually visible March to September). Either way, you’ll be staying in comfort thanks to each cabin’s luxurious amenities.
Skyscape, Mackenzie Country
Skyscape is nestled within the tussocks and hillside of Omahau, and is an eco-escape from the bustle of everyday life. Gaze at an uninterrupted starscape from the comfort of your king-size bed, thanks to this cabin being built almost entirely of glass. A soak in the generous outdoor heated bath – with a glass of wine from the minibar, perhaps – is the ideal way to relax under the stars blanketing the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. This off-grid accommodation is ideal for a technology detox to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the skies.