Best time to visit New Zealand

Milky Way in New Zealand

Millions distant stars of the famous Milky Way paint starry rainbows over New Zealand's sky during winter nights

Best time: June–August

Milky Way
Milky Way
Milky Way
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Although clear summer and autumn skies are acknowledged as the most favorable for stargazing in New Zealand, the famous Milky Way is an exception. It is comprised of millions of ​stars, which are so far from the Earth that cannot be seen separately, but only as a faint starry arc-shaped light path which stretches from the north-east to south-east horizons.

Thus, the spectacle is the most impressive in winter when the starry blanket of the Milky Way is right above the head, away from the densely populated New Zealand's territories.

The Milky Way may be seen in Zealandia Ecosanctuary just outside Wellington. But the best places for stargazing are located further from the cities, in the Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island, the Aoraki National Park, around Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo, the Tongariro Crossing, and also in the Shakespear Regional Park, which is 45 minutes drive north of Auckland. Another curious option is to go night skiing at the Coronet Peak ski resort near Queenstown. The floodlights don't favor watching the stars while skiing, but on the way back to Queenstown down the slopes, the heavenly bodies will surely reveal themselves.

Practical info

When is the ideal period for observing the Milky Way in New Zealand?

To observe the Milky Way in New Zealand, the optimum period is during the winter months, typically from June to August. While clear skies in summer and autumn are perfect for stargazing, observing the Milky Way requires the opposite climate, as it's best noticed during the winter season when it's directly overhead. Winter is, therefore, the best time to experience the sheer wonder of millions of far-off stars twinkling in the night sky. Show more

Which are the finest spots in New Zealand for stargazing the Milky Way?

The premium spots for stargazing and observing the Milky Way in New Zealand are situated far from the cities, to avoid any light pollution. Some of the top locations include the Tongariro Crossing, Aoraki National Park, Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island, and Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo. Additionally, Zealandia Ecosanctuary, located outside Wellington, is also a great choice. Night skiing at Coronet Peak ski resort near Queenstown is also an excellent option if you're looking for something unusual. Show more

What makes the Milky Way in New Zealand distinctive?

The Milky Way in New Zealand has a distinctive trait, and that is its visibility during the winter season. The Milky Way is an arc-shaped starry path of faint, faraway stars that stretches across the New Zealand sky at night. Although these stars aren't visible individually, they offer a fascinating display of lights that is a unique spectacle. The Milky Way is best observed during winter, rather than clear skies in summer and autumn, thus making it an extraordinary winter activity in New Zealand. Show more

What's the distance of the best stargazing places from New Zealand's cities?

The most exceptional spots for observing the Milky Way in New Zealand are some distance from cities, and it is done deliberately to ensure clear viewing conditions, without the influence of artificial light. For instance, Rakiura National Park, on Stewart Island, requires a ferry ride from Bluff to the island, and it takes approximately three hours to reach Aoraki National Park and Lake Tekapo from Christchurch. The Tongariro Crossing requires a drive of one to two hours from significant towns, such as Taupo or Ohakune. Besides this, Shakespear Regional Park and Zealandia Ecosanctuary are approximately a 45-minute drive from Auckland and Wellington, respectively. Show more

What other activities can be done during the observation of the Milky Way in New Zealand?

Night skiing at Coronet Peak ski resort near Queenstown is an excellent way to combine stargazing with an enjoyable activity. You could also camp overnight at Rakiura National Park or Aoraki National Park, which is another interesting way to enjoy stargazing. Additionally, you can combine the Tongariro Crossing walk during the day to relish fantastic views in sunny weather, coupled with stargazing during the night to gaze at the Milky Way. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin