Gaze at spectacular starlit skies in New Zealand

This year (2022) marks the first time Aotearoa New Zealand will recognise Matariki (a special reappearance of stars that marks the Maori New Year) as an official Public Holiday, making it one of the first to recognise Te Ao Maori and re-introduce indigenous celebrations globally.

This year, Matariki Day will fall on 24 June and to mark the occasion, Tourism New Zealand has partnered with Grammy Award-winning indigenous instrumentalist Jerome Kavanagh. Returning to his home in Taumarunui, Kavanagh draws upon the k?waha, ‘te hau kainga’ (the winds of home) and Taonga puoro (traditional Maori musical instruments) to create a bespoke composition.

The composition will be available on Spotify from 23 June.

As stargazing is also a significant part of the occasion, we would like to highlight the starry skies of New Zealand ( which offer some of the most spectacular sights during the winter months.

Here are some noteworthy stargazing stays and experiences that you can do on your next trip to New Zealand, along with a few curated experiences exclusive for Matariki:

Good Heavens, Great Barrier Island

Matariki Rising – Aotea Great Barrier Island, Credit – Mark Russell

Great Barrier Island is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, and is one of only five Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world, and the first island sanctuary in the world, making it one of the best places to stargaze on earth.

Away from the bright city lights, this sanctuary is situated on an ‘off-the-grid’ island where the light pollution is minimal. With small groups and stunningly scenic locations, this is an enlightening experience that takes you deep into the beauty and wonder of space.

Horizon Tours, Dunedin

The Otago Peninsula coastline surrounding Dunedin provides a clear, breathtaking view of the night sky. In the right conditions, this rural coastal area is a prime location for viewing the Southern Lights, Aurora Australis. Experience a unique star gazing journey with Horizon Tours to learn about celestial features of the Southern sky while sharing stories and waiata (song) about how Maori viewed the night sky. Learn about how Maori relied on detailed astronomical knowledge, or tatai arorangi, to navigate the ocean and enjoy manaakitanga (hospitality) with a light supper and hot beverage as you marvel at the stories and raw nature of this southern destination.

Tekapo Springs Star Gazing

Tekapo Hot Springs – Have You Ever – Miles Holden

Tekapo Stargazing features a unique hot pools and star gazing experience in New Zealand. Wonder at the dazzling beauty of millions of stars in some of the clearest, darkest night skies in the world at Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve while you relax in a soul-warming hot pool beneath the 4,300 square kilometres of starlit skies. Your poolside guide will share local stories about New Zealand myths and legends combined with the science behind constellations, planets and galaxies.

Sleep under the starry skies

Even though Matariki falls right at the start of the winter months, you can still experience the marvellous starlit skies by sleeping under the stars. These luxury lodges, eco-cabins and glamping getaways offer glass walls and skylights so you can see the heavens from the comfort of your bed.

Night Sky Cottage, Ruapehu

Nightsky Cottage – Ruapehu

Nestled in pristine native bush on the edge of Tongariro National Park, Nightsky Cottage lies a unique 5-star luxury experience in a zero-waste environment. Every room is completely private and looks out onto a lush forest of manuka and beech trees. Purpose built skylights invite guests to stargaze and experience sleeping under the stars, all with the comfort of the luxurious log fire.

Maruia River Retreat, Nelson

Surrounded by 500 acres of exquisite native beech forests and rugged mountain ranges, Maruia River Retreat is a nature estate to unwind, connect and explore. The geothermal mineral pools onsite provide the perfect base from which to gaze at the stars as you relax and soak in the natural, warm water.

Experience and engage yourself in traditional Matariki events

Matariki Festival – T?maki Makaurau, Auckland

The star of Auckland’s winter season, Matariki Festival showcases an exciting line-up of more than 80 events region-wide happening from 21 June to 16 July; from captivating kapa haka to a street party featuring contemporary Maori musicians. Enjoy kite-flying, delicious kai, lighting shows and cultural events across Auckland, along with a special light show showcasing a story from iwi partners, Ngati Whatua, and their Ahi ka in Tamaki Makaurau.

Bay of Plenty produce

The Bay of Plenty is known for its bountiful produce during this season. This year Matariki Tauranga Moana will celebrate all of the food above us, with the programme theme Tupu?rangi: Heavenly Treasures.  Tupuarangi means ‘to grow in the sky’. The 2022 celebrations aim to build understanding and enlightenment of te ao Maori (Maori world view), matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) and te reo Maori (the Maori language). Matariki Tauranga Moana invites everyone to discover the significance of Matariki and explore ways to observe the Maori New Year with whanau and friends.

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