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TRAVEL & LEISURE

The Eight Best Places to Stargaze in Wellington

From coastal beaches to wildlife sanctuaries and an astronomy museum, you'll want to look up here.
By Laura Somerset
October 23, 2018
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The Eight Best Places to Stargaze in Wellington

From coastal beaches to wildlife sanctuaries and an astronomy museum, you'll want to look up here.
By Laura Somerset
October 23, 2018
  shares

You don't know what you have until it's gone. All over the world, New Zealand expats can be spotted gazing wistfully up at the night sky, reminiscing the impeccable stargazing conditions of their homeland. Wellington has such low levels of light pollution that the stars are visible all year round, which is an international rarity. Some top tips for stargazing: go on a night when there's no moon, and use a torch with a red light so that your eyes don't struggle to adjust to the changing light levels – you'll see the stars much clearer. Grab a warm sweater and you've got yourself a whole night of free entertainment.

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RED ROCKS

The southern coast of Wellington has some of the best star watching conditions in the country. It's also home to a huge fur seal colony, so there's a high chance of passing a few dozing seals on your way down the beach. You can capture the Aurora Australia — the Southern Lights — on a camera if you've got your settings right. Interestingly, the Red Rocks are a source of many Māori folk tales which relate to the red-coloured rocks that were formed 200 years ago.

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MOUNT KAUKAU

Out in the Northern suburbs stands Mount Kaukau, which you can reach from entrances in Khandallah, Broadmeadows, and Johnsonville. Mount Kaukau is the most visible point in the city so as well as having ideal stargazing conditions it's hard to beat the views, which extend from the Tararua ranges to the Hutt Valley and Porirua, with a glimse of the South Island in some places. The walk up to the peak takes about an hour, so make sure to pack warm clothes.

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Mark Gee.

SPACE PLACE

It's a fairly obvious choice, but Wellington's planetarium is one of the best in the hemisphere and it's time to give it the credit it deserves. It boasts a powerful telescope, an astronomy museum, and it even acts as a pop-up music and film venue from time to time. If the weather conditions on your chosen night are less than favourable, never fear: the planetarium plays host to an immersive digital dome, which screens movies about outer space.

SOMES ISLAND

Why not make a weekend out of it? You can hire out houses on Somes Island, or even camp if you're feeling brave. Get together enough of the crew and it's pretty inexpensive, too: $20 per head for the eight-person cabin, which comes fully kitted out with everything you'd expect in a classic Kiwi bach. Once you've settled in, venture out to the tip of the island and curl up under the stars. You might find yourself sharing the view with a critter or two.

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WELLINGTON BOTANIC GARDENS

There are so many lawns in the Wellington Botanic Garden that you could make it your mission to try and stargaze on every one of them, but make sure you also check out the glowworms along the way. You can find glowworms in the Main Garden, stretching from the Duck Pond through to Glen Road. There are even guided glowworm tours during the warmer months.

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KAITOKE REGIONAL PARK

Kaitoke Regional Park is a 45-minute drive away from Wellington, making it the perfect camping getaway spot for the adventure seeking Wellingtonian. Camping spots are cheap and you can even set up a campfire by the riverbed if you want to get extra cosy, with permission from the ranger. In the warmer months the camp ground fills up with food trucks, and campers cooling off in the river, and you can go to sleep underneath the stars. There are even free barbecuing facilities to seal the deal.

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MOUNT VICTORIA

If you're looking for somewhere more central, you don't need to travel far in Wellington to get a close-up look at the Milky Way. A short hike up Mount Victoria will reward you with a prime view of the whole city once you reach the top, and enough distance from the light pollution to see the stars. You can also reach the lookout by car, so if you're after a stargazing spot with wheelchair access then Mount Victoria is your go-to.

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ZEALANDIA

Wellington's bird and wildlife sanctuary offers guided tours during the night time, for your chance to check out the night dwelling fauna of Wellington under the cover of the city's stars. Out here in the bush you'll have a crystal clear view of the galaxy, set to the background music of ruru calls and rustling trees. There are tours for all age groups and abilities.

Published on October 23, 2018 by Laura Somerset

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