It’s obvious from the moment you arrive there’s something special about Tekapo. The charming church with the picturesque backdrop of the snow-capped mountains and breathtakingly blue lake is (quite fittingly) out of this world.
Tekapo has long been regarded as a family favourite, boasting numerous activities for young and old. But many Kiwis don’t yet fully appreciate just how highly regarded the region is, especially when it comes to stargazing.
The township and its surrounding areas make up the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the world’s largest and first gold tier Dark Sky Reserve. It’s an impressive accomplishment, and one that we shouldn’t be complacent about. Since establishing its Dark Sky Reserve status in 2012, the region has become somewhat of a stargazing mecca, attracting tens of thousands from around the world each year.
In July this year the region takes its next big step as a stargazing haven when it opens a new astronomy centre on Tekapo lakefront, courtesy of Dark Sky Project (formerly Earth & Sky Stargazing). A truly world-class facility, the Dark Sky Project base will proudly host a unique indoor daytime experience that combines science and Māori astronomy. Aptly named The Dark Sky Experience, it is a world first and perfect for families. The 45-minute experience features multimedia installations, floor projections and interactive globes, offering a seamless blend of science and tātai aroraki (Māori astronomy). English tours run every hour, so it’s accessible for families staying in the region, or just driving through.
“We’re so excited to launch this unique experience which brings to life stories about the night sky and about the region in a way that has never been done before,” says Dark Sky Project co-founder Graeme Murray. “Our partnership with Ngāi Tahu Tourism has enabled this to be truly authentic, unique and of its place,” Graeme says.
The centre is also home to the newly restored Brashear Telescope which stands at an impressive nine metres. This Victorian masterpiece, with its 46cm lens, pushed the limits of science when it was created over 125 years ago. Visitors can view the Brashear through glass from the foyer, or get up close with this magnificent feature on the Dark Sky Experience.
The Dark Sky Project centre also includes an all-day and evening diner with food and beverage offerings to suit all. It is undoubtedly Tekapo’s best positioned eatery, boasting spectacular views of the Southern Alps, lake and the Church of the Good Shepherd.
Dark Sky Project and Dark Sky Experience open to the public Tuesday 2 July, in time for the school holidays. Don’t miss the special family offer available during July.