The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve—a part of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park—is located 128 miles (206 km) from Christchurch, the largest city in New Zealand’s South Island. In 2012, the area was declared an International Dark Sky Reserve, with light pollution strictly controlled and dark skies like nothing else in New Zealand. The reserve hosts New Zealand’s premier astronomical research centre, the Mount John Observatory. A stargazer told EarthSky the following: “The region is situated in the center of New Zealand’s South Island, just a 2.5-hour drive south of Christchurch and approximately a 2.5-hour drive north of Queenstown”. Also, a staffperson at Aoraki Mackenzie shared the following with EarthSky: “… is the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve. It contains a large amount of public land and roads that are always open to the public 24/7. There are campgrounds at several locations. Many tourist operators provide (paid) stargazing tours but the stars can be viewed free of charge from anywhere inside the Reserve.”
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