Mount John Observatory

Take an evening tour to see the wonders of the night sky or visit during the day to enjoy the stunning views of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountains.

Mount John Observatory is one of New Zealand’s leading observatories. Being located on a hilltop overlooking the mesmerizing Lake Tekapo, it’s also hugely popular for its day-time views.

The observatory is located within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only four such reserves around the world. It was decided in 1963 that Mount John provided the best conditions for an observatory out of several locations in New Zealand. The observatory was completed soon after. Upgrades throughout the years, including a 71-inch (180-centimeter) telescope in 2004, keep the observatory up with the latest technology.

Take a night-time tour of the observatory with Earth & Sky. Scan the night sky through powerful telescopes while the professional guides inform and educate you about the stars and the wider cosmos. On cloudy nights, you can reschedule your planned visit to another night or choose to tour the largest telescopes that are normally set aside for professional astronomers.

During the day, the location of the observatory not only provides unmatched views of the sky but also amazing views over Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps. The lake has a vivid turquoise color on sunny days, due to the minerals from glacier meltwater that feeds into the lake. The mountains change color each season, from the dry brown of summer through to the glistening white dustings of winter snow.

Have a drink or lunch at the café on the hilltop beside the observatory. The café terrace provides views that are truly unique, so bring your camera along. Warm yourself with a hot chocolate or coffee in winter or cool down with a smoothie or ice tea in summer.

Mount John Observatory is about a 15-minute drive from Tekapo township. A small road entry and parking fee applies. A very popular option is to hike from the town to the observatory. The hike passes through larch forest before opening up to grassland hills and takes about 45 minutes one way. On the way down, drop into Tekapo Springs for a long soak in one of the hot pools for the perfect finale to your day.