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Great Barrier Island, the first island in the world to gain international dark sky status

Dark Sky at Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island, the first island in the world to gain international dark sky status

Great Barrier Island, off the north-eastern coast of Auckland, New Zealand was the first island in the world to be designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

Located 100km north-east of central Auckland, Great Barrier Island’s night skies are protected for present and future generations. 

Great Barrier Island was the first island and only the third place in the world to achieve this status. The other two sanctuaries are in New Mexico (US) and Chile. 

A Dark Sky Sanctuary is public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or educational value, cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.

With much of Great Barrier Island ’off the grid’, light pollution is minimized on the island, allowing for great viewing of the spectacular night sky.

Great Barrier Island is a place of rugged beauty and untouched wilderness, and is one of the most tranquil and unspoilt places in the wider Auckland region,” Auckland May, Phil Goff says.  

The island is accessible by air from Auckland, Coromandel, Northland, Tauranga and Hamilton, or by ferry from Auckland’s downtown waterfront. 

Great Barrier Island joins the Aoraki Mackenzie in the central South Island as a leading New Zealand astro-tourism destination. Aoraki Mackenzie is an International Dark Sky Reserve and must-do tourism experience for international visitors to New Zealand. Now with two recognised dark sky areas, New Zealand has become a bucket list destination for astronomers and lovers of the night sky. 

A sanctuary differs from a Dark Sky Park or Reserve in that it is typically situated in a very remote location with few (if any) nearby threats to the quality of its dark night skies, and it does not otherwise meet the requirements for designation as a park or reserve.

If you would like to know more about the night sky, your family can join a Good Heavens guided star gazing evening tour with a Dark Sky Ambassador that is suitable for both kids and adults. Kids will learn more about our night sky and how you can use the stars to orientate yourself and discover places where stars are born. You will get to look through the telescope, deep into space and wonder at the beauty and the magnificence of the night skies.

Things to do on Great Barrier Island with Kids

As well as seeing the dark sky at night and enjoying the nature and relaxed pace there are activites for families to enjoy on Great Barrier Island.

– Go paddleboarding and if you need some lessons or want to hire a board or kayak call into Shiny Paua Stand Up Paddle Boards. 

– Go swimming on the sandy beaches at Puriri Bay. Surfers will enjoy Medlands Beach, Whangapoua Beach and Awana Bay.

– Soak in Kaitoke natural hot springs. They are a short walk along the edge of the Kaitoke Swamp.

– Go Horse riding on Kaitoke Beach or Harataonga Bay

– Discover Kauri Falls on a bush walk or check out the Windy Canyon.

– Take a Crazyhorse Trike Tour on the trike motorbike. Unfortunately the back seat of the trike can only carry two people, so your family may need to go in a couple of trips rather than all together.

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island, also known by its Māori name of Aotea, has a population of just over 900 people. More than 60% of the island’s 285 square kilometres is public land administered by the Department of Conservation. The native forest is laced with beautiful walking tracks, which lead to secluded natural hot springs and an historic kauri dam. These wilderness areas, foreshores and estuaries are home to several unique plant and bird species. Rising 627 metres above the sea, Hirakimata (Mount Hobson) beckons the hiker with the promise of incredible 360-degree views.

Great Barrier Island is a popular destination for diving, fishing, surfing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and camping. Accommodation options range from tent sites to luxury eco lodges.

Great Barrier is the fourth largest island in New Zealand’s main chain behind the North, South and Stewart islands.

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