The stars are aligning and definitely shining brightly on New Zealand’s Stewart Island. On January 4, 2019, New Zealand’s third largest island was officially recognized by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary.
Stewart Island’s Māori name “Rakiura” (usually translated as “glowing skies”) tells of the area’s special relationship with the night sky. The island was already inhabited by Māori when British explorer James Cook, on the HMS Endeavour, first sighted the island in 1770.
IDA Dark Sky Places Program Manager Adam Dalton said the successful accreditation, which makes Stewart Island the fifth Dark Sky Sanctuary – and only the second island sanctuary (the first is also in New Zealand) in the world – was unanimously endorsed by the IDA Board. “Stewart Island/Rakiura’s pristine night skies are a rare treasure and through the sanctuary’s enacted policies, the area will remain a resource in a world where access to the night sky is becoming increasingly scarce,” Dalton said.
In addition to the chance of running into a kiwi while gazing at the stars, Stewart Island has another fabulous draw card. Its southern location gives it some of the best views possible of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) anywhere in the world.
New Zealand is already home to a gold-rated International Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island’s Southern Alps, and the Dark Sky Sanctuary on Great Barrier Island off the North Island, north of Auckland.