Top stargazing spots for Matariki

16 July 2020

Matariki is a special time in the Māori calendar which celebrates the beginning of a New Year. It is a time to spend with whānau, share kai together, reflect on the year past, and look forward to the future.

The names and layout of the nine stars of Matariki.

The nine stars of Matariki.

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Matariki is marked by the rising of a star cluster of the same name, which appears in Aotearoa skies in midwinter. The Matariki cluster – also known as Pleiades and the Seven Sisters – has about 500 stars, however, only about seven are visible to the naked eye.

In Māori tradition, there are nine stars with different meanings – Matariki and her eight children. To spot the Matariki cluster for yourself, the trick is to look to the north-east horizon and find the Orion’s Belt constellation. From there, look northwards for a faint cluster of tiny dots and – voila – that’s Matariki! 

Our amazing city has many stargazing vantage points to climb! We encourage you to plan ahead and set your alarm clock early to catch the Matariki cluster at dawn. And it may take a few tries to see the stars so don't be disheartened if you don't spot them first time around!

To help with your stargazing quest, download our new Matariki app. Simply search 'Matariki' in the Google Play Store or iOS App Store, then point your phone camera at the sky and you'll find the Matariki constellation – or point it at the ground and light your own bonfires to celebrate Ahi Kā.

Here are five lesser-known special stargazing spots our Parks Team has shared:

A map of Wellington with stars pinpointing five locations ideal for spotting the Matariki star cluster.

James Stellin Memorial Park
In Northland on Tinakori Hill, James Stellin Memorial Park has stunning 180-degree views over the city to the harbour as well as neat night sky viewing opportunities.

Homebush Park 
Located on Homebush Road in Khandallah, this hidden playground down a gravel track has breathtaking views over Wellington harbour and the wide-open skies above.

Tawatawa Reserve
Tawatawa Reserve is a large flat grassed area is dog exercise-friendly and is located on Quebec Street, in between the suburbs of Owhiro Bay, Kingston, and Island Bay.

Ataturk Memorial Park
The Ataturk Memorial Park lookout can be accessed from the Tarakena Bay car park on Breaker Bay Road.

Waihinahina Park 
Located on Ladbrooke Drive in Newlands, Waihinahina Park is an open grassed area surrounded with regenerating bush – an ideal spot for stargazing Matariki on a clear night!