Stonehenge Aotearoa is New Zealand’s only open air hands-on astronomical observatory. Situated in the Wairarapa countryside close to Carterton, just over an hour from Wellington, Stonehenge Aotearoa is a window into the past where the visitor can rediscover the knowledge of their ancestors. It incorporates ancient Egyptian, Babylonian and Indus Valley astronomy, Polynesian navigation, and Celtic and Maori starlore. Built on the same scale as Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in England.
Take yourself on an astronomical journey through time and space. The henge is open day everyday:
- Take the self-guided tour: A map of the Stonehenge Aotearoa structure and a short audio-visual explaining how the stones work are included in the visit.
- Or book a private 90 minute tour to learn how our ancestors made sense of the sky for thousands of years before telescopes were invented.
- Every weekend, on Friday and Saturday, our professional space science communicators open their powerful telescopes and, weather permitting, we gaze in awe at the Universe, we take you on a cosmic tour of the night sky. This new programme is called Star Safari. You will learn about the constellations, what is in the sky, and if you chose to do so, what you can do to contribute making Wairarapa a dark sky reserve.
Rediscover the knowledge of your ancestors. The stones are neutral and welcome people of all cultures, beliefs, faiths and religions. There is something for everyone to learn.
Stonehenge is the perfect tool to learn about our beautiful dark sky of Wairarapa, which hopes to become the largest dark sky reserve in New Zealand. Why is the night sky important and what would it mean for the community to have a dark sky reserve here?
Light pollution now affects much of the world and it is estimated that 80 percent of the world’s population lives under skyglow. According to the International Dark Sky Association, in the United States and Europe 99 percent of the public can’t experience a natural night (IDA, 2020). Our sky in Wairarapa is so dark that the Milky Way, our galaxy, arches from horizon to horizon. We experience the sky as our ancestors did thousands of years before the invention of artificial light. With so many stars, it is easy to get lost. Before astronomical observatories were invented, to make sense of the sky, people built henges, just like ours. Bob Adam, the surveyor in charge of alignment spent a thousand hours to perfectly align every lintel and every pillar to the stars in New Zealand, to the Maori asterisms; to make sure that every solstice and equinox you will see the Sun rising and setting precisely from the heel stones.
See their website for tour details, bookings, current opening hours and special events. Private tours are available at any time by arrangement.