How to find the Matariki star cluster: Best times and locations


Credit Great South
Credit Great South
On Friday 28 June, Aotearoa marks the third year of our newest public holiday, recognising Matariki, the Māori New Year.

Every year in the middle of winter, the Matariki star cluster rises, ushering in the Māori New Year. It represents a time to gather with whānau and friends, reflect on the past, honour the present and look forward to the future.

This year the theme for Matariki is  ‘Matariki Heri Kai – The feast of Matariki.’

“Building on last year’s theme ‘Matariki kāinga hokia’ we encourage people to view Matariki as a time to journey home, spend time with whānau and friends, and enjoy feasting on fresh, locally sourced produce,” says Professor Rangi Mātāmua.

Before the holiday was introduced back in 2022, Professor Rangi Mātāmua said Matariki was believed to be the first re-introduced indigenous holiday anywhere in the world.

“All other (New Zealand) celebrations have essentially been imported, but this is unique and special to who we are in the world and where we are today,” he said.

Matariki falls on a different date each year but always falls in June or July. This is because Matariki follows the traditional Māori lunar calendar as opposed to the Gregorian solar calendar year. The dates for the next five years are 20 June (2025), 10 July (2026),  25 June (2027), 14 July (2028) and 6 July (2029).

Matariki is also known as the Pleiades star cluster and can be identified by the seven star ‘sisters’. For people around Aotearoa wondering how to find the Matariki star cluster, there are a number of opportunities up and down the country.

The best time to see Matariki

According to NIWA meteorologists, people living in the upper North Island are likely to get the best views of the Matariki star cluster this week.

Cloud cover allowing, Matariki comes into view as a small pulsating collection of stars just above the northeastern horizon. This happens shortly before sunrise.

The NIWA weather team have prepared forecasts for early morning cloud cover so whānau around the country can plan their best chances of seeing Matariki rise.

Forecaster Seth Carrier says it’s looking fairly cloudy for much of the country.

“It’s a mixed bag of weather but cloud is quite dominant across the country over the coming days. However, most places will have a morning or two with just partial cloud, so there may be opportunities to see the star cluster if you’re lucky,” said Seth.

Forecasts are available at Matariki Viewing Conditions and will be updated daily.

Where is Matariki in the sky?

You can spot Matariki by looking at the recognisable star groups, such as the Southern Cross (Te Punga) and Orion’s Belt (Tautoru). See below a helpful diagram of where to find Matariki in the sky.

The best places to see Matariki

Aotearoa is fantastic for stargazing as there are many places around the country with low light pollution. Those in the main cities can drive out to the countryside, or if you’re lucky enough, head to one of the country’s Dark Sky Sanctuaries.

Aotea (Great Barrier Island)

About a 30-minute flight from Auckland is Aotea, Great Barrier Island, one of the world’s few Dark Sky Sanctuaries. You can find fantastic stargazing opportunities from about anywhere on the island, ranging from forested hills to sandy beaches. The guides from Good Heavens offer wonderful stargazing tours, sharing their expert knowledge of the night sky.

The Ātea a Rangi, Waitangi Regional Park, Hawke’s Bay

Ātea a Rangi is a celestial star compass located in Waitangi Regional Park in the Hawke’s Bay. It is used to teach traditional Māori navigation methods and tell stories of those who navigated the oceans to arrive and settle here in Aotearoa. Visitors can join a tour with the Ātea a Rangi Educational Trust to learn more about the site.


Just an hour from Wellington, you’ll find Wairarapa, a stunning region with big skies that has recently earned official Dark Sky Reserve status from the International Dark Sky Association, making it one of the most accessible spots for a bit of winter stargazing.

Takapō/Lake Tekapo 

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in the South Island is no doubt one of the best places to stargaze in New Zealand. It’s the first reserve to be awarded gold status due to having nearly non-existent light, making this place a truly breathtaking spot to see Matariki and other constellations.

Both Dark Sky Project and Big Sky Stargazing offer knowledgeable stargazing experiences with telescopes and astro-binoculars that give dazzling views of the night sky. 

Otago Peninsula, Dunedin

From Dunedin you can not only see Matariki, but under the right conditions, be able to witness the dazzling Aurora Australia, Southern Lights. Horizon Tours offer unique stargazing experiences from a Māori perspective, where you can learn about Māori creation myths and how ancestors navigated the ocean using the night sky.

Rakiura/Stewart Island

Rakiura (Stewart Island) is another Dark Sky Sanctuary and one of the best places to see the Aurora Australis, Milky Way and Matariki. Because of its location far south, stargazers on Rakiura have the special opportunity to see celestial features that can be seen anywhere else in the country. Rakiura National Park, home to one of the country’s Great Walks, is a perfect location to spot shooting stars and constellations.


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