Lake Tekapo Tours
Crater Experience at Cowan's Observatory
3.5

Crater Experience at Cowan's Observatory

By Dark Sky Project
About
from
$140.58
per adult
Lowest price guaranteeReserve now & pay laterFree cancellation

Ages 5-99, max of 22 per group
Duration: 1h 15m
Start time: Check availability
Mobile ticket
Live guide: English
More


  • GST (Goods and Services Tax)
  • Professional guide
What's not included
  • Food and drinks, unless specified
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off


  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • Near public transportation
If you have questions about accessibility, we’d be happy to help. Just call the number below and reference the product code: 105977P2

  • Children must be accompanied by an adult
  • Minimum age is 5 years
  • Dress warm all year round
  • A minimum of 2 people per tour is required. There is a possibility of cancellation after confirmation if there are not enough passengers to meet requirements. In the event of this occurring, you will be offered an alternative or full refund
  • Most travellers can participate
  • This experience requires good weather. If it’s cancelled due to poor weather, you’ll be offered a different date or a full refund
  • This experience requires a minimum number of travellers. If it’s cancelled because the minimum isn’t met, you’ll be offered a different date/experience or a full refund
  • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 22 travellers

  • For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.

If you have questions about this tour or need help making your booking, we’d be happy to help. Just call the number below and reference the product code: 105977P2

Reserve your spot

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About the operator
Don’t take it from us – here’s what people have to say about this operator:
  • Dark Sky Project
    1,147
    Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
    Joined in April 2008
  • LeanneGordon73
    0 contributions
    1.0 of 5 bubbles
    Disappointed ☹️
    Extremely disappointed and misleading advertising as to what we expected, felt like I was back at school, and did not feel we were among the stars as advertised, the speaker but nice but very hard to understand with not clear english and spoke extremely fast. It was a screen show, and all 3 of us were gutted as thought this would be a highlight of our trip in Lake Tekapo. Don't waste your money on this. Way over priced for what you get.
    Written 1 June 2024
  • KiwiWanderers02
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    An excellent experience!
    We chose to do the 10pm viewing and we’re not disappointed. After a short bus ride to the top we were met by our guide for the night who gave us a briefing then off up the hill to the first level where the aurora could be seen, a first for us which was great! Then on up the hill to the top where two telescopes were set up adjacent to a much bigger indoor telescope. Great viewing was had by all with a good clear sky. Our guide was very knowledgeable and shared lots of information with us. While there the breeze came up so we appreciated the extra warm long jackets that had been provided. Back on the bus and to Te Anau after midnight - well pleased with the entire experience. If you are interested in the night sky, this is a must do and we highly recommend it. Keep looking up!
    Written 22 May 2024
  • gurleend2021
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    The Summit Experience
    It was an incredible experience. We booked onto the summit experience on the 3rd May 2024 and were so lucky to have a crystal clear night. Not only that, the moon was nearing a new moon so there wasn't much interference from moonlight either. The milky way was out in all its glory and we saw a couple of shooting stars too. Our guide was Josh and he was funny, enthusiastic, and very knowledgeable. We were able to see the Southern Cross, Alpha and beta centuri, Arceturus, Sirius, Canopus, the Magellan Clouds, Scorpio, and more. I initially thought the clouds were just that - clouds. To find out we were looking at two extra galaxies with the naked eye was mind-boggling. It was really interesting to also look through the telescopes. We were able to see the Tarantula nebula, baby stars, elderly stars, and more. Our trip up to the summit on the "rocket ship" was piloted by Philippa (apologies if I have misremembered her name). She was a rider of Rohan and took our photo at the end of the trip, which was pretty amazing. Her soundtrack of choice going up and down the summit was great and she was hilarious. Sadly we had to return the extra cosy jackets we borrowed (they were so comfortable). All in all, we were very lucky and had a brilliant time.
    Written 16 May 2024
  • MaryAnn K
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Great experience
    Fantastic experience! Warm jackets against the cold, spectacular clear star gazing, guided use of telescopes and excellent commentary/education from our friendly knowledgeable guide Sarah. My amateur astronomer husband loved it too.
    Written 5 May 2024
  • TonyC_Austin
    0 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Best cancellation experience ever
    The night of our booking, the winds were 160 kph on the summit and it was cancelled. However, the way the staff handled the situation was phenomenal. They gave us multiple different options to choose from, including full refunds. They were super enthusiastic about their work, great at communicating the situation. How they handled this was super professional and considerate, which speaks a lot to how the place is run. I left really disappointed as I expected this to be a great experience.
    Written 29 April 2024
  • brucegW1765KU
    0 contributions
    3.0 of 5 bubbles
    Interesting but underwhelming
    The staff presenting were great and interesting but I expected larger telescopes. Unfortunately with portable outdoor telescopes were buffeted but the 50kph winds so images were affected by this. Glad to have done it once but wouldn’t do it again.
    Written 26 April 2024
  • TonyD2860
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    The things you didn’t know!
    A very interesting and educational experience. The guide was excellent and hugely knowledgeable. A good way to spend a spare hour.
    Written 20 March 2024
  • Adventure14664388960
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Dark sky experience— Mount John
    The staff were all so friendly and helpful. We were offered the opportunity for a refund prior to viewing due to clouds , but chose to go ahead as southern cross was on view. Unfortunately wind gusts upto 100km and having evening cut short for everyones safety. Staff were brilliant— all very professional and created a calm and informative session in the cafe , whilst we waited for winds to settle and walk to bus. Many thanks to “Marina” our lovely and informative guide— we learnt lots despite a short visit. Bus driver was also awesome 🤩 Coats are toasty warm and added to the fun. Company has offered everyone a full refund . I would highly recommend 😊
    Written 2 March 2024
  • B5630LBpeterr
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Amazing experience
    We had heard that the dark skies around Tekapo were fantastic. As I enjoy some amateur astronomy, I decided to try the Dark Sky experience at Mt John observatory. We were rewarded by a fantastically clear night and the sky was truly amazing, never seen a better view of the night sky. The staff were excellent and explained what you were looking at and had a number of telescopes set up to view different objects in the night sky. 100% recommended if you are interested in the night sky.!
    Written 4 February 2024
  • 368dustyw
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Amazing
    Highly recommended when in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand The exsperiance begins with boarding with Philippa, our pilot on the space shuttle to the Galaxy. Philippa is a wealth of knowledge and entertainment as she navigated the narrow steep windy road to the summit and Observatory. Our guides on the summit were filled with a wealth of knowledge. The time spent learning about the southern sky and what the galaxy has to hold was beyond belief. Then again Philippa boarded us back on her Galaxy space shuttle for the return trip.
    Written 21 January 2024
  • 22ccsydney
    0 contributions
    3.0 of 5 bubbles
    Disappointed
    This was a bit disappointing for the price. Geared more for younger kids - not space literate teenagers and adults. I hoped to learn a bit more about the Dark Sky Project, research etc but it was mostly about Māori astronomy, which was quite interesting, but not sure it was enough to sustain the 45mins at the $180 it cost for our family. .
    Written 11 January 2024
  • bbyma
    0 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Good tour for rainy day
    Good way to spend a cloudy day, we went for the 130$NZD family ticket (daytime planetarium experience). Mikey is a good narrator and we were taken into three different rooms that displayed image projections. Leant about Māori creation stories and also how to navigate the night sky.
    Written 22 December 2023
  • Tina C
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Do not miss out on this opportunity!
    Amazing launch to space with Phillipa as our captain! She was fun and engaging as we rode to the observatory and kept us feeling safe (even with driving in the pitch black!). Our fearless leader, Tu, has great enthusiasm as he explained about stars and planets and how the world of space works. Dan came and helped out towards the end with showing us the different phases of stars being born. We were so grateful for the coats provided to us at the beginning of the tour (we wanted to keep them, they were so warm), but it was still a pretty cold/windy night at the observatory. We also did the virtual star gazing experience (with Dan) before the summit experience and we felt like it enhanced the experience greatly! Not only was Dan great at explaining things, but he made it easy to understand and you could tell how passionate he was about the work! Overall, this is one of the top experiences of our lives so far. Do not miss out on the opportunity to experience the night sky in a new way! We are hoping to come back very soon to do this all again!
    Written 29 November 2023
  • emilyhW1719NJ
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Excellent experience
    We were very lucky to get a private tour & were privileged to have Kate as our guide. We also did outdoor stargazing but this virtual experience really helped us understand everything we had seen. Kate was a fountain of knowledge, answering all of our questions with great enthusiasm. I would strongly recommend this experience for anyone curious about astronomy and interested in learning more about the formation of stars & the night sky.
    Written 18 November 2023
  • bigdadwangchung
    0 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    A starstudded spectacular experience
    An excellent experience viewing the stars, galaxies, planets and nebula of the southern hemisphere. I messed up the time to get there and was my birthday and the staff went of thier way to get me up to the tour that had just started. The tour guides were excellent and the sky with no clouds or moonlight was mesmerizing!
    Written 20 October 2023
See all 1,147 reviews
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3.5
3.5 of 5 bubbles53 reviews
Excellent
27
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5
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MissHK2009
Hong Kong, China5,783 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2023 • Friends
We had booked the stargazing tour for Christmas Eve (12:00 midnight). After we reached the gathering point inside the Dark Project building at 11:30pm, the staff advised us to walk around in the building for a while for other customers to arrive.

Well, we wandered in the souvenir shop then. At about 12:00, the staff waved all the customers to the front desk but declared that the activity had to be cancelled for cloudy/ rainy weather. And customers could only either:

1) switch to another indoor stargazing activity which fee is much lower than the outdoor one we enrolled
2) get refund, not full refund but only the difference between the amount we had paid and the fee of the indoor activity.

The arrangement is so ridiculous. Firstly, why not notify customers well in advance that the tour has to be cancelled? The weather was not that good whole day. We were still asked to walk around for a while in the gathering point before their declaration of cancellation. Secondly, cancellation for bad weather is at no fault of customers but no full refund is allowed (except booking via agent which we did, luckily).
Written 9 January 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

murorga
Sheffield, UK15 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Couples
We turned up to the Dark Sky Project on a beautifully clear and dry summer's evening for our Crater Experience (stargazing through telescopes). We planned ahead, booked on a night where no cloud cover was expected and, upon arrival, were relieved to see conditions couldn't have been any better! 3 hours later, we were told our Crater Experience was cancelled due to lack of visibility.

That seemed odd. We stepped outside and could still see the entire sky from horizon to horizon so clearly that even our little smartphones could capture photos of the constellations we had driven hours and paid hundreds of dollars to view through high powered telescopes...

At this point, a simple refund would have been fine. Instead, we were given a 25% refund and forced to endure a "virtual stargazing" experience: in other words, sitting in brutally uncomfortable chairs while being shown fake planets on a sceen.

At 11pm we were reading the Dark Sky Project's information board about how humans spend too much time looking at screens, and how we must take time to enjoy the darkness and the stars in one of the last remaining truly dark skies on Earth. At midnight, we were trapped inside looking at a computer simulation of Saturn on a giant TV, instead of enjoying the most spectacular night sky we had ever seen outside in the Gold Standard Night Sky Reserve.

When the virtual experience was mercifully over, we went outside and took ourselves stargazing (alongside dozens of others people) beneath what had continued to be a beautifully clear night sky.

We appreciate that stargazing is dependent on weather and visibility, but if those conditions weren't good enough for the experience to run, I can't imagine what is. The whole thing felt like a scam: a way to flog overpriced tickets to the "virtual" experience by selling the Crater experience, then just cancelling it. Unless you're passing Lake Tekapo at midnight and can pop in on a whim, please don't invest any time, money or energy in specifically visiting this place in the hope that your experience will go ahead, because they don't even refund you when it doesn't.

It's also worth noting that there is nowhere to eat after 9pm in Lake Tekapo and, despite their main attractions being midnight stargazing, the Dark Sky Project don't provide any kind of refreshments after 8.30pm. They don't even have a vending machine: the staff look at you like you're crazy if you ask where you can get a cup of coffee or a snack. If you're driving from out of town it's worth eating before you get there!
Written 25 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lisalucie27
Sydney, Australia3 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2020 • Solo
Very big group for two telescopes so you’re missing most of the informations because you’re waiting in line for the telescope.
Very basic learning at the beginning that is taking way too much time before getting to actually see things.
Waste of money. Completely disappointed
Written 25 July 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Kia ora, Thanks for choosing Dark Sky Project and for taking the time to share your experience with us. We are really disappointed to hear your experience did not live up to your expectations. We always monitor feedback really closely to ensure the experience evolves and continually develops. Our tours aim to cater to guests of all levels of existing knowledge and understanding of astronomy. By talking through some of the fundamental principles behind what we're looking at in the night sky, we hope to ensure that every member of the tour group can appreciate the amazing view we enjoy from the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. We will discuss your points with the team – thank you again for the feedback. We welcome you to email us info@darkskyproject.co.nz with any further feedback. Thanks again for choosing us, and providing your comments.
Written 26 July 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Pippa H
London, UK82 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2023 • Couples
Definitely a Lake Tekapo must do - learnt so much about space and stars from the very engaging astronomers, and it was so cool getting to use the telescopes, seeing constellations/planets/the moon in that much detail is so special. It is a bit pricey, we did the crater one as it was a bit cheaper and the receptionist told us the content of the observatory and crater were the same, just different locations. Make sure to wrap up warm though! It was -3 when we went, but the jackets they give you are great.
Written 9 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Gill & Tom C
1 contribution
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Family
Unfortunately the weather was against us and despite returning at 2am the cloud cover was too thick to see. We had tickets for three of us for the crater experience and didn't want to see the virtual tour which is offered when it's cloudy. So we asked if the cost of the three crater tickets could be exchanged for two more expensive summit experience tickets to enable one of us that lives in New Zealand to come back at a later date. Two of us have to return to the UK so can't come back. The person on the ticket desk pretended that he didn't understand our request and was very rude. So they have my money and don't care and can't be flexible. Just a bad experience for us and very disappointing on the customer service side of things.
Written 12 December 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Ann K
3 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2023
We were excited to be booked on the crater experience with our family on a beautiful clear night. However when we arrived, first we were told trip was cancelled due to cloud (untrue), then told there was a storm coming (also untrue), then finally told they didn’t have the staff to run it and wouldn’t have for the next 4 days!! Nothing short of a rip off!! I wonder how many other people they sell tickets to, then dupe into a 45 min film!
Written 1 May 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Kia ora, The weather last night was always going to be very tricky with cloud in the forecast. This is not uncommon, as weather conditions can change drastically in the area. Unfortunately, last night and regretfully for the remainder of this week there was also an unexpected shortage of staff. Health and Safety is of the utmost importance to our Manuhiri (guests) and our Kaimahi (staff) especially when conducting tours in the dark. You would have been offered several options due to the last minute cancellations. They would have included a full refund of your ticket, or the opportunity to join the alternative tour. We take our mahi (work) very seriously, and will not "dupe" anyone in to watching a "45 min film" as claimed. We sincerely apologize to you and your family for the unexpected cancellations. Nga mihi Dark Sky team
Written 6 May 2023
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

jamieclower
Silverado, CA75 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Couples
I hate to say this, but our entire trip to NZ was planned around a new moon visit to Dark Sky Project. Visiting in the late spring we were so hopeful for great conditions, but our 9:30 pm tour was cancelled as we all milled about the lobby hoping for better news while light clouds passed through the sky.

We are so passionate about night sky preserves and absolutely love what they are doing here - I hope we can return for the full experience. If you are hoping to do this, try to book on your first of multiple nights in the area - they did offer to rebook the next or later evenings but we were heading out of the region (our mistake!).
Written 25 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Dan P
2 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Absolutely happy on the food & restaurant service! Our group of 6 had dinner there last night and our food was well prepared and well cooked to our satisfaction. We all enjoyed our time there.
Unfortunately my experience with the Cowans Crater tour was not satisfying. We were led to believe that we could see Saturn and Jupiter on the 11pm tour so my wife and I booked a seat. The guide later on said Saturn is a no coz it’s below the horizon. Just said sorry and that was it. Really gutted as the assurance was based on a lie. The person who sold us the ticket should not have assured us then we would not be disappointed. We learned and saw a few things though but not seeing Saturn just did me out. Sorry.
Written 23 December 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Kia Ora Dan, Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review. We are pleased to see that you enjoyed your dinner and overall experience at our Dark Sky Diner! Regarding our Crater Experience, your feedback has been sent to our management team in order to prevent this to happen again. At this time of the year, Saturn was unfortunately very low on the horizon at the time of your tour – therefore not visible through the telescope. This was a mistake on our end so please accept our apologies. You can send further feedback to info@darkskyproject.co.nz. Ngā mihi, Dark Sky Project Team
Written 1 January 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Ian Wu
Singapore21 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
New Zealand is full of beautiful and wonderful experiences, and I have to say - this was possibly the most memorable one of our 2 week trip. Very fortunate that our tour to the crater could proceed so we could see the millions of stars in the night sky. Not just a simple stargazing trip, the staff were so knowledgeable and approachable giving us a crash course in astronomy 101. Would definitely visit again if I have the good fortune to visit NZ in the future.
Written 6 April 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Silke U
Chelmsford, UK24 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2024 • Friends
The trip to the crater was canceled due to a large grey cloud & we were given a refund which was great.
We were offered a talk in the observatory which was inspiring .
There was a lack of Oxygen in the room which prompted me to leave early.
Written 20 February 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Crater Experience at Cowan's Observatory provided by Dark Sky Project

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