Tag: Astro-tourism

The night sky, NZ’s longest drivable beach, and a kauri pen!

Warning!
Warning!

Continuing my trip around Northland, along the Twin Coast Highway, which was taken in my favourite car rental company NZ Rent A Car I leave the Hokianga and head South on SH12 to check out the night sky and the wild west coast.

I stop again at Waipoua Forest to see Tane Mahutu in the daylight and it’s a popular site with a number of tour buses in the car park. The road winds its way through the forest of kauri and other natives making for pleasant driving. Heading north on the same road are many campervans and I know the travellers in them will have a great time here in the north of New Zealand.

Kauri Coast road - beautiful.
Kauri Coast road – beautiful.

I eventually turn off the main road towards Baylys Beach and the vast Ripiro Beach – the longest driveable beach in New Zealand – I don’t drive on it but take a walk instead!

This west coast is lined with spectacular beaches and petrified forests: 157 sailing ships were wrecked here which lets us know just how wild the Tasman Sea can be.

Checking in at Sunset View Lodge I have great rural views and can even hear the sound of the waves.

???????????????????????????????The Lodge has free Wi-Fi J and an honesty box in the bar – I’m sure some people would be happy with that but also suspect many travellers choose a B&B so they can spend time with their hosts – however with the honestly box I guess the choice is yours! With only 3 suites, this is a relaxed place to stay and the heated pool is an added bonus  . . .  especially after horse-riding as Pam, the owner, operates a horse trekking business but I’m not doing that but will be gazing skywards tonight. (Note – The Baylys Beach Horse Treks run from 25th October to 25th April.)

Rural areas in Northland, because of the lack of light and pollution, are good places to check out the night sky – and Astronomy Adventures is the place to start. (You can even stay here too)

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The charity side of this observatory – the ‘Skydome Observers Group’ – is made up of locals and I get to join them at their Valentine’s Day meeting where the focus is on Venus – after the goddess of love. In the lounge of our host, I learn Venus is the hottest planet and so not surprisingly has the most volcanoes of any planets. Named after the Roman Goddess of beauty and love, Venus, and other planets or stars, were not visible to us because of the clouds. If you like the night sky, this would be a great place to visit – as is Tekapo just south of Christchurch, and the Carter Observatory in Wellington.

 

 

???????????????????????????????Next morning I head for Dargaville and stop at the Kauri Coast Info Centre and Woodturners Studio and Gallery on Murdoch Street – just north of Dargaville town-ship.

I meet award-winning carver Rick Taylor (and his wife, Sue, who runs the info centre) and I hear that Rick harvests ancient Kauri from swamp land on the Kauri Coast and creates it into the stunning pieces that surround me in the gallery – no wonder he wins awards!???????????????????????????????

They show me how the kauri is recovered from local swamplands and then the Kauri paper (and soap) is handmade from the kauri shavings. Along with beautiful kauri lidded treasure boxes and bowls rick also turns pens on his lathe. I watch as he goes through the many processes and at the end of the demonstration, when its’ been sanded and oiled many times, he gives me the pen! I was (am!) thrilled with it, and have had many, many comments on my fabulous reminder of his skill and the fabulous kauri coast. The kauri he uses has been taken from an area of swamp which has been carbon-dated as 3860 years at which means my pen is about that old too!

My father was a hobby wood-turner and I know he too would have loved visiting this gallery. Rick is appalled that NZ kauri is sent to China to be made into products for the New Zealand market. “Make sure your things are  made in New Zealand’ he said. “Get something that’s good stuff, cheap, not cheap stuff cheap!”

He’s a perfectionist and his work reflects that and he suggests to travellers that NZ-made kauri products are the perfect gift for yourself or friends. Wood-turning for over 30 years Rick is arguably NZ’s leading artist and has travelled to many parts of the world to demonstrate his skills and offers individual tuition. (email him for details –  kauri4u AT xtra.co.nz)

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Tonight is the last of my two-week Northland road-trip and I cannot believe that so many spend so little time in the area – even with my 14 nights up here I have had to miss out on much the area has to offer.

But now, onto my last bed for this wonderful trip – at the heritage-listed The Commercial Hotel, Dargaville.

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International Dark Sky Reserve – Tekapo, New Zealand

News the Mackenzie Basin has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve is expected to bring stargazers from around the world to the region and significantly boost tourism in the area.

The Church of the Good Shepherd – Tekapo

“This is fantastic news for Canterbury and the outcome we’ve all been hoping for,” says Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter.

“It’s wonderful finally to have recognition in both national and global terms for this premium asset. It puts the Mackenzie Basin on the map as a destination of international significance and sends a clear message to people that if they want the ultimate dark sky experience then this is the place to come.

“We’re anticipating seeing a significant increase in visitors to the Mackenzie as a result of this designation because there is enormous interest in the stars and this is one of the few places left in the world where you can really appreciate the natural beauty of the sky,” Mr Hunter says.

The newly designated Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve joins a select group of just 17 International Dark Sky Places worldwide, and is only the fourth International Dark Sky Reserve, following on from Mont Megantic in Canada, Exmoor National Park in the United Kingdom, and the NamibRand Nature Reserve, in Namibia.

Lake Tekapo

Steve Owens, chair of the IDA’s Dark Sky Places Development Committee says for many of the other 16 places, tourism was one of the main drivers in their bid for dark sky status and they were already seeing the dividends.

“Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park in Scotland has recently begun to assess the impact of dark sky astronomy tourism in the local economy, and a sample evaluation in the region recently showed that 77% of local guest houses and bed-and-breakfasts had reported an increase in bed-nights due to the dark sky park. The report also stated that the money spent on lighting refits was already paying for itself: for every £1 spent on achieving the dark sky status £1.93 has been generated for the local economy within the first two-and-a-half years.

“Anecdotally too astronomy business is booming, with hotels in Galloway and Exmoor running regular stargazing weekend breaks, meteor watches and astronomy talks. Dark Sky Tourism has become such a big part of the area around Galloway that work is almost complete on a £600,000 public observatory to the north of the park, which will attract school groups, families, and stargazers from far and wide to come and marvel at the beauty of a really dark sky,” Mr Owens says.

The Honourable Margaret Austin, who chairs the Starlight Working Party which has been working since 2006 to get the Mackenzie Basin internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Reserve, says the night sky in the Mackenzie basin is a truly magnificent sight and is particularly fascinating for overseas visitors who come from areas where light pollution masks the stars from view.

“This is a truly exceptional environment, landscape and night sky that we want to protect and promote,” Mrs Austin says.

Mackenzie Tourism general manager Phil Brownie says the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve will ensure New Zealand is foremost on the astronomy and astro-tourism map.

“Mt John, above the Tekapo township, is considered one of the most accessible observatories in the world. The observatory is home to six telescopes including the country’s biggest telescope which measures 1.8m across and can observe 50 million stars each clear night.

This decision will have enormous ramifications and beneficial flow-on effects for the Mackenzie region as well as for New Zealand as a whole,” Mr Brownie says.

Denis Callesen, previously general manager of tourism at Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Village, is also excited about the potential opportunities the reserve status brings for marketing the region and beyond.

“We are very good at promoting New Zealand tourism in the daylight; we can double our income if we promote night sky tourism,’’ Mr Callesen says.

Canadian David Welch, who is chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) dark sky advisory group, says in Canada places that have been formally recognised for the quality of their night sky have experienced an upswing in visitor numbers.

In the case of the Mont-Megantic Dark Sky Reserve in Quebec the area was popular with day-hikers before it won reserve status, but now it also attracts people for night-sky viewing.

“Beyond increasing visitation dark sky activities also add a great new dimension to a person’s appreciation and understanding of the natural world, bringing biology and astronomy together and linking them to a deeper wilderness and natural landscape enjoyment. So there is a great benefit in the sense of providing a rounder, richer, fuller experience to appreciate our natural world,” says Dr Welch.

The above is a news itemI recieved a few days ago

McNaughts Comet: Mt John ( photo from Earth & Sky)

… see a blog I wrote earlier here