NewZealandAtoZ reviews; Mount John Observatory, Tekapo, Canterbury
We heard that the Mount John Observatory was a must visit. Not being that interested in the stars it was a “ho hum” moment when it was time to review this New Zealand attraction.
The Mt John Observatory is run by the University of Canterbury and it is great they have opened it up to create an award winning New Zealand attraction, which also makes money to fund further research into space.
I arrived in the lovely, and growing town of Tekapo with my booking confirmed and ready to go. You make you way to their office in the township about 15 minutes before the tour leaves. If you are parking in town you may find it a bit difficult to find a park during peak season, so walk if you can. At the office filled with space souvenirs I was greeted by very friendly staff who kept the visitors well informed on the weather, and going ons up at Mount John Observatory. You are offered warm clothing if you need it, as it can be cold up at the top. On this night the night sky was cloudy so a refund or re-booking were offered to the waiting visitors.
The way the staff handled this was perfect, friendly, gave all the options and then started processing refunds and re-bookings with a smile, as most took these options. I boxed on, and was going up.
I was directed to meet another friendly staff member who drove me up the mountain in the little bus. You get a taped commentary on the 15-20 minute drive, this left me wanting more information. For the last part of the bus journey the bus has to only use the park lights, which is a bit unnerving but you can see and the drivers know the road like to back of their hands. I would have liked to see a full commentary all the way up the mountain, it stops and then starts again, as the more information the better for me.
The friendly tour guides greeted me and I was guided through the various telescope buildings and learnt loads of very cool interesting stuff. You see the first telescope that was put on the mountain. Then you can get a photo next to the 7 million dollar modern telescope. The difference is amazing from old to new (Maybe they could sell you the photo when you get back to the office like most other tourist attractions, the good thing is at the moment it is free off the website). Before the tour was over I got to see Jupiter and its moons through an eye piece on another telescope, very cool.
From start to finish it takes about 2 hours, but the time on the mountain flew by.
Afterward, I thought I need more of this place, so in the morning I drove up the mountain for morning tea. It costs $5 to use the road but this is a small cost to see the amazing place in the day and the 360 degree views of the area. The cafe served nice food, with great service, but even on an average rainy day the cafe was near full at 9.15am. Many people walk up to the top from Tekapo township for a coffee.
I loved my Mount John tour and this is worth the money.
I am now full of useful and useless facts about the stars.
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