"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."
– Vincent Van Gogh
As the nights get longer, our night sky gets brighter. Our daylight activities may shrink, but we gain more in the constellations.
New Zealand has plenty of rural space and dark areas away from light pollution, making it ideal to go star trekking.
Astronomy author and journalist Naomi Arnold says these conditions mean New Zealand has some of the darkest night skies on the planet.
"This helps keep us intimately connected to our southern hemisphere constellations, stars, and planets, along with the wonder, history, and cultural traditions they contain," she says.
During autumn, the "dog star", Sirius, is high and bright, dominating the early evening sky, northwest of the zenith - the highest point directly above us.
"You'll notice that Orion - the Pot - which was once high in the summer sky, is now appearing lower down the western sky as it "sets" for the winter.
"If you have binoculars you might be able to make out the Orion Nebula, a whitish glow. In the southeastern sky, Scorpius is rising, a constellation that dominates our winter sky and will bring with it the galactic core of the Milky Way, a wonderful sight in winter. Many people on the planet have never seen the Milky Way due to light pollution, so enjoy our unique vantage point here in New Zealand," says Arnold.
Saturn and Jupiter appear after midnight as bright points in the northeast before dawn, when they fade as the sun begins to rise.
Arnold says on a clear night with no moon and little light pollution, you may be able to make out the two small galaxies that make up the Magellanic Clouds, which are halfway down the southwest sky and look like two ghostly white patches.
"I like reading the monthly emailed star chart from University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory superintendent and astronomer Alan Gilmore, to see what's coming up in the skies each month."
So pull out the blankets, check the star chart, grab a warm jacket and a pair of binoculars and head to these starry locations across New Zealand.
This northern region dotted with small towns and coastal settlements is well suited for stargazing. Head to Hokianga and Doubtless Bay to find the space away from light pollution - or take a boat out overnight to marvel at starlight over the ocean.
The most well-known stargazing spot in the Auckland region is Aotea/Great Barrier Island, which was the first island in the world to be granted Dark Sky Sanctuary status. It's particularly unique given how close Aotea is to a major city.
Enjoy a stargazing tour with Good Heavens to learn more about the planets, stars, galaxies, constellations and nebula, take a twilight trek with a Dark Sky Ambassador with Star Treks, and learn to capture it all on an astrophotography workshop with Carol Comer.
Head south of the city lights of Hamilton to the likes of Waitomo and Piopio, to find some beautiful starry skies. If you can't get a clear night, you can always head to the caves for a glow worm tour at Waitomo for a backup option, where you'll have a similar experience of gazing up into the night sky.
Another excellent Waikato location for stargazing is out at Raglan, where you can watch the sun go down over the water, and wait for the stars to start sparkling.
The Pinnacles are the highest point in the Coromandel Ranges, and make for an epic hiking trip. It's one of the most popular day hikes in the country, made better if you add an overnight stay in the DOC hut at the top. High above the Coromandel forest, a night at the hut is a beautiful chance to see uninterrupted views of the night sky.
Astrophotographers are often seen heading out on to the jetties around the Rotorua Lakes to capture the night sky on camera. Favourite lakes to gaze skyward at night include Lake Tarawera, Lake Ōkareka and Lake Rotorua.
For a unique geothermal experience, head to Te Puia for a Geyser By Night show on a clear evening, for a trail by torchlight through Te Puia's geothermal valley.
If luxury and relaxation is your preferred style, head to Nightsky Cottage to enjoy the stars in comfort in front of a fireplace.
The cottage has architecturally designed skylights in the lounge to allow guests to enjoy the heavens above.
For those keen for a more active stargazing adventure, head off on a guided sunrise hike along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with Adrift Tongariro. You'll start the hike about 2am, watch the shooting stars, hike under the Milky Way while wearing headlamps, and continue to the top of the Red Crater in time for sunrise.
The Pouakai Hut is a 16-bunk backcountry hut on Mt Taranaki, and an impressive place to stay overnight for stargazing.
Or you could head to the New Plymouth Observatory to use their reflector telescopes - including a telescope visitors can connect to their digital camera.
The Wairarapa is about to become a lot more famous for its starry skies as it's on track to become the largest Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand. The night sky there is so dark, the Milky Way is visible from horizon to horizon.
Stonehenge Aotearoa is an open-air astronomical observatory and runs nighttime and sunset tours. The henge incorporates Pacific star navigation knowledge and ancient interpretations of the sky.
In Wellington City, visit the Carter Observatory to view the historic Thomas Cooke telescope and enjoy the interactive galleries and exhibits in the full-dome planetarium.
Receiving the prestigious status just last year, the Wai-iti Domain is New Zealand's first Dark Sky Park. Wai-iti covers 153 hectares of recreation reserve land in the Tasman district and is noted for its pristine night skies.
Another beautiful stargazing location in the region is on the edge of the jetty at Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park.
Kaikōura is a beautiful location on its own, and the location makes for a magical experience gazing up into the night sky. Locals recommend heading to the lookout point on the top of the peninsula on a dark night.
The Hurunui region in north Canterbury is a rugged rural part of the country with plenty of remote areas for stargazing. One of the best locations is Mt Lyford, an alpine village that sits 1260m above sea level, set among manuka forests.
Further south you can head to the winemaking region of Waipara Valley and sleep under the stars at a remote PurePod at Greystone Vineyard, a luxury backcountry hut made entirely of glass.
If you asked any New Zealander about the most famous stargazing destination in the country, they're most likely to tell you Tekapo. It's an internationally recognised Dark Sky Reserve, and is home to the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory, known as the top astronomical research observatory in the country.
One of the most famous Instagram poses in New Zealand has to be a back view of someone soaking in Queenstown's Onsen Hot Pools, looking out to the Milky Way. The hot pools allow for incredible stargazing from your own private cedar-lined hot tub.
But if you know the region, you'll know Moke Lake showcases a stunning evening landscape. The sky gets very dark and the stars sparkle and the alpine setting of mountains and the lake make for a spectacular astrophotography photoshoot.
In the winter months, try skiing under the stars up at Coronet Peak during their night ski sessions.
Head out with astrophysicist Paul Bishop on a night sky tour from Naseby. This little township is seeking official recognition as a Night Sky Community. It's been taking night sky readings under the guidance of Otago University to help confirm it has some of the darkest night skies in the country.
Travel deep into the fiords on an overnight boat and soak up a unique night sky experience on the water. The skipper will turn off the boat lights to reduce light pollution. Lay back on the deck of the boat and look up, and remember who else is sleeping under the same night sky.
Rakiura/Stewart Island is only the second island in the world to achieve official Dark Sky Sanctuary status - the first being Aotea/Great Barrier Island.
There are a number of viewing platforms around the island, including Observation Rock near Oban, Moturau Moana Gardens, Ackers Point and Lee Bay. Or take a tour with Twinkle Dark Sky Tours to help guide you through the universe. If you're lucky, you might get a glimpse of the Aurora Australis.