Sleeping under the stars in an International Dark Sky Reserve

Made almost entirely of glass, SkyScape in the Mackenzie region of New Zealand is the perfect accommodation for stargazers.

SkyScape owners Bridget and Bevan Newlands are no strangers to staying in unique accommodation in interesting locations.

While travelling the world teaching for five years, they went out of their way to stay in quirky digs – from camping in a Kenyan game park and sleeping in a Scottish castle to experiencing a traditional hut in Norway and snuggling up in the Swedish IceHotel.

Now, after returning to New Zealand and making a shift to the Mackenzie region, in the central South Island, the couple have realized a dream of running their own special retreat.

SkyScape, an architecturally designed, glass-roofed accommodation building on a 6000-acre high country station near Twizel, opened in April – and so far, so good.

“We have received the most incredible feedback from guests – they love the expansive views, luxury cedar bath, attention to detail, remoteness and silence,” says Bevan.

“The closest house you can see is 10 kilometres away, you really feel like you are alone in the world.”

Bridget says they wanted to create a unique opportunity for people to “sleep in nature” while experiencing the southern hemisphere’s first International Dark Sky Reserve, which at 4300 square kilometres is the southern hemisphere’s largest and second largest in the world.

Made almost entirely of glass, SkyScape was designed by Ian Perry of iDesign in Oamaru and has expansive views over the golden tussocks of the Mackenzie Basin to the Southern Alps, Two Thumbs Range and Mt John.

“Ian spent time looking at the formations of the mountains on the farm and designed a building that encapsulates the mountainous shapes of the Mackenzie district,” says Bevan.

The accommodation unit is off-the-grid and powered by solar energy, with gas for the domestic hot water and central heating.

It is designed to mitigate heat loss and stay cozy and warm amid the extreme conditions of the Mackenzie country, where temperatures can drop to -10 degrees Celsius.

Bridget says the venture fits in well with the couple’s desire to bring up their two young boys on the family farm, which runs 1200 merino ewes and 150 beef cattle.

She and Bevan offer hour-long farm tours and a three-hour 4WD experience to the top of Omahau Hill Station, which reaches an elevation of 1350 metres.

“We see infinite possibilities with this venture and are thrilled to be able to open our private high country station up to visitors so they can see what we do every day.”

Travel Tips

At the heart of the breathtaking Southern Alps, the village of Aoraki Mt. Cook is just 2.5 hours’ drive from Wanaka and around 3 from Queenstown and Dunedin. If you’re hoping to fly, you’ll find the closest commercial airports in Timaru (2.5 hours’ drive away) and Christchurch (4 hours away). Both have rental car facilities, or you can opt for a national bus service - just be sure to check schedules and book in advance.

Guests check in at 47 Ben Ohau Rd – nine kilometres southwest of Twizel. From there, Bridget and Bevan take them on a 3km drive to their astral accommodation experience.