Carter Observatory

Carter Observatory stands at the top of the Botanic Gardens and is a short walk the Cable Car.

Carter Observatory

Carter Observatory

It also possible to access the Observatory from Upland Road. Buses stop on Upland Road and there is pay and display parking on Upland Road next to the Cable Car.

Carter Observatory is open every day from 10 am except Christmas Day. During the school term the Observatory closes at 5pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There are late nights on Tuesdays and Saturdays with a closing time of 9:30pm. On Sundays the observatory closes at 5.30pm.

During school and public holidays the observatory is open until 5:30pm every night with the late nights on Tuesday and Saturday.

Prices for the Southern Skies Exhibition are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, students and Community Service cardholders, $5 for children aged 4 to 16.


The exhibition galleries explore our solar system and the key New Zealanders who have contributed to astronomy. Visitors can learn about the Māori names for planets and how early Māori used the stars for navigation. There is a theatre that screens two short films on loop about Maui and an introduction to Matariki, the Māori New Year.

There is a small library with astronomy related booked dating back to 1770. The library also has information on Captain James Cook’s observations in 1761 of the Transit of Venus.

The dome, which is visible for the outside of the building, houses a 23cm refractor telescope. This telescope was made between 1886 and 1867 by Thomas Cooke and Sons and has been at the Observatory since 1941. There are public telescope viewings on Tuesday and Saturday nights, weather permitting.

Cooke Telescope

Cooke Telescope

Prices for Planetarium shows, which include the exhibition are $18.50 for adult, $13.50 for seniors, students and Community Service cardholders and $8 for children aged 4 – 16. There are family pass options available.

The planetarium shows are firstly a screening of a digital film, which is followed by a live presentation with one of Carter Observatory’s astronomers looking at New Zealand’s night sky. Planetarium shows generally run for approximately 45 minutes.

There are a variety of digital films screening each day. I watched ‘Dynamic Earth’, a 24 minute film narrated by actor Liam Neeson, which explored the Earth’s climate system.

A tip, it’s best to sit towards the back of the theatre in the middle so you can have a good view of the theatre’s dome.

A board at the entrance to the Observatory advertises Planetarium show times but guests can check the website for specific show times.

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