Sometimes people just want to get away from the city. New Zealand enjoys a low population density and plenty of off-the-beaten-track stays in nature. On the South Island in Mackenzie District is the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. There is a cottage industry of tourism and hospitality services for folks looking to escape from the hustle-bustle of their normal lives while also being able to take in dark night skies. We spoke to Chloe Clearwater, who hosts an Airbnb near Twizel (pictured above in a photo by Melanie White), to learn about what it’s liking hosting guests in the area.
How did you come to know about the area where your cabin is?
I was brought up in Mt. Cook Village, where I have the fondest memories of a free-range childhood in a jaw-dropping setting. My partner Brad holidayed in the nearby settlement of Otematata where he and his family spent many summers boating on Lake Benmore. We wanted to secure a piece of land somewhere in the area and settled on Manuka Terrace – close to the hills, fresh water, and rural surroundings but also close to Twizel’s amenities. The area has a real “high country” feel that we enjoy.
Where did the idea come from to host guests on a dark sky reserve?
We just fell into in really. The original idea was to build it for us to use in our spare time. But as we began designing and spending time there, we not only blew our budget and opted to Airbnb as a way to service that but also realized what a little gem we had and that we needed to share it with others! Learning about the dark sky reserve was an added bonus. That’s why we incorporated skylights into the design and added the wood-fired hot tub as a way to better appreciate the night sky. Those features are probably the highlights and are definitely the most commented on by our guests. A year and a half down the track, we have become very busy with guests and the spot is taking on an identity of its own.
What are some of the advantages or disadvantages of hosting guests on a dark sky reserve?
They are the same really. People book for celestial events and, when it delivers, it is well worth it. But the disadvantage is we cannot control or even very well predict the weather, so it can be disappointing if that impairs vision. We had some guests book five months in advance for the rare blood supermoon. There was a lot of buzz and excitement around the event, but unfortunately the skies were overcast in the area that night!