Stonehenge in England may be famous the world over, but there’s another that is easier and cheaper to get to; Stonehenge Aotearoa–an hours drive from Wellington, New Zealand.
Unlike it’s crumbling counterpart, Stonehenge Aotearoa (pronounced A-O-Tey-A-Roa which means New Zealand in Māori) is a purpose built, astronomers delight, with no secrets or misguided presumptions.
Built in 2005, you’re free to wander any part of the grounds, including touching the concrete pillars. You can stand in the centre and feel it’s celestial powers at work. You can visit during the day or at night (by prior arrangement), to use it’s exactitude to find stars, planets and constellations.
However most importantly, you can hire it for a private function to perform your secret witchery tasks which can only be performed under the second full moon under the reign of Sagittarius.
Jokes aside, it is a serious and accurate astronomers tool. Upon entry you can opt for a self-guided trek, or pay extra for a fully guided tour. There’s a video to watch, showcasing how Stonehenge Aotearoa was created, the history of stone circles and some of the ways it’s been used for scientific studies. The video runs for approximately 20-30 minutes (from memory).
Once outside, it’s easy to feel you’re about to be ordained into a secret cult or abducted by aliens but there’s nothing sinister about it. The pathway from the house to Stonehenge Aotearoa, leads you past two towering pillars, the sun gate; through which the spring equinox sun, rises directly between.
Once in the centre, there’s an obelisk, which marks the celestial South Pole, which offers the perfect spot to get one of those spiral star photos, or look up and know for certain, you’re the centre of the universe.
Being a perfect circle, the design naturally creates echoes and acoustic anomalies which is perfect for chants and drumming circles. It also works exceptionally well for younger kids who love hearing the sound of their own voice thrown back at them.
Surrounding Stonehenge Aotearoa, there’s pillars and stones which point to various star clusters throughout the year and align with Māori astronomy. There’s no religious or pagan undertones to this place, (though it’s accessibility and accuracy do make it an attractive place for anyone interested in the earth’s relation to the sun, moon, and stars), it’s entirely scientific making it both practical, and useful.
The only spooky part of it, is the decaying house that sits on the hill overlooking, Stonehenge Aotearoa that appears haunted or the location of a murder. Despite it’s sinister appearances, according to a flyer in the gift shop of Stonehenge Aotearoa, it’s story is sad and mundane, the result of a broken marriage and children no longer interested in farming.
Of course the writer in me, was drawn to it, and imagined several novels out of it. There’s an almost charming beauty to the crumbling house, stories that beg to be told, directed by the stars and released by the pigeons that now call it home.
If you’re in Carterton, you’re close enough to head to Cape Palliser, my favourite place in the world to escape, think and be far away from people, lost amongst it’s wildness.
If that’s not enough, there’s also:
Getting to Stonehenge Aotearoa:
Book flights from Sydney to Wellington direct from $283* return with Virgin (*available at the time of writing). For the latest fares, search below:
($15/$10/$5 Adult/Senior Concession 65+/School students)
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