Star gazing is relaxing and peaceful. Fortunately, there are plenty of places in Australia to view the stars. Australia’s amazing light show in the sky, the Aurora Australis is as stunning as any night lights you’ll see in Iceland, Norway or Canada. Where can you see the Southern Lights? Well, in Australia, Tasmania’s big skies and unpolluted air puts it right at the top of the list of places to see the Southern Lights.
The Aurora Australis is not as well-known as the Aurora Borealis in the north but if you catch them on the right night, they are just as amazing.
Tasmania is one of the best places to get an eyeful of the Southern Aurora.
What are the Southern Lights?
The Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, is a phenomenon of nature that occurs when the sun releases an enormous burst of solar wind and magnetic fields or CME (coronal mass ejections) into space.
The particles in the solar winds collide with earth’s magnetic field to release energy that appears in the sky in the form of auroras.
The reason Tasmania is one of the best places to see the Aurora Australis is that the earth’s magnetic field is closest to its surface at the North and South poles. In the southern hemisphere, Antarctica and Tasmania are the best places to view the Southern Lights.
What do the Southern Lights look like?
The best way to view the Southern Lights is to photograph them. The Aurora Australis is not as vivid to the naked eye as it is to the camera.
However, Southern Lights photography is not easy. Photographing the sky takes planning, a lot of time and a huge amount of patience.
It does help to have Mother Nature on your side when attempting to photograph the Southern Lights in Tasmania.
How to photograph the Southern Lights
Tasmanian photographer Matt Glastonbury has perfected this art. Matt’s night imagery inspires and excites us to gaze upwards into the night sky.
So put your feet up and let yourself be swept along on his photographic journey of the sky above Tasmania.
Here are Matt Glastonbury’s top 10 spots to photograph Southern Lights.
1- Aurora Australis at Bridestowe Lavender Estate
Australia’s oldest and largest lavender farm is 55km north-east of Launceston.
Bridestowe Lavender Estate is a 45-minute drive from the Launceston city centre and the farm is a wonderfully picturesque spot.
The farm isn’t usually open to the public at night so capturing a stunning photo above is quite rare. If you do get the chance, you’ll be one of the few photographers with an amazing photo of the Tasmania lights reflecting off the lavender.
It’s definitely worth visiting the farm during the day. The farm has 107ha of lavender lanes when in full bloom offers a spectacular sight.
Flowering occurs in December and January. The scent wafting through the air has been described as intoxicating.
Several tour operators have organised tours from Launceston and guided tours of the farm are available during the day. Entry is $10 but if you’re a resident of Tasmania you can enter for free.
2- Cradle Mountain Southern Lights
It’s also an area perfect for touring, with scenic drives past patchwork fields and seaside villages. History buffs, food lovers and nature addicts will love this corner of the Apple Isle.
Allow 2.5 hours driving from Launceston to the park. Caravans, campervans, motorhomes and trailers are not permitted in the national park and a pass must be purchased before entering the park.
3- Eaglehawk Neck Southern Lights
The Tasmania lights appear in a variety of colours from pink to mauve and yellow to green.
The region is home to some of the most rugged and scenic coastal cliffs in the state, the historic Port Arthur site and the Tasman National Park.
The land known as the Neck is only 44 metres long and at one section it is only 30 metres wide.
This narrow entrance was once guarded by a line of dogs chained to deter the escape of convicts from Port Arthur.
Today you’ll get a much warmer welcome. Walk freely around the site and hear of the many convict tales.
Striking rock formations, naturally sculpted by wind and rain, such as the Tessellated Pavement are a big drawcard to the region. Others include the Totem Pole and nearby Tasman’s Arch, Blowhole and Devil’s Kitchen.
Activities on offer are numerous: bushwalking, kayaking, rock climbing, hang gliding, surfing and diving. There are a variety of cruises and tours available.
The walking tracks through Tasman National Park are considered some of the best coastal walks in Australia. A current park pass is required to be purchased to enter the park.
4- Howrah Southern Lights
A suburb of Clarence, Howrah is located on the beach and a short drive across the Derwent River from Hobart’s city centre.
It’s a good spot to capture Southern Lights imagery so close to a city.
When to see Aurora Australis in Tasmania?
Well, the equinox in September should be the best time for viewing the Southern Lights but this is not always the case.
5- Melaleuca Southern Lights
Melaleuca is a remote wilderness in the far south-west of Tasmania. It’s only accessible by sea, air or by foot.
When you’re out here, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. And you are in the middle of nowhere. However, it’s surprising how accessible Melaleuca is from Hobart.
You can actually visit the region on a day trip but to get a good chance to see the Tasmania Aurora lights you’d have to stay overnight.
The park attracts bushwalkers and birdwatchers and sightings of the orange-bellied parrot – one of the rarest birds in the world on the brink of extinction – is on the top of everyone’s list.
6- Mortimer Bay Aurora Australis
Mortimer Bay is a great location for to enjoy fresh oysters Mortimer Bay is south-east of Hobart.
A thin slice of protected coastal reserve surrounds the bay.
Being so close to Hobart it is easily accessible and has a range of services.
7- Aurora Australis at Narawntapu National Park
The park has beaches, headlands, dunes, lagoons and a historic farm. It’s a haven for a variety of wildlife.
Known as the “Serengeti of Tasmania”, Narawntapu National Park is a popular area for birdwatching and is one of the best regions for viewing wildlife.
If you’re out at night, you may be rewarded with sightings of wombats, the Bennetts wallaby, Forester kangaroo and Tasmanian devil.
The Visitor Centre has interpretative displays, information such as maps and up-to-date advice, a picnic area and toilet facilities.
Camping is available in the park at designated sites and fees are applicable. Best of all, the park is only a one-hour drive from Launceston.
8- Seven Mile Beach Southern Lights
15km east of Hobart, Seven Mile Beach is a popular day outing for locals.
The Royal Hobart Golf Club, a championship golf course, is two blocks back from the beach and has dining options.
There are options for accommodation from a caravan park to resorts.
9- South Arm Southern Lights
South of Hobart, South Arm is one of the best places to spot the Aurora Australis. It’s also a favourite place to escape from the city.
The beauty of the region is a lure to creative people, such as award-winning potter Ben Richardson, while historic buildings are another attraction.
One such building is the South Arm Post Office, which opened its doors on the 6 February 1856.
South Arm is the spot for boating, fishing, beaches, views to the polar south and of course the Tasmania Aurora lights.
The township overlooks the mouth of the Derwent Estuary and the northern entrance to D’Entrecasteaux channel.
The Blessington Track is a scenic short coastal walk starting from the carpark adjacent to the war memorial and takes you along Jetty Road. It’s also suitable for bikes.
The 4.5km South Arm Peninsula Trail, a gravel track, heads north from South Arm to Opossum Bay. It may be done in either direction.
10- One more star
We need one more photo of the Tasmania Southern Lights. So, if you have one please post it in the comment section and let us know you’d like us to feature your photo.
If you’re going and would like to find out the best nights to view the southern Aurora Australis, check out the Aurora Australis forecast here.
Are you inspired? Now that you know where to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania, how about putting Aurora viewing on your bucket list. Or if you live in Tasmania make it a point to get out there and look for the Aurora Australia. We’d love to see your photos.