Southern Lights in Tasmania

Aurora Australis Tasmania - where to see Southern Lights in Australia

Southern Lights in Tasmania

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southern lights tasmania
Southern Lights Tasmania: an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. Photos: Matt Glastonbury

The Aurora Australis is not as well-known as the Aurora Borealis in the north but if you catch it on the right night, it is just as amazing. 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. Tasmania has big skies and unpolluted air that puts it at the top of the list of places to see the Southern Lights in Australia.

Like the Northern Lights, seeing the Southern Lights can be a unique and memorable experience. It’s worth putting Aurora viewing on your bucket list. In the Southern Hemisphere, they can be seen in New Zealand, Antarctica, South America and Australia.

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.

How to photograph the Southern Lights

The best way to get a good look at the Southern Lights is to take photographs of them as the Aurora Australis is not as vivid to the naked eye as it is to the camera.

Southern Lights photography is not that simple, but if you’re keen, it’s worth giving it a shot.

Photographing the sky takes planning, a lot of time and a huge amount of patience. And it does help to have Mother Nature on your side when attempting to photograph the Southern Lights in Tasmania.

Capturing good photographs of the Southern Lights is possible, even for beginners, if you have the right gear and follow a few basic rules.

1- You need a camera with manual settings, a sturdy tripod and a remote.
2- Keep your shutter speed no longer than 30 seconds or the stars will appear as star trails.
3- Set your f-stop to f4 and ISO should be at least 800 (you may be able to go as high as 3200).
4- Focus on infinity to make the stars as sharp as possible.
5- Charge up your extra batteries as the cold weather will drain the batteries very quickly.

Southern Lights Tasmania

Southern Lights tourism isn’t commercialised in the way Northern Lights tourism is in the Northern Hemisphere.

However, Tasmanian photographer Matt Glastonbury has perfected the art of photographing the Southern Lights.

So put your feet up and let yourself be swept along on his photographic journey of the sky above Tasmania and let Matt’s night imagery inspire and excite you to gaze upwards into the night sky.

1- Bridestowe Lavender Estate

southern lights tasmania
Tasmania is one of the best places to get an eyeful of the Southern Aurora. Unfortunately, Bridestowe Lavender Estate isn’t open to the public at night for Southern Lights spotting.

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 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 Tasmania
Although it’s possible to see the southern lights throughout the year in Tasmania, they can be fickle and you’ll need the patience to stay awake to spot the aurora.

Tasmania’s North West provides star-studded night skies for amazing night photography of the Southern Lights.

The region is noted for its beautiful natural landscapes and Cradle Mountain, which is at the northern end of Cradle Mt – Lake St Clair National Park, is one of Tasmania’s most visited parks.

Within the park, there are short and long walks. The world-famous Overland Track commences here. The trek is a six-day walk through some of Tasmania’s best mountain scenery.

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 Cradle Mountain. 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

Aurora Australis Tasmania
Eaglehawk Neck is a great spot to take photos of the Aurora Australis, as it’s close to Hobart but far enough away for the skies to be dark enough.

The small coastal town of Eaglehawk Neck, on the Tasman Peninsula, 76km south-east of Hobart offers great opportunities to witness the Aurora Australis Tasmania.

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 Tasmania
Capturing an amazing photograph of the Southern Lights Tasmania requires patience and skill. A few tips will help.

It’s possible to see the Southern Lights from Hobart. 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 great spot to capture Southern Lights imagery close to a city.

5- Melaleuca

Southern Lights Tasmania
Although you can see the southern lights everywhere in Tasmania, to give yourself the best chance you need to travel out of the cities.

Melaleuca is a remote wilderness in the far south-west of Tasmania accessible by sea, air or by foot.

When you’re out there, 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

southern aurora
The reason why Tasmania is a great aurora destination is you have a chance to see the Southern Aurora throughout the year.

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.

The reserve protects flora and fauna like pretty pied oystercatchers that breed on the beach. Being so close to Hobart it is easily accessible and has a range of services.

7- Narawntapu National Park

southern lights tasmania
Tasmania is one of the top destinations to see the southern lights in the world.

The Milky Way stretching across the sky is only one of the attractions of this tranquil park in Tasmania’s central north coast.

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 tasmania
Seeing the southern lights Tasmania is an amazing experience.

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

where to see aurora australis
The southern lights or aurora australis can only be seen in the southern hemisphere.

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.

When to see Aurora Australis in Tasmania

The Southern Lights in Tasmania can be viewed at any time of the year. However, as the Tasmania Aurora can only be seen at night and at the time of year when the sky is at its darkest.

There’s a better chance of seeing the Southern Lights Tasmania in winter (July to August) and some say that the equinox in September is also a good time for viewing the Southern Lights.

For tracking them, use Star Walk, an interactive astronomy guide app.

The Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group is another good source of information for a crowdsourced Aurora Australis forecast.

Southern Lights in Tasmania

Southern Lights in Tasmania

20 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Danielle, you’ve featured some epic photography here. I only learned of the Aurora Australis last year, didn’t know yoou could see it in the South Island across the ditch. Guess it makes sense that Tazzy is the best place to see them in Aus.

    Also, Lavendar Farms are an actual thing? crazy. Think that’s my favourite spot on the list 🙂

  2. Wow! It’s great to learn more about the Southern Lights and where to see and photograph them! I just assumed they were also called the Aurora Borealis. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term Aurora Australis, so that makes sense that they are not as well known. This definitely puts Tasmania higher up on my list though! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Although they have different scientific names – Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, the lights seen around the Northern and Southern Hemisphere magnetic poles are similar. Both are stunning to see!

  3. I’ve tried and failed a few times to see the Aurora Borealis, but perhaps I should shift my attempts to see the Auroro Australis instead! I’d love to see Tasmania in any case so great to know it’s a good place from which to see this natural phenomenon. Thanks for the list of places to enjoy the Australis.

    • Both the Northern Lights and the Southern Lights can be elusive, Kavita. Fortunately, there are so many beautiful places away from the cities to explore in Tasmania. And if conditions are right you might be rewarded with an amazing natural show of the Southern Aurora.

  4. I wonder how many people have managed to see the northern AND southern lights?? I’m going to add this to my bucket list, as it seems unfair to only have the northern on there. Seeing the lights reflected on lavender would be amazing.

  5. Tasmania has always been fascinating to me (I grew up in NZ). I was interested by the convict history, and the isolation.. and the animals! I would love to see the Aurora Australis, so if I ever get to visit Tasmania, I will try to visit in Winter to maximise my chances of seeing it. Matt Glastonbury’s photos are incredible!

    • Seeing the Southern Aurora is quite special and Tasmania is a wonderful place to go. As you grew up in New Zealand, you might have had the chance to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand perhaps?

  6. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know you could see auroras in the southern hemisphere! These are some amazing images and it sounds like I need to get myself down south to experience these before the rest of the world discovers them too!

    • Most people who visit Tasmania find that it’s a lovely place to explore. As there are so many remote places in Tasmania to discover, if you spend a bit of time travelling around there’s a chance you’ll get to see the Southern Lights.

  7. Seeing the Northern Lights has always been on my bucket list. I even went to Iceland to see them. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. Seems like I shold put the Southern Lights on my list too! Since I love beaches, I think it’d be really cool to see the lights over Seven Mile Beach.

    • The other benefit is if you’ve never been to Tasmania, you’ll enjoy touring around too while hunting for the Southern Lights.

  8. WOW Tasmania looks so lovely then to top it off this!? The lavendar fields would be such a spot to shoot at but too bad they arent open at night for public. Thank you for the steo by steps on shooting for night sky…as a beginner photographer it helps! Beautiful shots!

  9. Wow, I do wonder why we don’t get to hear so much about the Southern Lights as we do about the Northern Lights and I did not even know they’re called Aurora Australis! They look really spectacular though. It’s a pity that they’re not as easily visible to the naked eye as they are in a camera but this means, one really needs to be well prepared to photograph them. I am guessing it is not that easy to capture the Northern Lights either. You have some really spectacular pictures!

    • Well, it’s easier to photograph both Nothern Lights and Southern Lights than you might think. You do need patience and a bit of luck.

  10. I want to go hiking in Narawntapu National Park then fingers crossed get to see the northern lights. I love how limited the light polluition there is. Plus I doubt it is a cold when seeing the lights down under. Alaska is always cold for northern light viewing.

    • Tasmania can get pretty cold in winter and you’re right Narawntapu National Park would be an amazing place to see the Southern Lights (I think meant to write Southern not Northern Lights!).

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