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. Tasmania’s big skies and unpolluted air puts it right at the top of the list of places to see the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights.
The Southern Lights are not as well-known as the Northern Lights but if you catch the on the right night, they are just as amazing. And Tasmania is one of the best places to see the Southern Lights.
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 south, 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.
Photographing stars is not easy. It 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.
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 Australia’s most southern state – 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 the stunning photo above is quite rare.
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.
2-Cradle Mountain Southern Lights
Tasmania’s North West provides Matt with star-studded night skies for his night photography of the 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 park pass must be purchased before entering the park.
3-Eaglehawk Neck Southern Lights
The 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 has been another haunt for Matt to search for Southern Lights imagery.
The equinox in September, should be the best time for viewing the Southern Lights but this is not always the case.
For tracking them Matt suggests Star Walk, an interactive astronomy guide app. The Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group is another good source of information on where to spot southern lights.
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.
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.
7-Aurora Australis at Narawntapu National Park
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
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 and views to the polar south.
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 stars. If you have one post it on our Facebook page with the message: I’d like my photo to be featured.
Are you inspired? Want to come star gazing in Tasmania? Put the Southern Lights on your bucket list.