Located relatively close to the South Pole, Tasmania is a perfect spot for observing the fascinating natural phenomenon of the aurora australis. The emergence of colors and flickers in the night starry sky creates an impression of the universe close at hand. Southern lights create a fairy-tale on Earth, turning the rural landscapes into majestic spot.
Best time to see the aurora australis in Tasmania
The Tasmanian aurora spectacle is somewhat elusive so we can never be sure when the solar winds will make it shine the brightest. Experienced observers recommend planning the trip for September when the southern lights are most vivid. Another relatively good season for aurora borealis in Tasmania is in winter, roughly from May to August. At this time of year, nights are longer, giving more opportunities to spot the southern lights. Insider tip As you can’t predict the possibility of southern lights more than a few days in advance, it is better for you to book a trip at the last moment. Last-minute booking will maximize your chances of being in Tasmania at the right time. Otherwise, base your itinerary on the other activities available in Tasmania, but keep an eye on the aurora australis forecast apps (Aurora Australis Forecast, Star Walk, or Solar Monitor) and the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group.
Best places to see southern lights in Tasmania
When chasing auroras, you want to check the geophysical data for an area slightly further south of your viewing spot. The southern lights start at a height of around 100km up in the atmosphere; thus, from a flat point on the earth, you can see the aurora activity even hundreds of kilometers north of the "epicenter." For instance, if there is strong aurora australis activity over the Southern Ocean, several hundreds of kilometers away from the Australasian landmass, you still see it from the shore. How to make sure you are looking south? Search for the Southern Cross constellation. For your best shot, try to stay clear of light pollution and avoid a full moon night. The best places to watch the aurora australis are to be found as far south as possible. One of the favorite viewing areas is the South Arm Peninsula, about 40 km southeast of Hobart. Head to Goat Bluff Lookout, Clifton Beach, and Cremorne Beach on the peninsula for the best experience. Another excellent area is Cockle Creek on the southern tip of Tasmania, some 120 km southwest of Hobart. You can get some nice views from the bridge at Cockle Creek; just look south across the creek. For the best shots, you will need to hike to South Cape Bay. For aurora chasers who prefer to stay in the Hobart area, Mount Nelson or Mount Wellington are some of the best spots with a broad horizon. Bring a jacket as it might get rather cold at night.
What to expect to see
Typically, the images of polar lights present an array of dazzling colors. However, the naked eye only picks up on white flashes or flickering that might be mistaken for clouds. For the vivid colors, you would need to do a long exposure with a camera. Seeing an aurora with the naked eye is possible when the Kp-index is 7.