When the celestial conditions are just right, this is where you want to be.
Aurora chasing is a favourite Tasmanian pastime. This southern island is one of the best places in the world to see the ethereal Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights. On some of the darkest and clearest nights here, the elusive natural phenomenon curtains the southern sky with a shimmering glow that becomes even more spectacular through a camera lens. There’s a raft of conditions that need to align for an aurora to make an appearance. Once you know what to look for, here are some top spots to watch the show.
1. kunanyi / Mount Wellington
Towering above Hobart, the summit of kunanyi / Mount Wellington has sweeping views across the city, its waterways and, importantly for aurora spotting, southern-sky vantages. While the urban glow sometimes obscures the natural lightshow, the city makes a dynamic contrast against the mountain’s jagged dolerite outcrops. Just a 30min drive from Hobart’s centre, the summit is 1271m above sea level, so rug up for the icy mountain chill. Your cosy city accommodation awaits.
2. Cockle Creek
Point the car south and head to the very end of the road. Cockle Creek is the furthest south you can drive in Australia, so it’s a logical spot to glimpse an aurora. This remote outpost is a 2hr drive south of Hobart and has minimal light pollution – ideal for sky-gazing. It’s also the end point of the 85km South Coast Track: intrepid adventurers can wander deep into the south-west wilderness for secluded Southern Lights views. Pitch a tent near the clear waters of Recherche Bay and turn your gaze skywards as the night deepens.
3. Bruny Island
On bountiful Bruny Island, a 40min drive and 20min ferry ride south of Hobart, dark skies and expansive coastal views provide ideal vantages for seeing an aurora. In the far south, Cape Bruny Lighthouse creates a striking foreground for photos, with unobstructed southern views. Head up the steep steps to Truganini Lookout at the Neck for big-sky vistas across South Bruny. Stock up on local produce, including cheese, oysters, beer, wine and sourdough, and pack a picnic for the evening show.
While the best views are mostly in the island’s south, closer to the South Pole, with the right outlook the aurora can be visible from across the island. In the far north west, perch on the grassy hill beside Highfield Historic Site, overlooking the sea-salty hamlet of Stanley. Watch for the lights dancing across the sky behind the hulking shadow of the Nut – an ancient, 143m-high volcanic plug. There’s a room with a view waiting for you at Horizon Deluxe Apartments or Stanley Seaview Inn.
5. Coles Bay
On the east coast, head to the seaside town of Coles Bay to glimpse the flickering light show across the water towards Freycinet Peninsula. After a day exploring the coastal walking tracks and curved bays of Freycinet National Park, look for a glow in the sky above the granite peaks of the Hazards. Stay at luxury wilderness lodge Saffire Freycinet or find beachfront comfort at Edge of the Bay, both offering grand views across the water.
6. Tessellated Pavement, Teralina / Eaglehawk Neck
Capturing a shot of the Southern Lights reflected in the chiselled rock of the Tessellated Pavement would be a defining moment for any aspiring aurora chaser. This rocky sea platform at Teralina / Eaglehawk Neck in the south east is largely exposed at low tide, leaving an intricate cross-hatch of shallow pools that mirror the sky. Stay at Eaglehawk Pavilions or Stewarts Bay Lodge and spend the days exploring nearby Port Arthur Historic Site and the towering sea cliffs of Turrakana / Tasman Peninsula.
7. Central Plateau
Vast skies, a patchwork of lakes and wild alpine landscapes are the hallmarks of the Central Plateau Conservation Area. In Tasmania’s cool and mountainous heart, the Central Plateau offers an inland view of the aurora’s shifting veil. It’s also one of the coldest parts of the state: take cosy clothing, seek out high-country hospitality and warm up by the fire at Thousand Lakes Lodge or Central Highlands Lodge.