As if you needed another reason to explore Tasmania, we’ve got one that just might put Apple Island at the top of your list. The AKA Northern Lights, the crown jewel of any intrepid traveler, offers a breathtaking spectacle in the Arctic Circle, but since we won’t be making any traces there anytime soon, we’ll be revealing a pretty special secret to you.
The Southern Lights is the incredible southern brother of Northern Lights that dazzles the Tasmanian skies throughout the winter months. This natural spectacle attracts visitors in droves and sends photographers into a frenzy, but it remains a well-kept secret that Tasmania might just be the best place to see the Southern Lights. Just when we thought Tasmania – the land of gourmet food, unspoiled wilderness, and epic adventure – couldn’t be better, it does and it does. Here’s everything you need to know about the Southern Lights.
What are the Southern Lights?
Tasmania is one of the best places to witness the hemisphere’s ethereal light show, as the Earth’s magnetic field is closest to its surface at the North and South Poles. Atoms in the solar wind collide with the magnetic field, producing the colors red, green, and blue that create the stunning Southern Lights, also known as Aurora Australis. Scientific stuff, right? You don’t have to understand science to appreciate how damn beautiful it is.
So, you have arrived on Apple Island and are ready to contemplate this natural phenomenon, but how do you catch the Aurora Australis in all its glory? If you’re lucky enough and the stars align, you might be able to spot them while on vacation in Tasmania. Just in case the stars don’t align, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate guide to watching the stellar show at its best.
The best places to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania
The good news is that you can spy on the Southern Lights virtually anywhere in Tassie. Not so good news: you need a clear, unobstructed view and with the limitless mountains Tassie brags about, this can be a challenge. However, we have an update on the best vantage points to contemplate this cosmic extravaganza. The South Arm Peninsula and Cockle Creek are the most popular vantage points. Cockle Creek is at the southernmost tip of Tasmania, so it offers great views and the peninsula is dotted with bays in which you can see the dawn reflected. that it seems.
If you’re staying near Hobart, you’ll want to hang on to an elevated vantage point with a wide horizon, which makes Mount Nelson and Mount Wellington / Kunanyi very popular with aurora hunters. Soak up the spectacular views and make sure you are looking south and away from the light pollution and Hobart cityscape, so the ethereal dancing will appear even more vivid.
Best time to see the Southern Lights
The Aurora Australis can be somewhat elusive, and while you can technically see the lights all year round, September is the ultimate time to catch them, as they are most vivid during the equinox. Tasmania’s winter season, May through August, is also a good time as the nights are longer and clearer, otherwise known as perfect time to see the aurora. If you’re dedicated (or crazy?) Enough to head out into the cold winter night, be sure to warm up as the copper dips pretty low in Tassie. The awesome display pops up when it wants it, but for those who are committed to stalking it, Star Walk and Aurora Forecast are real-time interactive astrology charts that can predict when an aurora might appear.
How to capture the Southern Lights
It’s going to be hard to hear, but put your iPhone away. Yep, your high-end model in fancy pants probably won’t do the trick when it comes to capturing the magical dawn dance. If you want to capture that special moment, you will need to be equipped with a DSLR camera equipped with long exposure, so that it can bring vivid colors to life. Secret tip: Sometimes it’s best not to try to capture these unique experiences. Or just take as many jealousy insta shots as you want. You do you.
Where to stay
Tasmania is teeming with rugged natural beauty, which contrasts with the breathtaking accommodation options that dot this small but beautiful island. You’ve packed your bags and made the trip to contemplate the breathtaking Southern Lights, so you need a comfortable place to rest your head. If you are basing in Hobart, you will want to go to Mount Nelson and Mount Wellington for the natural phenomenon and rest your head at The Henry Jones Art Hotel. The hotel has been a mainstay of Hobart’s hotel scene – for good reason – this boutique accommodation has over 500 local artworks adorning its 19th-century heritage walls.
We don’t like to play favorites, but we like Hobart’s Moss Hotel too, which is teeming with thousands of native plants and faithfully reflects Tasmania’s spectacular wilderness. For our brave friends who have ventured out to Cockle Creek, there are plenty of button-like cute southern towns to stay in – get ready to fall in love with Tides Reach, a lovely cottage overlooking Port Esperance Bay which is a ideal base for viewing the celestial display of the night.
Start planning your next getaway to Apple Island, because it’s time you saw the Tasmanian Southern Lights in all their glory.
Keep your eyes on the sky, but in the meantime, check ten of the best hotels in Tasmania for the ultimate getaway.
Image Credit: Tourism Australia / Graham Freeman, Pierre Destribats, Dietmar Kahles, The Henry Jones / Adam Gibson