See the mesmerising lights dance above Lake Tekapo’s Church of the Good Shepherd.
You’re probably already familiar with the Southern Lights by now. The sister to the famed Northern Lights, the Southern Lights are admittedly more elusive — which has made it more of a bucket list item to cross off the list!
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If you’re in Australasia during the winter months, which are from June to August, and want to try catching the magical lights, you’re in luck. We’ve rounded up five accessible places where you don’t have to deviate too far from your route to still have reasonable chances of catching the mesmerising sight!
Cradle Mountain, Australia
One of the tricks to catching the Southern Lights is to get somewhere with as little obstructions as possible so your view of the phenomenon is not obscured. At Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, your vantage point will give you unparalleled views of the inky black sky. Wait patiently for the Southern Lights — they can appear with little warning — or just let go of all expectations and appreciate the beauty of the blanket of softly twinkling stars overhead. You can also settle in at Cradle Lake in hopes of glimpsing the dancing lights; the mirrored waters create an even more stunning picture when the lights do appear.
Appreciate the magical sight from a vantage point.
Mount Wellington, Australia
Still in Tasmania, Mount Wellington also offers unimpeded views of the horizon with its high elevation so you’ll be able to quickly spot the Southern Lights once they make a showing. Already popular amongst visitors for offering panoramic views of the landscape, the spot is just a convenient 30-minute drive away from Hobart. Grab a yummy dinner in town and relax for a bit back at your lodging while you monitor the Aurora Australis forecast; if things look promising, you can then easily set off for the mountain. To further increase your chances of encountering the Southern Lights, you can easily visit both Cradle Mountain and Mount Wellington on a single trip.
Mount Cook, New Zealand
Located in an International Dark Sky Reserve, the only one in the southern hemisphere and the largest in the world, the area around Mount Cook enjoys little to no light pollution. At Mount Cook, you’ll also be able to get up to a high vantage point — these two factors create the recipe for an ideal Southern Lights viewing location. If you’re an astronomy fan, sign up for stargazing tours with professional guides to learn more about our fascinating night sky. Who knows, you may just see the lights on a stargazing trip and even if you don’t, the beauty of the star-speckled midnight blue sky will still take your breath away.
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Just a short drive away from Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo is fortunate to also be a part of the same International Dark Sky Reserve. Although you won’t be able to travel to as high a vantage point as compared to Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo offers added convenience as a town where you can easily grab a bite or stay over for the night. Drive to a nearby spot with less light pollution once night falls, such as the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, or soak in a natural hot pool while looking up at the night skies as star guides point out different constellations for you. You may just be able to spot the lights if the skies are clear and the aurora activity is high!
Nugget Point is one of the highlights of The Caitlins. Photo by Lauri Sten / CC BY-NC 2.0. Cropped to fit.
The Caitlins, New Zealand
It stands to reason that the further south you venture, the higher your chances of seeing the Southern Lights. Also on New Zealand’s South Island, The Caitlins is one of the furthest south you can travel to within the mainland and the low light pollution creates a stellar environment for you to view the fantastical phenomenon. While you’re in the area, pay a visit to Nugget Point; its lighthouse is a well-liked spot to wait for the Southern Lights as the sight of multicoloured rays dancing across the coastline is simply stunning.