Tasmania Aurora Australis: Where to See the Southern Lights in Tasmania (2019)

We always hear about the amazing ‘Northern Lights’, but did you know you can experience exactly the same phenomenon – the Aurora Australis – in Tasmania?

Keep reading to find out where to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania! 

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Cradle Mountain is where to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania on your Tasmania Road trip
Southern Lights dancing at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania | 📷: Pierre Destribats

Are you wondering where to see the southern lights in Tasmania (and how)?

Because of its distance from the south pole it is a little bit harder to see the Aurora Australis in Tasmania, but when the conditions are right the light show is spectacular

Knowing where to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania can save you a lot of time and effort on your Tassie holiday, and that’s where we can help 👍

Aurora Australis from Strahan - Lap of Tasmania road trip
Aurora Australis from Strahan | 📷: Dietmar Kahles

👍 Quick Tips and FAQs

Where do I need to look? South!

How do I know where south is? Look for the Southern Cross constellation of stars. The south pole is a little bit to the right.

When does it happen? It happens where there is a large solar flare on the sun’s surface. This can happen at any time of the year, but peaks around September. 

Can I forecast the aurora? It’s not exact, but yes. Check the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group for real time alerts, and download the Aurora Forecast app to forecast when an aurora is likely in the next few days.

How can I see the aurora? You can see the Southern Lights when it is dark, and there are no clouds in the sky. Because winter nights are long you will have a better chance of seeing an aurora if you visit between June and September.

Can I see it with my eyes? Sometimes, if it is a really strong aurora. Most of the time in Tasmania you will need a camera and tripod to see the colours.

We’ve called Tassie home for more than 15 years now, and in that time we have thoroughly enjoyed chasing the Southern Lights across the island. 

While there’s no guarantee of an aurora, using our experience we want increase your chances by showing you 21 of the best places to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania.

Because most travellers will be based in Hobart we have listed the places in order of driving time from Hobart – from closest to furthest away. 

If you’re based in the north we have also included driving times from Launceston.

Important: Aurora watching is a lot of fun, but please stay safe. If it is your first time visiting a site we recommend getting there during the day. This allows you to look for any hidden dangers such as cliffs, slippery rocks, dangerous surf, uneven surfaces or other hazards. 

It also gets very cold in Tasmania at night, with temperatures dropping to as low as -10°C on Mt Wellington. Warm clothing is essential, and you’ll love a hot thermos of coffee!

LocationRegionAccessOverall
Rosny Hill LookoutHobartEasyAverage
Mt Nelson Signal StationHobartEasyAverage
Howrah BeachHobartEasyAverage
Mt Wellington / kunanyiHobartEasyGood
Howden Boat RampHobartEasyGood
Tinderbox BeachSouthEasyGood
LilydaleNorthEasyPoor
Cremorne BeachSouth ArmEasyGood
Clifton BeachSouth ArmEasyGood
Goat Bluff LookoutSouth ArmEasyExcellent
Calvert's BeachSouth ArmAverageGood
Gypsy Bay / Primrose SandsSouthEasyExcellent
Trial Bay Boat RampSouthEasyAverage
CygnetFar SouthEasyGood
Tessellated PavementTasman PeninsulaAverageExcellent
Cradle MountainCradle CoastEasyExcellent
The GardensBay of FiresEasyPoor
Cloudy BayBruny IslandDifficultGood
Cape Tourville LighthouseFreycinetAverageExcellent
South Cape BayFar SouthDifficultExcellent
StrahanWest CoastEasyPoor

👍 Tasmania Southern Lights Tour

We get a lot of readers asking whether it is possible to book a Tasmania Southern Lights tour. Unfortunately there isn’t a service like this available in Tasmania yet. 

But there is another option! You could easily speak with a Travel Agent specialising in Tasmanian experiences – like Susie from Tasmanian Odyssey – asking them to plan a holiday including the locations we show you in this article.

If you’d like to find out more about creating your own custom Tasmania aurora tour, get in touch with Susie (hereand start your planning!

Rosny Hill Lookout (Hobart)

Rosny Hill Lookout is the easiest place to see the southern lights in Tasmania – it’s just 10mins from central Hobart – and the panoramic views of Hobart and the Derwent River are fantastic. 

The only downside of this location is that the bright lights of Hobart city can easily drown out the light of the weaker auroras. 

This site is great if you are limited on time, or when the predictions are for a super-strong aurora.

Overall: Average
Region: Hobart
Driving time: <10mins (Hobart CBD) | 2hrs (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: RACV/RACT Hobart Apartment Hotel

Mt Nelson Signal Station (Hobart)

Mt Nelson Signal Station is another easy site close to Hobart that can be good for spotting the Aurora Australis in Tasmania. There are picnic facilities up top as well, perfect for a light meal at sunset before the southern lights start to show. 

The good thing about this site is that it is easy to access, and the pretty shape of the station itself – as you can see from the photo above.

The downside is that there are a lot of trees on and around the reserve, and they can stop you from seeing the aurora lights. 

Driving is very easy. You can either take the Southern Outlet, remembering to leave at the Proctor’s Road off-ramp, or you can drive up through the suburbs on Nelson Road (very winding).

Overall: Average
Region: Hobart
Driving time: 10mins (Hobart) | 2hr 15mins (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: 110 Hampden

Howrah Beach (Hobart)

Howrah Beach is a lovely spot seeing the Southern Lights. The rocks and beach look really nice in photos and you can also enjoy the views of Hobart across the water.

As with Rosny Hill Lookout, Howrah Beach is in suburban Hobart and unfortunately the bright lights can stop you from seeing an aurora.

Access is easy from central Hobart, and there is parking at either end of the beach.

Overall: Average
Region: Hobart
Driving time: 15min
Access: Easy
Accommodation: MACq 01

Mt Wellington / kunanyi

With or without an aurora the views from Mt Wellington are stunning!

There are some interesting features at the summit that can add a lot of interest to your photos of the Southern Lights – the shelter (in the photo), the boulders scattered across the mountain top, and the huge telecommunications tower.

Unfortunately light pollution can sometimes prevent you from seeing an aurora on Mt Wellington, and it’s going to be a lot colder than down in Hobart. 

To get the best features of the mountain in your photo you will need to try and position yourself on the northern side of the summit – the viewing platforms are a good place to start.

The road is narrow but it’s still an easy, winding drive to the summit. Snow can cause road closures, so check the alerts (here) before you leave. 

Overall: Good
Region: Hobart
Driving time: 30mins
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Galleria Salamanca

Howden Boat Ramp (Hobart)

Howden is a beautiful and quiet part of Tasmania, and yet it is still very close to Hobart.

The area around the boat ramp is good for seeing the Aurora Australis because it has unrestricted southerly views, and the rocky water’s edge looks nice as well. Being a little bit further from Hobart the light pollution isn’t so bad either.

To get there, take the Southern Outlet to Kingston and then the road to Kettering, turning off at Howden and following the short unsealed road to the boat ramp.

If you like the sound of this one then you may want to consider Tinderbox Beach as well. We’ve got more on this below.

Overall: Good
Region: Hobart (greater)
Driving time: 30mins
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Villa Howden

Tinderbox Beach

Just a little bit further down the road from Howden is Tinderbox and the Tinderbox Marine Reserve.

What I like about this site is that it looks out across the waters of North West Bay with a lot less land in the foreground. This means you can see a bit more of the bottom of the aurora! 

As with the Howden Boat Ramp, drive to Kingston and then take the road to Kettering, before turning off at Howden and following Tinderbox Road all the way to the beach at the tip of the peninsula.

Overall: Good
Region: South
Driving time: 30mins (Hobart) | 2hr 40mins (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Villa Howden

Lilydale

The region around Lilydale is amazing during the day, and if you’ve been hearing all the buzz about an aurora forecast then you might be wondering whether it’s worth trying to see it?

The answer, unfortunately, is probably not.

Lilydale is a lot further north than Hobart and this means the aurora needs to be a lot stronger to poke its head above the horizon to be seen in Lilydale.

That isn’t to say it can’t happen (as you can see from the photo above), but you will need a pretty strong aurora for it to be worthwhile. 

Overall: Poor
Region: North
Driving time: 30mins (Launceston) | 2hr 30mins (Hobart)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Plovers Ridge Country Retreat

Cremorne Beach (South Arm)

I’ve got a soft spot for Cremorne Beach, because it’s one of the first places I took my brand new SLR camera to start learning how to use it properly 😃

At the bottom end of the beach is a large sandy tidal inlet that faces south. It’s a really quiet spot and you won’t have to compete with too much light pollution from Hobart.

Please be careful accessing this beach. Pipe Clay Esplanade may seem logical, but it has a sharp drop into the water on the right hand side with no barriers, and there is no parking either.

Instead, park on Frederick Henry Parade near the public toilets (here) and then walk along the beach to the south.

Overall: Good
Region: South
Driving time: 30min (Hobart) | 2hr 40min (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Foreshore Motel and Tavern

Clifton Beach (South Arm)

Clifton Beach is where to see the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights in Tasmania

This was the place where I experienced my very first southern lights!

I didn’t realise at the time that it wasn’t quite facing south as much as I would have liked – which is why you can see the aurora hiding behind the rocks in the photo above – but the rugged cliffs and rocks next to the beach make for a really interesting photo.

There’s plenty of parking next to the surf club, and for a different perspective you could walk to the eastern end of the beach where you would get a slightly better view to the south.

Watch out for the surf and the tides, as it can get rough.

Overall: Good
Region: South
Driving time: 30min (Hobart) | 2hr 40mins (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Foreshore Motel and Tavern

Goat Bluff Lookout (South Arm)

Goat Bluff Lookout is probably one of the most popular places for seeing the Southern Lights in Tasmania.

This tall headland provides fantastic views across Betsey Island to the south, and if you’re clever you can make use of the foreground to make a really cool photo. 

Light pollution is also very low, although you may find squid boats appearing at random times on the water with their extremely bright lights. They won’t ruin the aurora, but they can get in the way of a good photo.

One thing you must know about this site is that it is dangerous in the dark. There are cliffs on three sides of the headland and you don’t want to fall because it’s a long way down!

Take a torch, don’t go walking into the bush, and don’t ever walk around while looking at your camera screen.

Overall: 🔥 Excellent
Region: South
Driving time: 30min (Hobart) | 2hr 40min (Launceston) 
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Foreshore Motel and Tavern

Calvert's Beach (South Arm)

Calvert’s Beach doesn’t get as much love as Goat Bluff Lookout, but you get exactly the same views, just from ground level and not high up on a cliff.

You could set up your camera straight away at the southern end of the beach, but Goat Bluff will partially cover the aurora here. For better views of the Southern Lights we recommend walking along the water’s edge to the northern end of the beach where you’ll find some nice rock formations and ledges that will make for a great photo.

Access to Calvert’s Beach is on sealed roads all the way, except for the last 200m that takes you down to the beach carpark. The turnoff is here.

Overall: Good
Region: South
Driving time: 30min (Hobart) | 2hr 40min (Launceston) 
Access: Average
Accommodation: Foreshore Motel and Tavern

Gypsy Bay / Primrose Sands

Another very popular place to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania is the Primrose Sands and Dodges Ferry area. It seems every time there is an aurora that some of the best pics come from here!

Most people visiting Primrose Sands will go to the beach and have a stroll with the camera. The image above was taken from the beach. Access is easy from Petrel Street.

But if you feel like taking your aurora photography to the next level we recommend driving a little further along the coast on Primrose Sands Road to the Gypsy Bay Boat Ramp.

As you can see from the photo above the combination of curved stone breakwater and timber jetty looks fantastic with the aurora dancing in the background! 

Overall: 🔥 Excellent
Region: South
Driving time: 45min (Hobart) | 2h 40mins (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Water’s Edge Primrose Sands

Trial Bay Boat Ramp (Kettering)

By the time you get to Kettering Hobart will be fading fast in your rear-view mirror – and that’s a good thing when it comes to light pollution!

The Trial Bay Boat Ramp is on the other side of the headland to the Bruny Island Ferry terminal, just 200m off the Channel Highway from this turnoff.

It’s a quiet spot, and the trees along the water’s edge can be used to nice effect in your photos of the Southern Lights. Personally I prefersome of the other sites listed here, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Overall: Average
Region: South
Driving time: 35min (Hobart) | 3hrs (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: The Cove Kettering

Cygnet

We’ve called this one ‘Cygnet’, but it’s a lot broader than that because there are many places you can pull up and take a photo.

The best way to find a good location is to arrive in Cygnet before sunset and then slowly cruise along the Channel Highway to the south. The road winds it’s way along the coastline and there plenty of options to park the car and scout for a nice photo spot.

Places you may want to focus on include Gardners Bay, Purcells Bay, Tranquil Point, and Deep Bay Boat Ramp. 

Overall: Good
Region: Far south
Driving time: 1hr (Hobart) | 3hr 15mins (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Cygnet Old Bank

Tessellated Pavement (Eaglehawk Neck)

The Tessellated Pavement is my favourite place in Tasmania for seeing the Southern Lights. Just look at that photo ☝️

The geology of this site is bizarre and if you didn’t know better you could easily think it was man-made. The straight lines and sharp corners are so weird, but just add water and it turns into a reflective pool that stuns the senses!

The reason we’ve marked this site as being ‘Average’ for access is because you need to walk down a short dirt trail to get to the beach from the Lufra hotel. It’s not difficult, but care will be needed in the dark.

The other thing you will you need to watch is the tides. Because it is so close to the waterline the whole pavement gets covered at high tide making walking and photography both difficult and dangerous. 

We recommend visiting the Tessellated Pavement any time the tides are at 0.7m or lower (check tides here). 

Overall: 🔥 Excellent
Region: South
Driving time: 1hr 10min (Hobart) | 3hr (Launceston)
Access: Average
Accommodation: Lufra Hotel and Apartments

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain is the jewel in Tasmania’s crown. 

Even better, if the conditions are right it can be one of the most spectacular places to see the Aurora Australis in Tasmania!

The only slight downer is that Cradle Mountain is a lot further north than Hobart, and this means the Southern Lights need to be pretty strong for you to see them above the iconic silhouette of the mountain and Dove Lake.

But as you can see from the photo above, it does happen!

Access to Dove Lake is easy most of the year. The only time you may have difficulty is if there have been heavy snowfalls, as they may close the road to Dove Lake from Cradle Mountain Village.

New rules were recently introduced at Cradle Mountain to manage congestion, limiting access in private vehicles during the day. For more information see the official Parks and Wildlife page.

Overall: 🔥 Excellent
Region: Cradle Coast
Driving time: 4hrs (Hobart) | 2hrs 30mins (Launceston)
Access: Easy (non-winter) | Average (winter)
Accommodation: Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge

The Gardens (Bay of Fires)

The Bay of Fires is another part of Tasmania that many consider a natural paradise.

The red rocks and white sand are stunning during the day, but how good is it for seeing the Southern Lights at night?

Unfortunately, not so good.

The Gardens is one of the better places in the region to get a southerly view that is at least partially over water. However the Bay of Fires is a long way north and it seems that even with a lack of light pollution seeing a good aurora is rare.

Overall: Poor
Region: East Coast
Driving time: 3hr 30min (Hobart) | 2hr 30min (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Sea Eagle Cottage

Cloudy Bay (Bruny Island)

Other than South Cape Bay (see below), a trip to Cloudy Bay on Bruny Island is probably one of the most logistically difficult in Tasmania – but the payoff can be huge!

Not only do you need to travel nearly an hour from Hobart to Kettering, you then need to catch a ferry across to Bruny Island and drive almost as far as is physically possible – including unsealed roads – before you get to this isolated location.

We haven’t seen a lot of photos of the Southern Lights from Cloudy Bay, but we suspect that is because so few people make the effort to get there.

On paper it should be perfect. It’s a long way south, it faces the right direction, and there is zero light pollution.

Give it a try and let us know how you go!

Overall: Good
Region: Far south
Driving time: 3hrs (Hobart) | 5hrs (Launceston)
Access: Difficult
Accommodation: Bruny Island Escapes and Hotel

Cape Tourville Lighthouse (Freycinet)

When you think of Freycinet National Park the first things probably come to mind are Wineglass Bay, Mt Amos, and maybe Hazards Beach.

Cape Tourville Lighthouse isn’t as well know as some of these icons, but when it comes to aurora hunting it is easily one of the most beautiful sites in Tasmania.

As you can see from the video above, the view from the lighthouse is stunning, with the Hazards forming a beautiful silhouette on the horizon, emerging from the dark waters.

Access to the lighthouse is easy from Coles Bay, however the last 7km is unsealed roads, so don’t forget to check that you can take your rental car (check our Tasmania Car Hire Guide if you’d like to learn more).

Overall: 🔥 Excellent
Region: East Coast
Driving time: 3hrs (Hobart) | 2hr 30mins (Launceston)
Access: Average
Accommodation: Freycinet Lodge

South Cape Bay (via Cockle Creek)

Have you ever wondered what’s at the edge of the world…?

Everyone says the best place to see the Aurora Australis is to go as far south as possible. 

Well, Cockle Creek is waaaay south. In fact it is as far south as it is possible to drive on Australian soil.

But that’s not enough. You’ll get some nice photos from the bridge at Cockle Creek, looking south across the creek. But for the best images of all you’ll need to hike in to South Cape Bay.

The hike is easy and takes around 2-2.5hrs one-way, but remember that unless you camp the night you’ll be walking back out in the dark. If that’s your plan then make sure you bring a head lamp.

The beach at South Cape Bay is wild and windswept, but we recommend pushing on up the beach just a little further to the western end. That’s where you will get a box seat view of Lion Rock, perched on the horizon and framed by the Southern Lights.

It takes time, sweat and effort – and staying safe is a big factor – but we think this is one of the best views in Tasmania!

Overall: 🔥 Excellent
Region: Far south
Driving time: 2hrs (Hobart) + 2hr hike | 4hr 30mins (Launceston) + 2hr hike
Access: Difficult
Accommodation: Summertime Cottage Southport

Strahan

Strahan is a lovely little harbour-side village on Tasmania’s west coast.

The still waters of Macquarie make for some incredible reflections at sunrise, but you might also be wondering if it’s a good place to see the Aurora Australis.

While it does happen, our research has found that good light shows in Strahan aren’t common. It’s a fair way north and unless the Aurora is strong, and the skies are clear (a rarity on the West Coast) you’re probably not going to see much.

Overall: Poor
Region: West Coast
Driving time: 4hr 30mins (Hobart) | 3hr 45mins (Launceston)
Access: Easy
Accommodation: Aldermere Estate Luxury Apartments

Start your Tasmania road trip!

It only takes 5 simple steps to get your road trip started.

  1. Learn more about the Lap of Tasmania
  2. Plan your itinerary
  3. Book your flight or ferry to Tasmania
  4. Book your hire car or campervan
  5. Book your accommodation

We’ve also got a fantastic little community on Facebook who are super keen to help you with road trip inspiration and advice. It’s the perfect place to ask questions and to plan an awesome itinerary that perfectly suits your style of travel – Click here to join our Facebook group. 

We hope this guide to seeing the Southern Lights in Tasmania has helped you plan your Tassie road trip. If you’ve got any questions at all please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Happy road tripping!

Andrew.

Andrew Strikis

Andrew Strikis

Andrew is an award-winning travel writer and photographer from Tasmania. Over the last 10 years he has been an advocate for Tasmanian tourism, working with and supporting many of Tasmania's prominent organisations such as Tourism Northern Tasmania, Hobart and Beyond, and MONA. Together with his wife he enjoys exploring Tasmania by road, and he looks forward to helping others plan and enjoy their own Lap of Tasmania road trip.

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