Southern Lights Hunting: Unique Places to See Aurora Australis


The Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) may not be as famous as its big brother the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). But for ardent enthusiasts, Southern Lights hunting is just as fascinating and exciting.

Just like its sibling, the Aurora Australis appears close to the polar region; but in the south. Near the Antarctic circle, you can see one almost every single night. But planning a trip to the Antarctic is not an easy feat and is often reserved for the bucket list.

Before you make that a reality, there are a number of great destinations where you can still enjoy the show. The amazing phenomenon is worth all the effort you make to hunt it down. To help make your efforts fruitful, we have curated a list of the best places to see it.

Most of these are unique places that offer rare viewing experiences. Take a look at these unusual spots where you can see the Aurora Australis.

Least Likely Places to Spot the Aurora Australis

Cape Peninsula and Cape Agulhas, South Africa

This is one of the least likely places on the planet where you can enjoy the light show. Though it is the southernmost part of Africa, it is not as far south as most other places here. However, there have been some rare sightings here, once every few years.

If you are already in the Cape Peninsula or Cape Agulhas, it might be worth a try to catch one of these. However, it might not be the best idea to undertake a dedicated southern lights’ hunting trip all the way here.

Wilsons Promontory National Park, Mainland Australia

Located south of Melbourne, this is one of few places on the Australian mainland where you can spot the aurora. It sits at the southernmost tip of the mainland and is renowned for its rugged landscape and spectacular coastline.

The strategic positioning offers miles of unobstructed views across the channel separating the mainland from Tasmania. The best time for Southern Lights hunting here is the period between May and August. The peak of solar storms falls during the equinox in September, making this the best time to spot the lights.

Though you can see them in summer, winter sightings are more common and more intense. For a front row seat to the show, take a nighttime wilderness tour or a camping trip. Other great spots on the mainland include Anglesea, Werribee South, Cape Schanck and Aireys Inlet.

Dark Sky Reserves Where You Can See the Southern Lights

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve


This is not only the largest dark sky location in New Zealand; it is also the largest in the southern hemisphere. It measures 4,367 meters. The same conditions that make it a world-class stargazing spot make it one of the best destinations for aurora viewing.

The reserve traces its origins back to the Maori people who lived here. They would use the night sky for astrology, cultural as well as navigation purposes. By protecting the night sky, the reserve seeks to honor their rich heritage. As a huge bonus of this, the location offers a remarkable light show when the aurora appears.

Stewart Island, Rakiura, New Zealand

As the southernmost Dark Sky Sanctuary on the planet, Rakiura is a great spot for Aurora chasing. It is an incredible destination for nature lovers – 85% of the land is part of a national park. The island is also a heritage spot for Maori culture and mythology.

Native wildlife and ancient plant life (predating dinosaurs) make this a special place for outdoor excursions. The landscapes are virtually untouched, offering a unique charm that you will not find anywhere else. Here, the population of New Zealand’s national symbol, the elusive Kiwi, outnumbers that of humans.

The best time to catch the light show is between March and September. Due to the low levels of light pollution, the aurora is exceptionally vibrant on this island. You can combine your hunt with a hiking tour of the paradisaic destination.

Urban Destinations

Invercargill, New Zealand


The most likely urban destination where you can go Aurora Australis hunting is Invercargill, New Zealand. Oreti Beach, only 10 kilometers away, offers incredibly clear views of the southern sky. You could also try Tiwai and Bluff Point.

If you love off-the-radar destinations, this is a great place to explore. It is home to three vehicle museums, great cuisine and plenty of outdoor attractions.

The best time to chase the light show here is between March and September, which is winter season. June and July are the peak periods. If you are here for a summer vacation, try staying up past midnight to the early morning hours to see one.

Ushuaia, Argentina

Often described as the end of the world, Ushuaia is the planet’s southernmost city. It is therefore one of the most ideal destinations for Southern Lights hunting. This is one of the few urban spots where you can see the show. On winter nights between, you can enjoy uninterrupted darkness for up to 17 hours. Plus, getting here is easier than most other Aurora Australis spots.

However, unstable weather conditions make the light show in Ushuaia a rare phenomenon. It takes a delicate combination of factors to make it happen. But for ardent fans, never knowing when you will see it makes it worth the chase. The best time to give it a shot is during the Antarctic winter, which runs from March to September.

Most Remote Location

Sandwich Islands and South Georgia Islands, South America

These are a group of volcanic islands located deep in the South Atlantic Ocean. They are about 1,050 miles (1,700 kilometers) from the southernmost tip of South America. Only a handful of people live here, most of them scientists.

Though the islands are most prominent for their vast populations of penguins, seals and birds, they hold another secret. Apart from Antarctica, these are the remotest places for Southern Lights hunting. Aurora season here runs from October all the way to March. However, getting here is a major pain, even during summer months. You can only visit the islands via boat, preferably on a cruise.

Chasing the Elusive Aurora Australis

The Aurora Australis is a lot more elusive than its sibling the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Part of the reason for this is the challenge that comes with traveling close to the South Pole. For many southern light hunting enthusiasts however, this is a big part of the thrill. The reward that comes with sighting one is well worth the effort.

Furthermore, the above locations have plenty of attractions and vacation activities. When you get a glimpse of the rare show while you are here, consider it a huge bonus. Happy hunting!

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