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The Best Places To See The Southern Lights In New Zealand - Aurora Australis

Updated on March 14, 2012

Today we are going to look at the best places to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand. If you want to see the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis then we will give you some of the best locations in New Zealand for doing this. We will also give you a few tips to increase your chances of seeing the stunning Aurora Australis.

The Southern Lights never seem to get as much press coverage as their Northern counterparts. The reality is that although the Aurora Australis is every bit as impressive as the Aurora Borealis it is much harder to see due to the fact that it can be very difficult to get far enough South. On a clear night though when there is a high level of activity you can see the Southern Lights from New Zealand. So we are going to give you are few of the best places to see the spectacle from.

Aurora Spots In New Zealand

Where To See The Southern Lights In New Zealand

Stewart Island

It is no surprise that the best place in New Zealand to view the Aurora is also the most southerly. Stewart Island sits a short distance off the southern tip of South Island. This small island is a great spot for viewing the Southern Lights as it is closer to the South Pole than anywhere else in New Zealand. When on Stewart Island go to Rakiura National Park, the name actually translates as glowing skies. The area round here is sparsely populated which means there is very little light pollution. One of the issues with this location though is that the weather can sometimes be a little unpredictable, so you may not get the clear skies you are after.

Tekapo Lake

Located near the centre of South Island, Tekapo Lake is one of the best spots for Aurora viewing. There is an observatory here that looks south and gets some wonderful views. There are lots of mountains in this area and if you head for higher ground away from any light pollution then you could well see some wonderful displays. One of the advantages of this area is that it gets far more sunshine than other areas of New Zealand, this means clear skies at night! So although this is not as far south as some other locations you have a far better chance of getting the right conditions and thus seeing something glowing in the sky.

The Catlins

The Catlins is a coastal area on the far south of New Zealand’s South Island. On the main land this is pretty much as far South as you can get and thus this can be a perfect place to go Aurora spotting. This is a lovely area and we recommend you head to Waikawa which is a good spot for a bit of star gazing. Again the weather in this area is not always that wonderful, so it makes sense to check up on the forecast before you go. But if you head away from any light pollution and then look South on a clear night, you may see what you are looking for.

Extra Tips When Trying To See The Aurora Australis

As we mentioned earlier, catching a glimpse of the Southern Lights is not an easy task. Although they are often visible from New Zealand, you won’t get the dramatic full sky displays that you may see in the North. Chances are you will just see an impressive green glow on the horizon. If you are in New Zealand and want to see the Aurora, there are things you can do to improve your chances. First of all remember that you stand far more chance of seeing the displays between April and September. You can also check the Aurora forecast to see when displays will be most active, thus increasing your chances of spotting something.

The Southern Lights also run on a cycle. Some years are better than others. It is expected that 2012 and 2013 will be two of the best years for activity that we have had for quite a long time. Another issue is light in the sky, you ideally want it to be as dark as possible when you are out there, so head away from any light pollution and also take note of when there is going to be a full moon as this can have a negative effect on the view as well. An obvious point is to be aware of weather forecasts, if it’s going to be cloudy you won’t see anything.

The Southern Lights are really a wonderful spectacle that relatively few people are privileged enough to witness. If you are heading for New Zealand though and conditions are right, then you do stand a chance of seeing something lighting up the sky. Hopefully this page will have given you a few ideas on the best places to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand.

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    • Travel Blogs profile image

      Travel Blogs 

      6 years ago from The world

      Love it .. we might go to NZ for one of our next 91 days stops!

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