New Zealand Southern Lights

Emitting scintillating colours like  green, pink, red, purple and blue  in the night sky, Southern Lights in New Zealand is a  celestial occurrence. Southern Lights are also known by the name “Aurora Australis” and are the counterparts of Northern Lights. Upon coming into contact with Earth’s upper atmospheric layers, streams of charged particles from the Sun survive collision and effuse a neon glow. Every year, this mysterious phenomenon attracts many travellers from other parts of the world, eager to experience the captivating beauty of the Southern Lights during their New Zealand trip.

The best time to see Southern Lights in New Zealand is between  March-September i.e the winter months. It appears at midnight between 12 AM- 1:30 AM. In order to see them, the sky has to be clear, dark and there should be no presence of clouds. Aurora Lights Zealand exhibits their spell for 15-30 minutes. However, on rare occurrences, you might end up seeing them gracing the sky for extensive hours.

The best places to see Southern Lights in New Zealand are Lake Tekapo, Stewart Island, The Otago Peninsula, The Catlins, Chatham Islands, Queenstown, Invercargill and The Great Barrier Island. Among all, especially, Lake Tekapo, Stewart Island and The Great Barrier Island are recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association for their clear skies and low-light pollution.
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Essential Info about Southern Lights in New Zealand


What are the “Southern Lights?”

Southern  Lights which are  known as Aurora Australis is one of the greatest creations of nature and can be seen from the southernmost parts of New Zealand. These ripples of light are nothing but  the southern counterparts of Northern Lights. Oozing out neon colours like green, red, purple, blue, pink and red, Southern Lights paint the night sky into a stunning canvas.

Among all, the predominant colours which can be seen are Green and Pink.So, what causes such a spell-binding phenomenon? Upon coming into contact with Earth’s upper atmospheric layers, streams of charged particles from the Sun survive collision and effuse a neon glow. Every year, this mysterious event attracts many travellers from other parts of the world.

Which is the best time of year to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand?

The best time of the year to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand is between March to September i.e. the Winter months. During this period, the surreal display of riot of colours usually takes place at midnight (12 AM- 1:30 PM).

Keep in mind that Aurora Australis doesn’t have a fixed schedule like the Aurora Borealis and appears at a half an hour’s notice.

Conditions to witness Southern Lights

Southern Lights in New Zealand which paints the night sky with enthralling colours appear under the following conditions:

- The occurrence of solar activity backed by strong gusts of solar winds.
- The sky should be pitch dark without any clouds.
- The total absence of artificial lights (city lights) or natural lights( moonlight).
- Head to the extreme south of  New Zealand like Stewart Island, Lake Tekapo and The Catlins.
- March to September i.e. the Winter months are the perfect time to spot the Southern Lights in New Zealand. The Winter months are considered ideal because of the long hours of darkness.

What causes Southern Lights?

When streams of charged particles from the Sun come in contact with Earth’s upper atmospheric layers at a great speed, the charged particles  undergo collision and effuse a neon glow. Thereafter, ripples of light are seen gracing the night sky for several hours. Predominant colours which can be seen are Green and Pink.

How can I photograph the Southern Lights?

1. Not only Southern Lights are spectacular to watch but they are equally gorgeous for photography. If you are planning to capture the sheer brilliance of Southern Lights in New Zealand, carry the followings:

- Sturdy Tripod
- Manual Mode Functionality Camera + 2-4 Extra Batteries
- Wide-angle Lens

2. In order to avoid movements, fixate your camera on the tripod and make sure to place it in a stable place. Manually select high ISO & keep the shutter speed at 18 seconds. Set the exposure to 4000, control the white balance and keep the aperture in the camera to the lowest.

3. Dark & clear sky will help you capture the best photos.

Unknown Facts about Southern Lights

- Southern Lights in New Zealand are visible from space and satellites can take pictures of them.
- The smash-up of electronically charged particles from the Sun with distinctive oxygen atoms creates different colours.
- Other planets in our Solar System like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Mars also experience this charming phenomenon.
- As per folklore, Aurora Lights in New Zealand make noises similar to clapping sounds and hisses.

Places to see Southern Lights in New Zealand


Lake Tekapo

In the inland South Island of New Zealand, Lake Tekapo is a scenic village. It is one of the best places to see Southern lights in New Zealand. The region experiences clear sky nights and is totally devoid of light pollution, which are 2 of the main conditions for witnessing the Aurora Lights New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo has also been honoured with a “Heritage Status” by the International Dark-Sky Association for having one of the darkest skies in the world. It has many lodgings and restaurants where travellers can sleep and eat during their venture to see the Southern Lights.

Stewart Island

Across the Foveaux Strait, Stewart Island is one of the popular places to see Southern Lights in New Zealand. It is located in the southern part of the South Island and is the last stop-off point before the Antarctic. Stewart Island is also known by the name Rakiura which roughly translates to  ‘land of the glowing skies’.

The location has clear skies and the level of light pollution is closely controlled and is always under the radar. It has also been presented with the tag of Dark Sky Sanctuary by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

The Otago Peninsula

In the easternmost part of Dunedin, Otago Peninsula offers an unforgettable experience with Southern lights in New Zealand. As the night falls, the coastal region offers a clear sky which is required for a brilliant appearance of Southern Lights.

All you have to do is take a seat in a suitable place and enjoy the mind-boggling view of the Southern Lights dancing in the sky on their happy tunes.

The Catlins

In the southeastern corner of the South Island, The Catlins is one of the prime viewing spots to see the  Southern lights in New Zealand. Featuring a scenic coastal landscape, it fulfils 2 of the major requirements for viewing the  Aurora Lights New Zealand i.e. clear night sky and no light pollution. Besides, The Catlins also offer an excellent base for Stargazing as well.

Chatham Islands

Due to clear skies, low light pollution and peaceful atmosphere, Chatham Islands is one of the best places to see Southern Lights in New Zealand. At a distance of  800 kilometres east of the South Island, the islands turn into a paradise every winter with green and pink displays.

It lures numerous Southern Lights ( Aurora Australis) enthusiasts who seek to witness this celestial phenomenon and tick-off an item from their bucket list.


Nestled against the Southern Alps, Queenstown is known for its natural attractions and Southern Lights is one of them. Stewart Island and The Catlins are 2 of the locations in Queenstown where one can see the Southern Lights in New Zealand.

Catch a glimpse of the twists and swirls of Aurora Australis in the backdrop of clear sky and absence of light pollution, and let its beauty engulf you.


One of the southernmost cities in the world, Invercargill offers all the right conditions to see the Southern lights in New Zealand. Low light pollution, dark sky and absence of clouds are the major requirements. As the midnight dawns upon, keep your eyes fixated on the sky to catch the ghostly glow across the night sky.

Through Invercargill, travellers can also access Stewart Island which is one of the eminent locations for seeing the Southern Lights.

The Great Barrier Island

In the outer Hauraki Gulf, Great Barrier Island is one of the hot spots for witnessing the Southern Lights in full glory. It is a recognised International Dark Sky Reserve known for its clear skies and low-light pollution. As the clock strikes midnight, stay ready with your camera perched on your sturdy tripod with necessary camera settings.

While the camera captures the finesse, watch the Aurora Australis with your naked eyes dancing in motion and decorating the sky with elegance.

People Also Ask About New Zealand

  1. When can you see the Southern Lights in New Zealand?

    The best places to see Southern Lights in New Zealand are Lake Tekapo, Stewart Island, The Otago Peninsula, The Catlins, Chatham Islands, Queenstown and the Great Barrier Island. The display of Southern Lights in New Zealand lures hordes of travellers from various foreign countries.
  2. What is the best time to see the Southern Lights?

    The best time to see Southern Lights is between March to September i.e. the Winter months. Since the skies are the darkest during this phase, it is considered an ideal time.
  3. How often do the Southern Lights occur?

    Usually, Southern Lights or the Aurora Australis doesn’t have a fixed schedule and occurs at a short notice. In order to higher your chances of spotting the Aurora Australis, you can check various websites for the forecast of Aurora Australis before your trip.
  4. Are Southern Lights as good as Northern Lights?

    Yes, Southern Lights are as good as Northern Lights. Just like Northern Lights ( Aurora Borealis), Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) display variable hues which are equally awe-inspiring.
  5. What colour are the Southern Lights?

    Dominant colours in Southern Lights include Neon Green and Ruby Red. Other colours which are of rare occurrence include Violet, Pink and Blue.
  6. When do the Southern Lights occur?

    Although Southern Lights occur throughout the year, it can be seen between March- September i.e. the Winter months. It is best viewed when the sky is pitch-dark and there is a complete absence of the natural and artificial lights.
  7. How long does Southern Lights last?

    Southern Lights last for a stretch of 15-30 minutes at a time. However, in rare instances, you might end up seeing them gracing the sky for a couple of hours.
  8. Do Southern lights make noise?

    Yes, Southern Lights do make noises. The types of noises sound like faint crackling, light rustling, clapping and hissing. Nevertheless, not all Aurora Australis produces it.
  9. Can you see the Southern Lights in Queenstown?

    Yes, Southern Lights can be seen from Queenstown. Locales like Stewart Island and The Catlins in Queenstown are devoid of light pollution and considered the ideal spots for viewing the astronomical phenomenon.
  10. Can you see Aurora Australis with naked eyes?

    Yes, Aurora Australis can be seen with naked eyes. However, it might appear like a glinting light because human eyes are not capable of distinguishing between colours at night.
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