Seeing the Aurora Australis in Invercargill

Known as the ‘City of Water and Light’, Invercargill is famous for its stunning views of the Aurora Australis – a phenomenon that lights up the night sky over the Waihopai River estuary between March and September. An equal to the well-known Northern Lights, this cosmic light show is caused by solar winds skimming the earth’s magnetic atmosphere to create a brilliant display of reds, greens and pinks. Find out the best ways to view this natural wonder, and how you can make the most of the Aurora Australis in New Zealand.

Times to visit 

Aurora Australis is absolutely stunning! Image from thatphotoguynl from Unsplash.

New Zealand’s southernmost city, Invercargill is one of the best places to see the Aurora Australis. It does originate near the South Pole, after all! Before heading out check the Aurora forecast to ensure that there is a high chance of seeing this phenomenon. This service uses a range of monitoring data to keep you updated on when the southern lights will be at their clearest. It’s also good to pick a night that is clear of clouds. 

Where to set up

Two people walking along the sand on the beach at sunset
Oreti Beach at sunset before seeing the Aurora Australis. Image from Sulthan Auliya on Unsplash.

It’s best to choose a dark location away from city lights. There are plenty of options near Invercargill, again making it a great location to view this light show. Oreti Beach is a popular viewing point. While it is not recommended to drive your car onto the beach, there are plenty of excellent vantage points where you can take a short stroll to set up. Nearby Awarua, Omaui, Sandy Point and Bluff Hill also offer great places to view the starry skies.

What to pack 

Even if you’re watching the Aurora from your car, it’s important to dress warmly. Invercargill can get quite cold at night, so make sure you bring warm clothing, blankets and snacks. If you want to capture the beauty of the Aurora Australis, bring a camera with a tripod to take long-exposure shots. You’ll want to use a wide-angle lens and a low aperture to capture as much light as possible.

What to expect 

Remember that it can take time for the southern lights to appear. Be patient and wait for the lights to show up. Once it starts, expect to see a breathtaking display of colourful lights in the night sky. It’s also important to stay for a while, as the lights can change and become even more spectacular. The Aurora Australis can take on different shapes, from ribbons and curtains to arcs and spirals. 

The light show can last for a few minutes or several hours, depending on the strength of the solar activity and the Earth’s magnetic field. It’s important to be patient and stay for a while to fully experience the display. The intensity can also vary, from a faint glow to a bright and colourful display that fills the entire sky, depending on the strength of the solar activity and the Earth’s magnetic field.

Explore beautiful Invercargill

Take a trip to see Stewart Island. Image from Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash.

When you’re not gazing at spectacular phenomena in the sky, there are plenty of other attractions to enjoy and admire in this region. Enjoy a day trip to nearby Stewart Island, famed for its stunning Rakiura National Park. Invercargill is also home to magnificent historic architecture. Step through history by walking the Invercargill Heritage Trail where you’ll find 18 sites of interest such as City Hall and the Railway Hotel, built in the late 1800s. 

Where to stay

The Comfort Inn Tayesta is a great base for exploring the area and experiencing the spectacular Aurora Invercargill is renowned for displaying. Only a three-minute drive to Invercargill’s CBD, this accommodation is also just 20 minutes from the ferry terminal – your gateway to exploring beautiful Stewart Island.

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