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Your guide to the Southern Lights in New Zealand [2024]

If ever there was a year to enjoy the incredible southern lights, 2024 is the year.

The Aurora Australis, otherwise known as the southern lights will be the brightest seen in years, so though it’s far from guaranteed, your chances of spotting this natural phenomena are better than ever.

With beautiful shades of purple, pink, green and yellow, these displays are often observed even by the naked eye. Or, to capture their true beauty, you’ll want to brush up on your long-exposure photography skills.

A couple standing on the side of a lake with the pink and yellow southern lights in the sky.

Table of contents

What Causes the Southern Lights?

Aurora Australis (which is the latin term for the southern lights) is a scientific phenomenon viewable in our atmosphere.

These displays become visible when high-energy particles from the sun rain down on Earth. As they get closer to us, they interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. This channels them in the direction of both magnetic poles – explaining why you are most likely to see them further north and south.

As these particles are accelerated downwards, they hit atoms in our upper atmosphere (ranging from 90km to 700km high). This process results in a glowing field of excited gas – this is what we see when we observe one of these incredible natural light shows.

The light can take on a variety of different colours (they are in fact different to the north than they are to the south). The displays often dance over the polar skies for hours on end, creating an amazing show for anyone lucky enough to see.

southern lights new zealand tour

Why is 2024 Expected to be a Fantastic Year for Aurora Australis Viewing?

Aurora Australis activity fluctuates over time, operating in a cyclical manner.

Fortunately for us, 2024 is looking particularly good, due to increased solar wind activity!

The sun is waking up from a couple of years of low activity (solar activity goes through an 11-year cycle) and we are starting to see it rise again Dr Ian Griffin, Otago Museum

The stars and a colourful Southern Lights erupting behind the mountains.

When is the Best Time to View the Southern Lights?

The colder weather brings with it the best chances of seeing the Aurora Australis. Between March and September is prime viewing season so this is the best time to visit NZ if you’re keen on seeing them.

This is also the best time for stargazing in Aotearoa, when you’ll see the Milky Way pass overhead.

As for the time of day, you’ll only see the southern lights at night when the sky is really dark. Midnight tends to be the best time to see them.

The combination of prime stargazing season and the southern lights makes for incredible photography opportunities down in the South Island!

Where Are You Most Likely to See the Southern Lights?

As a general rule, the further south you head, the more likely you are to see the southern lights (in much the same way that the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are strongest closer to the North Pole).

Specifically, Aurora Australis is best seen from the following locations:

  • Lake Tekapo (and its surrounding areas which is a part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve)
  • The Otago Peninsula
  • The Catlins
  • Stewart Island

Each of these places is fairly well south and allows viewers to successfully escape city lights.

southern lights new zealand tour

Need help planning your trip to New Zealand?

What Conditions are Required to See the Aurora Australis?

So, you’re in the right place at the right time of year.

What can you do now to maximise your chances of a successful Aurora Australis viewing?

First of all, Dr Ian Griffin of the Otago Museum, recommends heading away from the bright city lights (which interfere with viewing all but the very brightest displays).

In addition, you’ll want to be sure you have an unobstructed view to the south and a night with minimal cloud cover.

Finally, if you’d like confirmation that you’re looking at a display (as sometimes they are barely visible to the naked eye), pop your manual camera on long-exposure and snap a couple of photographs. If there are southern lights out, you’ll be sure to see them.

Keep your eyes peeled for what might look like a haze or foggy appearance as lower levels of activity won’t necessarily look like what you’re used to seeing in photographs.

Couple with the southern lights dancing on the horizon in Te Anau.

How Can I Find Out if the Southern Lights are Out Tonight?

It is possible to forecast the southern lights and to predict their strength.

Aurora is measured in Kp, with 0 being the weakest and 9 being the strongest. Anything considered a Kp5 or stronger is labelled a geomagnetic storm (which increases your chances of seeing them).

There are a number of different websites, Facebook groups and apps dedicated to helping people find the southern lights. If you’re keen to track them down, checking these will be of benefit.

These are our favourites:

  • Southern Hemisphere Aurora Group
  • New Zealand Aurora Australis Group
  • Aurora Australis – New Zealand CURRENT ALERTS
  • My Aurora Forecast & Alerts: Apple & Android

Green and pink hues of the Aurora Australis shining behind a mountain as seen from the beach.

If you manage to capture the Aurora Australis, please be sure to share your photos in New Zealand Travel Tips !

Photos by Dr Ian Griffin of the Otago Museum.

Founder of one of Aotearoa's most popular and helpful Facebook travel planning groups, Sarah shares reliable information and discounts around New Zealand. As an experienced tour guide, travel writer and airline reservations consultant, she enjoys bringing you the best of New Zealand.

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Southern Light South Island Tour

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Adventure Tours South Island Tours Southern Light (8 days)

  • Tour Overview
  • Itinerary Details
  • Dates and Prices
  • Book or Hold Seat
  • Starts: Christchurch
  • Ends: Queenstown
  • Duration: 8 days
  • Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 ( 72 reviews )
  • Price: from NZD $3,150.00

southern lights new zealand tour

Main Highlights

  • World heritage site
  • NZ cycle trail
  • Glow-worm walks
  • Accommodation by coasts, mountains & lakes
  • ...and many more

Southern Light Southern Island tour - Overview:

The South Island of New Zealand is a visual paradise filled with jaw dropping scenery and the Southern Light tour will show you the highlights in around a week! On this South Island adventure tour , you can expect:

•  VIEWS - Expect to see incredible glacier fed blue lakes and sheer and towering cliff faces with endless waterfalls.

•  CAMPING - The Southern Light will give you a very good introduction of why we love New Zealand - this section also offers some very special camping spots that we have strategically placed so we can bring you much closer to nature than you’d ever have expected.

• NATURAL WONDERS - From glaciers and mountains to beautiful beaches and wild coastlines. There are plenty of wildlife encounters along the way (such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins).

• TRAVEL MATES - Bring a friend along to share this tour of discovery, or make new mates amongst your fellow Flying Kiwi travellers and create lasting memories and lifetime friendships!

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE SOUTHERN LIGHT TOUR:

We want you to have the best possible experience and we know New Zealand which is why we have included the following in the Southern Light tour:

- Accommodation: Wake up close to lakes and oceans in our perfectly designed tents, included in the tour cost is shared tent accommodation, two people per tent. You can upgrade to your own tent for the duration of the tour for a small additional cost if you choose.

- Food: Delicious, tasty and healthy meals are included. See our detailed itinerary for details of which meals are included on a day-to-day basis. If you have a certain dietary requirement just let our team know, we can cater for most dietary needs.

- Hikes: Free walks are enjoyed every day (from 10 minutes to a few hours).

- Bike Rides: These include sections of the NZ Cycle Trail, on-road cycling and bike paths, something for everyone.

OTHER FREE INCLUSIONS :

There are lots of museums and attractions that are free of charge, as well as all access to National Parks. We take in many of these on the Southern Light tour.

Our bike rides page and the  hiking pages give you lots more detail into the rides and hikes our guides will show you along the way. For many of these we include printed maps and route notes which your guides will handout when on tour.

Our activities page above gives more detail on many of the free and optional activities that you might choose to do on your Southern Light tour and how it all works.

IMPORTANT THINGS WE WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THE SOUTHERN LIGHT TOUR:

End of Trip Transport Options: The Southern Light tour has you finishing in Queenstown where there are regular daily flights to Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland with either Air New Zealand or Jetstar. There are also bus and shuttle services travelling daily from Queenstown to Christchurch.

Please visit our how it works  page for everything you need to know.

CHRISTCHURCH TO LAKE TEKAPO

Welcome to the first day of your Flying Kiwi adventure! Your tour begins in Christchurch, one of New Zealand’s most famous destinations which has been rebuilding since the infamous earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and is now home to great shopping, cool laneway bars and amazing eateries. You’ll meet your group and Guide at 2pm outside the Rydges Hotel and then continue on down to the stunning Lake Tekapo where we’ll spend the next two nights camping.

  • Meals: Dinner
  • Bike Rides: Tekape Lakefront
  • Walks and Hikes: Explore Christchurch
  • Available Upgrades: Yes

LAKE TEKAPO AND TRIP TO AORAKI/MT COOK

This morning, we’ll wake up in arguably the most beautiful part of the South Island. Lake Tekapo is incredibly scenic, and home to the most spectacular turquoise waters which get their colour from the glacial flour brought down from the rivers flowing from glaciers high up in the mountains.

We’ll go and see some incredible sights today, heading for Aoraki/Mt Cook where we’ll hike to the base of NZ’s highest mountain following a trail up the Hooker valley where you’ll cross swing bridges and experience stunning views of the mountains before finishing up at a glacial lake with some awe inspiring views of the Hooker Valley glacier - trust us, you’ll want to bring your camera for this! This evening, we recommend going for a soak in the nearby hot pools or enjoying some world famous star gazing at the Mt John Observatory - you are staying in an International Dark Sky Reserve, after all! 

  • Meals: Breakfast & Lunch
  • Bike Rides: Lake Tekapo Regional Park, A2O Cycle
  • Walks and Hikes: Mt John walkway, Hike to the base of Mount Cook & Hooker Valley
  • Optional Activities: Scenic Flight, Tekapo Hot Pools, Star Gazing

LAKE TEKAPO TO OAMARU

Today we’ll spend the morning in Lake Tekapo before departing this afternoon to travel back towards the Pacific coast. We'll camp in the historic town of Oamaru this evening, close to the unique Moeraki Boulders and the Scottish city of Dunedin. Go for a walk this evening to a great view point offering expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and try to spot a little Blue Penguin along the shore. 

  • Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
  • Bike Rides: 13 km Alps2Ocean trail ride
  • Walks and Hikes: Explore the Moeraki Heritage Trail

OAMARU TO TE ANAU

If the tide is low this morning, we’ll go for a walk along the beach to see the mysterious Moeraki boulders. These perfectly round spheres of rock have formed over millions of years and have found their way onto the beach near Moeraki and make for some fun photo opportunities.

Next it’s onto the historic Scottish city of Dunedin, the South Island's second-largest city and home to NZ’s only castle. Dunedin is home to the world’s steepest residential street and the coastline is home to some fantastic and rare wildlife. Afterwards, we’ll continue down to the gateway to the Milford Sound, situated on the edge of Lake Te Anau.  Tonight’s camp is on the lakeside in Te Anau, which is the South Island's largest lake.  The bikers can go for a ride on the lake to lake Te Anau trail and the rest of us can enjoy a leisurely walk along the lakefront or head up to the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary where we can see the endangered native Takahē. If you’d like to do an activity, we recommend the incredible glowworm caves tour and boat ride.

  • Bike Rides: Lake Te Anau Lakefront Cycle Upukerora Trail (5km+)
  • Walks and Hikes: World’s steepest street, explore Dunedin city
  • Optional Activities: Te Anau glowworm caves tour & boat ride

FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK

Today we’ll travel along one of the world’s most scenic roads and into Milford Sound! Described as the 'eighth wonder of the world', Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. We highly recommend boarding a cruise, where you'll see dramatic waterfalls and snow-capped peaks and if you’re lucky, some wildlife! At different times of year, penguins, dolphins, seals and even whales have been spotted at Milford. As it’s just the one road in and out, we head back along the same breath-taking route to our lakeside camp in Te Anau. Along the way, we drop off those doing the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks. This hike is a haven for native birdlife. Charge up your camera as this hike offers everything from mountainous peaks and sheer rock faces to pristine lakes, cascading waterfalls and dense, luxuriant forest. 

  • Bike Rides: Lake to Lake Te Anau trail, Lakefront Upukerora trail (5 km+)
  • Walks and Hikes: Plenty of short walks from camp
  • Optional Activities: Milford Sound Cruise, Te Anau glowworm caves tour & boat ride

TE ANAU TO QUEENSTOWN

After a chance for a morning bike ride on the Lake to Lake Trail, if not done already, we will make our way along the Devil’s Staircase, and catch our first glimpses of Queenstown.  The Adventure Capital of NZ,  Queenstown is located on the shores of the South Islands second largest lake, Lake Wakatipu.  There are many cycle trails & walks for everyone to enjoy.  

  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Walks and Hikes: Routeburn Track (must be pre-booked and hikers will rejoin the group in Queenstown)
  • Optional Activities: Bungy jumping, skydiving, horse-riding, white water rafting, jet boating & the list goes on! You are in the adventure capital of the world!
  • Drive Distance: No Driving today

With so much to do we’ll spend another full day in the fantastic Queenstown, so everyone has the opportunity to have those once in a lifetime experiences. Speaking of experiences, may we suggest trying the legendary Fergburger! Tonight, we dine out at one of Queenstown’s many delicious eateries - a great chance for your group to enjoy a feast at an iconic Queenstown eatery (own cost).  

  • Bike Rides: Lake Wakatipu trail (16km), Queenstown trail (48 km)
  • Walks and Hikes: Queenstown walks, Ben Lomond
  • Optional Activities: Bungy jumping, skydiving, horse-riding, white water rafting, jet boating & the list goes on!

QUEENSTOWN - FINAL DAY OF TOUR

A last chance to indulge in the Queenstown action before finishing your tour with us here and saying farewell to your fellow Flying Kiwi travellers!

  • Bike Rides: Road cycling around town or on one of the many Queenstown trails

TOUR PRICES:

Departures from christchurch:, trip reviews.

The trip was excellent I've met a very nice group of people. It was a great way to see the country and more remote places.

Claire from GB , travelled Southern Light South Island Tour on 23/10/2019

Fantastic trip with a great variety of beautiful locations and activities. Great group of people and relaxed travelling atmosphere lead by the brilliant Nick + Chrissy.

Zoe from GB , travelled Southern Light South Island Tour on 03/01/2020

Travelling with a group of like-minded and respectful people was the highlight of the trip for me. And personalized attention to detail from Genna and Charlene - I've not come across such warm and professional tours guides before.

Pooja from IN , travelled Southern Light South Island Tour on 01/02/2019

It was a great experience. Never went camping before but have definitely started to love it. Will do more camping in the future.

Tabea Schlasser from DE , travelled Southern Light South Island Tour on 01/01/2019

Beautiful time with like minded people from all over the world. I would definitely do it again.

Chelsea M'Govern from US , travelled Southern Light South Island Tour on 01/01/2019

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Aurora Tracks See Northern Lights

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How to See the Southern Lights NEW ZEALAND

southern lights new zealand

Want to see Southern Lights New Zealand? In this comprehensive guide, we discuss where and when to see the aurora australis in New Zealand, plus tips and tour options.

Unlike the northern lights aurora borealis, seeking out the southern lights aurora australis is a much more low-key and quiet affair. For anyone that has started a search on the southern lights, they are often stopped short by the lack of information on the phenomenon. It is an understatement to say that they are not as popular as the northern lights – even the locals are frequently unaware of their existence.

For those up for the adventure of searching for these truly elusive lights, then this guide is for you. We aim to cover, in full detail, exactly where to go and what time of year to visit the Southern Lights New Zealand. And we also discuss and share links for the only two operators offering tours of the aurora, at the time of writing.

So, if catching the Southern Lights in New Zealand is what you’re after, then dive in for quite possibly the most comprehensive guide you’ll find on the internet about it!

Can You See Northern Lights in New Zealand?

You can view the northern lights in the southernmost part of New Zealand. However, they are not referred to as the northern lights, rather they are known as the aurora australis. These beautiful lights that form in the night sky can be seen across the southern part of the country, depending on the intensity of the solar activity. Just like viewing the northern lights in Europe and North America, it’s important to visit New Zealand during the wintertime, which occurs between June and August. During this time of year, the nights are longer, providing you ample time to hunt for the elusive lights.

Where Can You See Southern Lights NEW ZEALAND?

map southern lights in new zealand

#1 The Catlins

There are many great locations throughout New Zealand to see the southern lights. One of the more popular destinations in the country is a coastal region that is known as the Catlins. This particular region along the coastline is sparsely populated, resulting in less light pollution to interfere with your hunting experience.

There are countless things to see and do when you visit Dunedin. And while there are plenty of things to keep you busy during the daytime, once the sun has set it’s time to start hunting for the aurora australis. When visiting the city, the best place to go is to head on out to Hoopers inlet, or the Otago Peninsula.

#3 Great Barrier Island / Dark Sky Sanctuary

You will find the majestic Great Barrier Island located just off the coast of Auckland. The island is home to one of the most popular destinations for viewing the southern lights in the country. Although located more north than other aurora viewing spots in New Zealand, the Dark Sky Sanctuary on the island provides some of the best vantage points in the nation for viewing the elusive lights.

#4 Lake Tekapo / International Dark Sky Reserve

Another popular place to go in New Zealand to view the southern lights is Lake Tekapo. From the shores of the pristine lake to the peak of beautiful Mount John, the region falls within the protected Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, and is an excellent destination for stargazing.

#5 Invercargill

The southernmost city in New Zealand is Invercargill. Not only is it a popular destination for people wanting to get closer to nature, but it is also a popular hotspot for aurora hunting. The closer you get to the South Pole, the greater the chance of viewing the elusive lights. Being the southernmost city in the country, Invercargill is the perfect destination for hunting the natural phenomena.

#6 Queenstown

Queenstown is one of the more popular destinations when it comes to adventure sports. However, the city is also known for having some of the clearest skies in all of New Zealand. This makes it a great destination for anyone who is looking to view the aurora australis. You will find the best vantage points located just south of Queenstown along the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

#7 Stewart Island

For a more remote destination and New Zealand for viewing the elusive southern lights, look no further than Stewart Island. More than 85% of the entire island falls within the Rakiura National Park, which means there is very limited light pollution to interfere with your viewing experience. Since it is located within a national park, there is also plenty of things to keep you busy during the day while you wait for the sun to set.

When Can You See Southern Lights NEW ZEALAND?

Winter (june – august).

The most ideal time to visit New Zealand in order to view the southern lights is in the winter. During the winter, which takes place between June and August, you will have ample hours of darkness in which to hunt the skies for the majestic aurora australis. It’s also a great time for those who love outdoor adventure sports like skiing.

Spring (September – November)

By spring, the temperature begins to slowly increase, and the snows of winter melt. The days are a little bit longer, but nevertheless, there is still plenty of night skies to hunt for the elusive lights. It is also the best time of year to visit New Zealand because it is also referred to as the waterfall season.

Summer (December – February)

For those who live in the northern hemisphere, the New Zealand summer which runs from December through February provides a welcomed reprieve from the harsh winters in the North. However, the summer also features longer days which makes it harder to view the elusive lights. Nevertheless, you will still be able to see them between midnight and four in the morning.

Autumn (March – May)

Visiting New Zealand during the autumn is similar to visiting it in springtime. The weather is still warm enough that you can sit out under the stars without having to bundle up excessively. It is also the time of year when the leaves start to change color, providing visitors to the region with some of the most amazing views of a New Zealand fall.

Tours and Cruises to See Southern Lights NEW ZEALAND

Southern lights by flight from christchurch.

Where:  Christchurch, New Zealand

Tour Provider:  Viva Expeditions https://vivaexpeditions.com/

More Information:   https://vivaexpeditions.com/tours/new-zealand/canterbury-upper-south-island/southern-lights-by-flight

Duration: 10 hours

Price: Starting at $965

When it comes to viewing the southern lights, the only way to guarantee that you will see the natural phenomenon is aboard a southern lights flight.

Viva Expeditions are known for offering one of the most unique ways to hunt for the elusive aurora australis. With the help of astrophysicist Ian Griffin and an entire team of experts on the auroras, you will board a commercial jet and set out over the southern ocean, to fly along the shores of Antarctica. High above the clouds, there is no light pollution to interfere with your ability to view the majestic lights. Of the 10-hour flight, 6 hours are spent exclusively on hunting for the southern lights. With the help of experts, you will be able to learn all about the natural phenomena and receive tips on the best ways to photograph the lights when they do appear.

Tour Highlights

The Viva Expedition southern lights flight sets out from Christchurch aboard a state-of-the-art Dreamliner. Roughly 2 hours after takeoff, the jet will be in the perfect viewing position, and the ghostly lights of the auroras will start filling the cabin. Unlike viewing the southern lights from the ground, you will never have to worry about light pollution or clouds getting in your way. At tens of thousands of feet above the planet’s surface, you are guaranteed to see the elusive lights firsthand. With the help of the tour photographer, you will be able to set up your cameras to get some of the most stunning photos of the auroras imaginable.

What’s Included

  • 2 Full-Service Meals
  • Wine, Beer, and Soft Drinks
  • State-Of-The-Art Entertainment System
  • Educational Lectures
  • Photography Hands and Tips
  • Preflight Program

Why It’s Popular

Since 2013, Ian Griffin has directed the Otago Museum. As an astronomer and self-described fanatic of the auroras, Ian Griffin is the foremost expert on auroras in New Zealand. The average flight, thanks to the guidance of Doctor Griffin, includes more than 4 hours of viewing pleasure. The flight also features a team of experienced astronomers who will provide more in-depth information about the southern lights once in the air. With the help of the onboard astro photography team, not only will you learn how to set up your camera correctly, but the team will be there to assist you with all of your in-flight photography needs.

Southern Skies Stargazing Tour in Dunedin

Where:  Dunedin, New Zealand

Tour Provider:  Horizon Tours https://www.horizontours.co.nz/

More Information:   https://www.horizontours.co.nz/southern-skies-stargazing

Duration: 4 Hours

Price: Starting at $65

Enjoy the beauty of the southern lights in Dunedin, as you head out on an amazing 4-hour adventure along the New Zealand coastlines.

While there are many things to see and do in Dunedin, nothing makes the trip more special than hunting for the elusive southern lights. This popular four-hour tour will take you out to a local rule farm on the Otago Peninsula and then to Sandfly Bay. You’ll have a lovely supper with some hot beverages as you head out along the rule coast in order to hunt for the elusive lights. Check out the stars with the help of binoculars, and enjoy hot coffee or tea as you listen to stories from the Maori perspective of the heavens above.

Out on the Otago Peninsula, there are many excellent vantage points from which to hunt for the elusive southern lights. You’ll spend your first hour of the tour enjoying a light dinner and a hot beverage. While you eat, you will hear tales about the Maori culture and their perception of the stars above. The price also includes admission to Allans Beach. As you head out to the beach, you will be given an hour to stare up at the sky to hunt for the aurora australis. At the end of the trip, you will be dropped back off at your hotel.

  • Delicious Snacks
  • Refreshments
  • Hot Coffee and Tea
  • Pickup from Selected Hotels
  • Air-Conditioned Vehicle

You will find that the Otago Peninsula provides some of the most awe-inspiring views of the southern night skies. As you stare out over Hoopers Inlet and listen to the coastal birds calling out in the darkness, you will begin to feel more at one with the natural world around you. When the conditions are just right, the aurora australis will light up the night sky, providing you with one of the most breathtaking views of Dunedin imaginable.

Final Thoughts on Viewing Southern Lights in New Zealand

This concludes our guide to viewing the southern lights aurora in New Zealand. As mentioned in the introduction, chasing the aurora australis is a much less publicized activity than the northern lights. Therefore, if you plan on seeing the aurora australis, you need to make sure to be well-equipped.

While some knowledgeable locals may offer some help, you could find in more instances than not that you actually know more about the aurora australis than they do. Before you travel, equip yourself with the knowledge you need about exactly where to go, and when to go. If you can afford it, book yourself in advance for one of the aurora tours in this article so give yourself an even higher chance of seeing the lights.

Lastly, try and plan your holiday for a year that the lights are expected to be more active .

For more travel locations and tips on seeing the southern lights, you might also like to check out our article on when and how to see the southern lights here .

Happy aurora hunting!

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When & where can you see the southern lights aurora, how to see the southern lights argentina & chile, how to see the southern lights tasmania australia, how to see the aurora australis / aurora borealis antarctica, related posts.

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Southern Light from Christchurch - Top rated by National Geographic

  • Fully Guided

Traveled in February 2020

Places You’ll See

Christchurch

  • Whale watching
  • Milford sound
  • White water rafting
  • Glow-worm walks
  • Introduction
  • Day 1 CHRISTCHURCH – LAKE TEKAPO
  • Day 2 LAKE TEKAPO AND TRIP TO AORAKI/MT COOK
  • Day 3 LAKE TEKAPO TO OAMARU
  • Day 4 OAMARU TO TE ANAU
  • Day 5 FIORDLAND NATIONAL PARK
  • Day 6 TE ANAU TO QUEENSTOWN
  • Day 7 QUEENSTOWN
  • Day 8 DEPART QUEENSTOWN

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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Additional Services

Operated by Flying Kiwi

Since 1988 Flying Kiwi has been recognised as New Zealand's leading adventure tour company. These...

Your Peace of Mind Options

Cancellation policy.

A transparent overview of applicable fees.

Customer Reviews

  • Overall Rating Excellent 4.2
  • Itinerary Excellent 4.3
  • Guide Good 3.5
  • Transport Good 4.0
  • Accommodation Good 3.7
  • Food Good 4.0
  • Tour Operator Flying Kiwi 4.5

Southern Light from Christchurch - Top rated by National Geographic reviewer 1

Dates & Availability

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Frequently Asked Questions

Everything is optional and whether you would like to participate in a certain hike, optional activity (additional costs) or cycle ride (if you have hired a bike) it is up to you. This can be an active tour but you can also take it easy!

This is an outdoor camping tour and included in the tour price is shared tent accommodation, 2 people per tent. If you are travelling alone you will be paired with someone of similar age and same gender. You can hire a single tent for the duration of the tour for an additional cost.

Got a question about this tour?

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Good to Know

  • Currency $ New Zealand Dollar New Zealand

As a traveller from USA, Canada, England, South Africa you will need an adaptor for type I.

  • Unfortunately we cannot offer you a visa application service. Whether you need a visa or not depends on your nationality and where you wish to travel. Assuming your home country does not have a visa agreement with the country you're planning to visit, you will need to apply for a visa in advance of your scheduled departure.
  • Here is an indication for which countries you might need a visa. Please contact the local embassy for help applying for visas to these places.
  • For any tour departing before 1st September 2024 a full payment is necessary. For tours departing after 1st September 2024, a minimum payment of 30% is required to confirm your booking with Flying Kiwi. The final payment will be automatically charged to your credit card on the designated due date. The final payment of the remaining balance is required at least 60 days prior to the departure date of your tour. TourRadar never charges you a booking fee and will charge you in the stated currency.
  • Some departure dates and prices may vary and Flying Kiwi will contact you with any discrepancies before your booking is confirmed.
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  • Insurance Unless otherwise mentioned, TourRadar does not provide travel insurance. We do however recommend purchasing it through our tried and trusted partner, World Travel Nomads .
  • Accessibility Some tours are not suitable for mobility-restricted traveller, however, some operators may be able to accommodate special requests. For any enquiries, you can contact our customer support team , who are ready and waiting to help you.
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southern lights new zealand tour

9 Day Southern Light

See the highlights of the South Island of New Zealand, a visual paradise filled with jaw dropping scenery - from glaciers and mountains to beautiful beaches and wild coastlines.

southern lights new zealand tour

This is a 9 day guided adventure tour that travels the South Island of New Zealand, starting in Christchurch and finishing in Queenstown.

Day 1 - Arrive Christchurch

Today is the first day of your tour. Arrive in Christchurch at any time today and explore the city. Wander through the laneways looking for street art, find a hidden eatery or hop on the tourist tram and see the city sights. This evening you’ll meet your Guide and your group and enjoy a dinner together.

southern lights new zealand tour

Day 2 - Christchurch - Lake Tekapo

This morning, we’ll wake up after a great night’s sleep and hit the road towards arguably the most beautiful part of the South Island. We’ll take an incredibly scenic journey to the breathtaking Lake Tekapo, where you will see the most spectacular turquoise waters which get their colour from the glacial flour brought down from the rivers flowing from glaciers high up in the mountains.

Today, go for a hike, a bike ride, or just relax at camp. If you’d like to see some if the amazing sights of Tekapo from the skies, go for an epic scenic flight this afternoon, and this evening, you can go for a soak in the nearby hot pools or enjoy some world famous star gazing at the Mt John Observatory – you are staying in an International Dark Sky Reserve, after all.

southern lights new zealand tour

Day 3 - Lake Tekapo - Mt Cook - Moeraki

Today you get to immerse yourself in the snow-capped mountain scenery that New Zealand is famous for. This morning we’ll explore the spectacular Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. We’ll hike to the base of NZ’s highest mountain following a trail up the Hooker valley where you’ll cross swing bridges and experience stunning views of the mountains before finishing up at a glacial lake with some awe inspiring views of the Hooker Valley glacier – trust us, you’ll want to bring your camera for this.

Next, we’ll travel back towards the Pacific coast and make a quick stop in the historic town of Oamaru before getting to the small village of Moeraki, where we’ll camp for the night. Go for a walk this evening to a great view point offering expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and try to spot a little Blue Penguin along the shore.

southern lights new zealand tour

Day 4 - Moeraki - Dunedin

If the tide is low then we can walk along the beach to the mysterious Moeraki boulders. These perfectly round spheres of rock have formed over millions of years and have found their way onto the beach near Moeraki and make for some fun photo opportunities.

Afterwards it’s onto the historic Scottish city of Dunedin, the South Island’s second-largest city. This southern city is home to the world’s steepest residential street and the coastline is home to some fantastic and rare wildlife. It’s possible to take a tour onto the Otago Peninsula to view some of this diverse wildlife which includes Albatross and Fur Seals. For the adventurous, why not try surfing at one of Dunedin’s best breaks! Our camp is a short distance from St. Kilda beach with a variety of restaurants close by to choose from.

southern lights new zealand tour

Day 5 - Dunedin - Te Anau

Today is one of our longer travel days as we drive through some of New Zealand’s most dramatic natural scenery on our way to Fiordland. Make sure you have some snacks, and that all your devices are fully charged, particularly your camera! Large parts of the landscape along the drive today have been carved out over thousands of years, leaving stunning paths weaving through snow-capped mountains. Tonight’s camp is on the lakeside in Te Anau. The bikers can go for a ride on the lake to lake Te Anau trail and the rest of us can enjoy a leisurely walk along the lakefront or head up to the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary where we can see the endangered native Takahē. If you’d like to do an activity, we recommend the incredible glowworm caves tour and boat ride.

Day 6 - Te Anau - Milford Sound - Te Anau

Today we’ll travel along one of the world’s most scenic roads and into Milford Sound! Described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. We highly recommend boarding a cruise, where you’ll see dramatic waterfalls and snow-capped peaks and if you’re lucky, some wildlife! At different times of year, penguins, dolphins, seals and even whales have been spotted at Milford. As it’s just the one road in and out, we head back along the same breath-taking route to our lakeside camp in Te Anau. Along the way, we drop off those doing the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks. This hike is a haven for native birdlife. Charge up your camera as this hike offers everything from mountainous peaks and sheer rock faces to pristine lakes, cascading waterfalls and dense, luxuriant forest.

southern lights new zealand tour

Day 7 - Te Anau - Queenstown

After breakfast this morning, we’ll make our way to Queenstown, the adventure capital of NZ that sits along the shores of the photogenic Lake Wakatipu. There’s a huge selection of activities to choose from here, from an adrenaline pumping bungy, canyon swing and skydive to a relaxing steam boat cruise or gondola ride – this place has it all. There are great tracks around the lake ideal for bikers and hikers and all with wonderful views of this alpine region. Camping isn’t feasible in this bustling alpine village, for the next two nights we stay in dorm-share accommodation in a centrally located hostel. Perfect for making the most of all Queenstown has to offer!

Day 8 - Queenstown

With so much to do we’ll spend another full day in the fantastic Queenstown, so everyone has the opportunity to have those once in a lifetime experiences. Speaking of experiences, may we suggest trying the legendary Fergburger! For those on the Routeburn Track, you will rejoin the group here today and this evening you’ll be able to experience everything this vibrant resort town has to offer. Tonight, we dine out at one of Queenstown’s many delicious eateries – a great chance for your group to enjoy a feast at an iconic Queenstown eatery (own cost).

southern lights new zealand tour

Day 9 - Queenstown

A last chance to indulge in the Queenstown action before finishing your tour with us here and saying farewell to your fellow Flying Kiwi travellers.

  • 5 nights shared tent accommodation (twin-share)^ in carefully selected campsites
  • 3 nights hostel accommodation (dorm room)
  • Group Coach transport from Christchurch to Quenstown
  • Most meals are included (see the itinerary for details)
  • Experienced Tour Guide

Notes: Bike and sleeping bag hire available. You also have the option to bring your own bike. Enquire for pricing/fees. ^ Cabin upgrade might be available on selected nights / Single tent upgrade is available, enquire for pricing and availability.

Tour Dates & Pricing

Enquire about 9 day southern light.

Select your preferred start date and preferences, and send us an enquiry. We will check availability and get back to you with a personalised quote.

Start Planning Your Next Holiday!

Dates & travellers, your details, terms & conditions.

Prices are per person based on twin-share, and are subject to availability. Prices are correct at the time of submission but are subject to change without notice. Valid for travel on select departure dates between 08 Nov 2023 – 26 March 2024. A non-refundable deposit of $250 per person is required at time of booking. Tour operator terms and conditions apply, enquire for details.

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Established 2001

  • "Starlight Reserve" Hopeful - Turns on a Good Show with Aurora Australis

Aurora Australis South Island

  • New Zealand Travel Blog

"Starlight Reserve" Hopeful - Turns on a Good Show with Aurora Australis

The Southern Lights, as it is also known, is particularly active in our hemisphere during the winter months. The base is usually seen at about 100km up in the air, and can extend up to a further 300km at the top. This breathtakingly vibrant optical phenomenon is named after the Roman goddess of the dawn (Aurora) and appeared to Tekapo's residents as a  huge green undulating  curtain of light.

With a blatant show of electioneering, the Aurora Australis danced high above the residents of Lake Tekapo this week.

southern lights new zealand tour

What causes the Aurora Australis?

These magnificent displays of coloured light are a result from collisions between electrically charged gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles from the sun that enter the atmosphere often through solar flares. Sunspot activity causes electrons and protons from the sun to be blown towards the earth on the solar wind. The different colours are caused by the different types of gas particles.

Mount John Observatory Stargazing Tours - Lake Tekapo

southern lights new zealand tour

Updated December 2013

Canterbury is now home to the biggest and the best dark-sky reserve in the world. Six years of hard work and intense lobbying have finally paid off with tonight's announcement that the Aoraki-Mackenzie Dark-Sky Reserve has been officially approved by a global astronomical body. The reserve, which includes Canterbury University's Mt John Observatory above Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Aoraki-Mt Cook village, is only the fourth in the world and the second in the Southern Hemisphere. At 4300 square kilometres the Aoraki-Mackenzie reserve is the biggest, ahead of reserves at Exmoor in England and Quebec in Canada, and the recently announced Namib Rand Nature Reserve in Namibia. It is also the first "gold-rated" reserve, meaning the darkness of its night skies is almost unbeatable.

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Brent Narbey

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Tekapo High Country

Walking the Lake Tekapo High Country Trek

The Tekapo High Country Trek is a 3-day guided alpine hike through open tussock country above Lake Tekapo, with panoramic views of the Southern Alps and the Mackenzie Basin. The area is famed for its exceptionally clear skies and intense light, highlighting the turquoise-blue glacial lakes, golden grasses, and white snow-capped peaks.

Natural New Zealand

Naturally New Zealand Self Drive Tour

The diversity of scenery within a relatively small geographic area is what makes New Zealand such an interesting country to explore. The Naturally New Zealand Self Drive Tour provides some of the most scenic driving routes in the country.

Pricing terms

The price is based on current exchange rates but is only an approximation. Please contact us for a final price

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southern lights new zealand tour

Southern lights in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand Aurora Australis

Best place to see the southern lights in new zealand.

A mesmerising swirl of vibrant green and pink lights, the Aurora Australis is harder to catch than its northern counterpart. Winter months promise more regular occurrences, but if you’re lucky you could witness the stunning display of solar wind reacting with natural gases any time of the year from the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, a 3-hour drive south-west from Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand.

Aspiring photographers, adventure seekers or hopeless romantics you’re in luck. We’ve found the best location offering you a chance of seeing the Southern Lights in New Zealand 

southern lights new zealand tour

Must Do New Zealand

Our helpful website is designed to showcase New Zealand’s top activities. Whether you’re a local or visitor, there’s helpful advice on getting the most out of your holiday, including where to see the Southern Lights. Be sure to check our recommendations when you’re planning your itinerary so you fit in the very best tours and attractions.

For visitors wanting to witness the Southern Lights, Must Do New Zealand recommends the Earth & Sky Observatory Tour.  

aurora-earth-and-sky-lake-tekapo-2

The occurrence of the Aurora Australis is reliant on the activity of the Sun. ‘The Sun has its own cycle of activity over a 11-12-year cycle and when it’s at the height of activity, the chances of seeing an aurora are naturally increased. This year visitors have been privy to half a dozen auroras.

Planning Your Trip

aurora-earth-and-sky-lake-tekapo-astro-photography-5

Image: Butch Gamboa

Planning your trip to the South Island to view the magnificent Aurora Australis? Trust us, as experts on enjoying the fantastic destinations of New Zealand, we can’t say enough about the wonders of this experience. The Southern Lights are one of the world’s greatest sights, and most elusive! Travellers come from all over the world to set their eyes upon the night sky, illuminated by the bright pinks, magentas, and emerald colours that flash along the horizon during one of New Zealand’s geomagnetic storms.

You’re probably making quite a journey to visit this majestic corner of the world – so make sure you get the most out of your trip! By doing some research and planning you’ll be breathing in the fresh air – the Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook region is known for having the cleanest air in the world – in no time! Then there’s little left to do than drink in the sights, enjoy the local food and prepare to be inspired by one of the most breath-taking celestial phenomena viewable to the naked eye.

aurora-earth-and-sky-lake-tekapo-astro-photography-7

Image: Earth & Sky

Helping people enjoy New Zealand is our passion! We want you to see those gorgeous hues against the backdrop of glittering stars when you come to one of the most pristine regions of our beautiful country. There are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure you get to sit back and enjoy the show.

Some nights are cloudy! In fact, depending on the weather, you may run into a few consecutively cloudy evenings, hindering your view of the night sky. We always recommend for travellers to visit for a few days to increase the chances of seeing the Southern Lights in all their glory.  Image: Earth & Sky – Maki Yanagimachi

tekapo-springs-ohau-pool-tekapo-pool-and-pukaki-poo-2l

You can’t control the clouds, but you can time your visit in other ways to increase your chances of an unforgettable sighting. The best time to see the Southern Lights is in the winter months, as the days are shorter so there are more hours of darkness, but they may be visible at any time of the year.

When booking your trip, keep the lunar cycle in mind – you don’t want the aurora to have to compete with the bright glow of the full moon when you are here! The best time in the evening to see the lights is late at night, around midnight. This is when the sun is directly opposite your position on the earth.

aurora-earth-and-sky-lake-tekapo-astro-photography

Image credit: Earth & Sky – Maki Yanagimachi

For more information on seeing the Aurora Australis check out our recent inclusion in the article by Expedia,   ‘Chasing the Southern Lights in New Zealand’ .   We hope you enjoy your visit to one of the most beautiful corners of the world!

Must do New Zealand October 2018

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southern lights new zealand tour

9 Days Southern Light South Island Adventure Tour

Pricing From $2595

Feast your eyes on the breathtaking scenery of New Zealand’s South Island and make the most of the many adventurous activities it has to offer. If you lack the time to do the complete Summer Blast trip , the Southern Light South Island Adventure Tour is a fantastic alternative to take in and experience some of the most magnificent and varied scenery on the planet. This trip makes a great introduction to see for yourself why we love New Zealand.

Endless waterfalls cascading from steep and imposing cliff faces, mesmerising blue lakes fed by glacial sediment, and scrubby high country land all await you on this trip. We finish the Southern Light trip in Queenstown, the adventure hub of New Zealand, where you can simply put your feet up and take a break from the many hikes and bikes you’ve had, or push yourself out of your comfort zone and jump out of a plane if that’s what you’ve long wanted to do.  

On this tour, we have handpicked special camp spots to get you closer to nature in a way you’d be pleasantly surprised. Leaving the top of the South Island, we take you to a wide range of natural wonders featuring majestic mountains and glaciers to stunning beaches and rugged coastlines. Expect to meet a diverse collection of marine wildlife throughout the trip: keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, seals, penguins and whales. If you are into thrilling adventures, rafting on our Grade 5 rapids will surely give you that rare adrenalin rush. There are also plenty of other wonderful activities on offer, but if it’s bike rides and hikes you’re after, you’ll have your share of unforgettable adventure as we have loads of fantastic options.

Take a friend along with you to share this wonderful journey of discovery, or make new friends from amongst your fellow travellers and create unforgettable memories and friendships to last a lifetime!

Guaranteed Departure Dates

Start: Christchurch

Finish: Queenstown

  • Accommodation: Wake up close to lakes and oceans in our perfectly designed tents, included in the tour cost is shared tent accommodation, two people per tent. You can upgrade to your own tent for the duration of the tour for a small additional cost if you choose.
  • Food: Delicious, tasty and healthy meals are included. See our detailed itinerary for details of which meals are included on a day-to-day basis. If you have a certain dietary requirement just let our team know, we can cater for most dietary needs.
  • Seafood Feast - Kaikoura is one of the best seafood locations in New Zealand which is why it’s a great place to enjoy a delicious seafood feast on us. Enjoy your meal while soaking up the atmosphere of our perfectly located seaside camp. This is a meal not to be missed.
  • Hikes: Free walks are enjoyed every day (from 10mins to a few hours).
  • Bike Rides: These include sections of the NZ Cycle Trail, on-road cycling and bike paths, something for everyone.

COST PER PERSON

Jan 2023 - Apr 2023

  • 9 Days departing Christchurch: NZ$2,595
  • Bike Hire: NZ$245
  • Bike (bring your own): NZ$120
  • Single Tent Upgrade: NZ$135
  • Sleeping Bag Hire: NZ$75

Hooker Valley

Rangitata Rafting

Lake Pukaki

Milford Sound

On the way to Milford Sound

Today we'll depart Christchurch and start heading towards the mountains and across the Canterbury plains, a flat open area of farmland. Tonight we'll stay in Peel Forest, close to the Rangitata river.

  • Meals:  Breakfast and Dinner
  • Bike Rides:  Cycle into camp along a quite country road through fields of cows, sheep and deer with a mountainous backdrop
  • Walks and Hikes:  The Peninsula Walkway is a must if you missed it yesterday! You’ll also have plenty of time on your feet when we stop through Christchurch to check out the awesome rebuild of Christchurch city!
  • Optional Activities:  Highly recommended dolphin swim, dolphin viewing
  • Available Upgrades:  Yes
  • Drive Distance:  Approx. 3.5 hours

Wake up to mountain views and try white water rafting on the mighty Rangitata River! If rafting isn’t for you, soak it all in with a morning cycle or walk through Peel forest. We then head through more jaw dropping landscapes (they don’t stop in the South Island) to the picture postcard, Lake Tekapo.  Here you will view the most spectacular turquoise waters which get their colour from the glacial flour brought down from the rivers flowing from glaciers high up in the mountains.

Relax in the nearby hot pools or enjoy star gazing at the Mt John Observatory and make the most of staying in an International Dark Sky Reserve, plus there are plenty of hike and cycle options to choose from. 

  • Meals:  Breakfast and Lunch
  • Bike Rides:  If you're not rafting in the morning hop on your bike and head to the Peel Forest walks. In the afternoon enjoy the trails at Lake Tekapo Regional Park then ride to camp
  • Walks and Hikes:  A variety of walk options today including the protected conifers of Peel Forest and then this afternoon you'll have some time to walk along the edge an incredible glacial lake or walk to the Mt John Observatory and take in 360 degree views of Tekapo
  • Optional Activities:  White water rafting (grade 5 rapids!), horse-riding, Mt John Observatory tour
  • Available Upgrades:  Yes - limited options
  • Drive Distance:  Approx. 2 hours

Immerse yourself in the snow-capped mountain scenery that New Zealand is famous for and explore Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Hike to the base of NZ’s highest mountain following a trail up the Hooker valley where you’ll cross swing bridges and get stunning views of the mountains before finishing up at a glacial lake with views of the Hooker Valley glacier. We then travel back towards the Pacific coast for a quick stop in the historic town of Oamaru before continuing onwards to the small village of Moeraki. Walk to a great view point offering expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and try to spot a little Blue Penguin along the shore. If you have a bike it’s possible to visit a colony of extremely rare Yellow-eyed Penguins near to camp.  

  • Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
  • Bike Rides:  During the afternoon you can ride a short section of the Alps2ocean trail followed by a ride out to Katiki Point Lighthouse where you'll find a Yellow-eyed penguin colony
  • Walks and Hikes:  Enjoy walking into the start of Mt Cook National Park in Hooker Valley. A three hour return hike, you’ll be blown away by the mountainous landscape not to mention a glacier during the hike.
  • Drive Distance:  Approx. 4 hours

If the tide is low then we can walk along the beach to the mysterious Moeraki boulders. These perfectly round spheres of rock have formed over millions of years and have found their way onto the beach near Moeraki and make for some fun photo opportunities.

Afterwards it’s onto the historic Scottish city of Dunedin, the South Island's second-largest city. This southern city is home to the world’s steepest residential street and the coastline is home to some fantastic and rare wildlife. It’s possible to take a tour onto the Otago Peninsula to view some of this diverse wildlife which includes Albatross and Fur Seals. For the adventurous, why not try surfing at one of Dunedin’s best breaks! Our camp is a short distance from St. Kilda beach with a variety of restaurants close by to choose from.

  • Meals:  Breakfast
  • Bike Rides:  Ride from camp into town or out to the Otago Peninsula later in the day if you’re not doing any optional activities
  • Walks and Hikes:  You’ll feel your heart pumping through your chest as you take a stroll up the world’s steepest residential street!
  • Optional Activities:  Surfing, Otago Peninsula wildlife tour
  • Drive Distance:  Approx. 2.5 hours

Today is one of our longer travel days as we drive through some of New Zealand’s most dramatic natural scenery on our way to Fiordland. Large parts of the landscape have been carved out over thousands of years to leave stunning paths that weave through snow-capped mountains. We stop briefly in Te Anau, the hub and gateway town for Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound and your last chance to get supplies for those doing the Routeburn Track tomorrow. Tonight’s camp is on the lakeside in Te Anau.

  • Bike Rides:  Enjoy riding through the isolated and moody Fiordland National Park into Hollyford Valley where you’ll finish at our camp (literally away from all civilisation, it’s great!)
  • Walks and Hikes:  Short walks today as we’re on a mission to get to Fiordland National Park!
  • Available Upgrades:  Yes (limited options)
  • Drive Distance:  Approx. 5 hours

Travel one of the world’s most scenic routes into Milford Sound! Described as the 'eighth wonder of the world', Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. We highly recommend taking a cruise on Milford Sound where you'll see dramatic waterfalls, snow-capped peaks and have the chance to spot wildlife such as dolphins, penguins and seals! As it’s just the one road in and out, we head back along the same breath-taking route to our lakeside camp in Te Anau. Along the way, we drop off those doing the 3-day Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks. This 3-day hike passes through two National Parks and is a haven for native birdlife. Charge up your camera as this hike offers everything from mountainous peaks and sheer rock faces to pristine lakes, cascading waterfalls and dense, luxuriant forest.   

  • Meals:  Breakfast and lunch
  • Bike Rides:  Leisurely ride along the lakefront of Lake Te Anau and up alongside a river before looping back to camp. Go as little or as far as you please.
  • Walks and Hikes:  Explore the lakefront of Te Anau in the afternoon once we are out of Fiordland National Park. Routeburn three day hike for those who have pre-booked!
  • Optional Activities:  Milford boat cruise, Routeburn Track, Te Anau glow worm caves & boat ride

Today we journey to Queenstown along the shores of the photogenic Lake Wakatipu. Once we arrive at the adventure capital of New Zealand you have a huge selection of activities to choose from. There is everything here, from adrenalin pumping bungy, canyon swing and skydiving to a relaxing horse trek or boat cruise – this place has it all. There are great tracks around the lake ideal for bikers and hikers and all with wonderful views of this alpine region.  Camping isn’t feasible in this bustling alpine village, for the next two nights we stay in dorm-share accommodation (cost included) in a centrally located hostel. Perfect for making the most of all Queenstown has to offer.

  • Bike Rides:  Queenstown offers a variety of different trails, so head out on your bike once we arrive in town
  • Walks and Hikes:  Plenty of walks we can recommend once we have arrived in Queenstown. If you’re into taking on a hill for views or leisure lakefront strolling, Queenstown won’t disappoint!
  • Optional Activities:  Bungy jumping, canyon swing, skydiving, horse riding, boat cruise plus much more! There really is something for everyone in Queenstown!
  • Available Upgrades:  Yes to a private room

With so much to do we spend the full day in fantastic Queenstown with the opportunity to enjoy those once in a lifetime experiences (don’t forget to try the legendary and very tasty Fergburger!). Routeburn Track walkers rejoin the group here at midday with time to try some of the many exciting activities this vibrant city has to offer. Tonight, we dine out at one of Queenstown’s many delicious eateries - a great chance for your group to enjoy a true kiwi feast (own cost).   

  • Bike Rides:  Awesome bike options if you have a free day you can choose short or longer cycling experiences that will take you past jaw dropping landscapes, vineyards, great cafes and more!
  • Walks and Hikes:  Plenty of mountains you can hike to enjoy inspirational views of Lake Wakatipu and the alpine surrounds!
  • Drive Distance:  No driving today

A last chance to indulge in the Queenstown action before finishing your tour with us here and saying farewell to your fellow Flying Kiwi travellers by 2:00pm.

  • Bike Rides:  Road cycling around town or on one of the many Queenstown trails

Enquire Now!

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Ask Smithsonian 2017

A Smithsonian magazine special report

The Best Places to See the Southern Lights

The aurora australis is the southern cousin to the northern lights

Jennifer Nalewicki

Travel Correspondent

Southern Lights, New Zealand

Seeing the northern lights in all their vivid glory nears the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. But what many people don't realize is that the Southern Hemisphere has an incredible atmospheric lightshow of its own that’s just as captivating. Called the southern lights, or aurora australis, it’s the southern cousin to the aurora borealis and can best be seen from the most southern of landmasses, such as Tasmania, New Zealand and Antarctica.

Just like the northern lights, the southern lights occur when electrically charged solar particles and atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere collide with gases like oxygen and nitrogen, causing those gases to emit light. Auroras happen in ovals around the planet’s two magnetic poles, which is why the farther north or south you’re located, the likelier you are to experience one of these impressive light displays. 

So when’s the best time to see one? While it’s difficult to predict the exact moment when a southern lightshow will begin, the website Aurora Service offers an hourly forecast based on real-time solar wind data procured from the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) a NASA spacecraft in orbit. Most southern lightshows occur during the Southern Hemisphere’s fall and winter months, which stretch from March through September.

Here are four aurora australis hotspots for those looking for a southern celestial spectacle. 

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown

There are a number of places on New Zealand’s South Island that have proven again and again to be hotbeds for spotting southern lights, such as the city of Christchurch, the tiny village of Lake Tekapo and Stewart Island off the country’s southern coast. But so far this year one location has made headlines worldwide for the breathtaking array of lightshows that have occurred in the skies above it: Queenstown. Located on the banks of Lake Wakatipu, on multiple occasions this year, the city of 14,300 has been awash in a rainbow of light as vibrant greens and rich reds danced across the night sky. If you missed it, one aurora hunter captured the show and created a time-lapse video of it.

Mount Wellington, Tasmania

Mount Wellington, Tasmania

Ask any aurora australis hunter what the best place in Australia is to see the southern lights, and chances are good that he or she would point you to the continent’s southern island of Tasmania.  The Australian Antarctic Division of the Department of the Environment and Energy, an agency of the Australian Government, estimates the probability of witnessing a light event in Tasmania on any given clear night to be between 1 and 2 percent, with the odds going up near the equinoxes in late March and September. But one spot in particular that those in the know frequent is Mount Wellington, a mountain located in the backyard of Tasmania’s capital city of Hobart. The higher up you ascend the 4,100-foot peak, the less likely your view will get obstructed, making it the perfect front-row seat for nature’s big event.

Victoria, Australia

Victoria, Australia

Outside of Tasmania, your best bet in Australia for seeing the night sky explode in a riot of reds and greens and swirls of purples and blues is in the state of Victoria, located in the continent’s southeastern corner. When conditions are right, Victoria's 1,200 miles of coastline include thousands of perfect spots to pull up a beach chair and watch the display dazzle over the Bass Strait, the massive body of water that separates Tasmania from the mainland. 

Antarctica & South Georgia Island

Antarctica

Very few people make it as far south as South Georgia Island or the snow-coated continent of Antarctica, particularly in winter. But anyone who does get the chance to brave the below-zero temperatures and howling winds will be in for a treat that will no doubt induce Instagram envy (once you get a solid Wi-Fi signal, that is). Being the most southerly chunk of landmass on the planet, Antarctica is the quintessential spot for viewing the aurora australis in all its brilliant glory. The challenge is just getting there.  Because of the inhospitable winter climate, only research vessels venture this far south in the dead of winter when aurora conditions are best, but frequent sightings do occur during the end of the cruise season in March, which also happens to be a great time for spotting humpback, sperm and killer whales. 

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Jennifer Nalewicki | | READ MORE

Jennifer Nalewicki is a Brooklyn-based journalist. Her articles have been published in The New York Times , Scientific American , Popular Mechanics , United Hemispheres and more. You can find more of her work at her website .

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southern lights new zealand tour

Winter Wonderland: Ski, Spa & Southern Lights Adventure in New Zealand

Enquire about a tour.

  • When * When is your trip?
  • How long is your trip? * How long is your trip? Any trip duration Up to 1 week 1-2 weeks 2-3 weeks More than 4 weeks

Why This Tour Stands Out:

  • Season-Specific Adventure: Tailored for the winter season, this tour offers a rich tapestry of experiences, from gliding down the pristine slopes of Mt. Hutt and The Remarkables to unwinding in the steamy embrace of Lake Tekapo’s hot springs.
  • Southern Lights Viewing: With our team’s expertise, seize the unparalleled opportunity to witness the Southern Lights. Their guidance enhances your chance to marvel at this elusive natural phenomenon, making your winter journey truly unforgettable.
  • All-Around Winter Fun: Whether it’s your family’s first encounter with snow or you’re seasoned snow veterans, our tour caters to all levels of adventure seekers. Enjoy the rush of the slopes, the tranquility of starlit spas, and everything in between.
  • Ski and Snowboard Paradise: Hit the renowned ski fields of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, where we’ve included lift passes and equipment rental for your convenience. Revel in the wide-open runs and spectacular mountain vistas that await.
  • Bespoke Options Throughout: Catering to families, groups, corporate clients, or couples, this tour is meticulously designed to meet diverse needs and preferences. With activities and routes that can be tailored, whether you’re seeking thrilling snow sports, tranquil celestial observations, or a mix of both, our customized itinerary promises a unique and memorable experience for every traveler.

Check out the amazing Ski Spa and Southern Lights tour idea below!

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South Island Wonders: A Grand Loop of the Mainland

South Island Wonders: A Grand Loop of the Mainland

Your entire adventure will be marked out so you can simply enjoy the scenery.

Queenstown Skiing & Fiordland Adventure

Queenstown Skiing & Fiordland Adventure

Discover Fiordland’s hidden spots of breath-taking beauty with your private guide. Our team of travel enthusiasts have come with a 7 day Queenstown & Fiordland adventure that features all the skiing and snowboarding one can want, plus some of the best sightseeing.

Classic South Island Escape: Discovering New Zealand’s Heart and Soul

Classic South Island Escape: Discovering New Zealand’s Heart and Soul

On this tour you will experience the best that the South Island has to offer. Highlights include Franz Josef Glacier – one of the only glaciers in the world to be surrounded by rainforest, the beautiful shores of Lake Wānaka and a day cruise through majestic Fiordland! The best part is that this is your tour, done your way. Sit back, relax and experience the real New Zealand!

southern lights new zealand tour

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The Travel Insider

New Zealand Southern Lights Tour – Aurora Australis Adventure

southern lights new zealand tour

Everyone knows the Northern Lights – the Aurora Borealis.  But did you know there is a southern “twin” that is not so well known – the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis?  The process that makes the Northern Lights simultaneously makes an almost identical display centered around the South Magnetic Pole.  See, for example, this video .

Even better, the Southern Lights can be seen from New Zealand, making for an ideal “two for the price of one” travel experience – see some of the best of New Zealand’s South Island during the days, and hopefully see the Southern Lights on at least one of the nights, too.  New Zealand is closer to the Southern Lights than Iceland is to the Northern Lights, and the skies are generally clearer with fewer clouds, adding further to the reasons why you should go to NZ to see the Southern Lights instead of (or as well as) to Iceland for the Northern Lights.

We’ve put together a ten day tour next March, at the time of year when the auroral activity might be the strongest, and when the moon is waning and close to a “new” state, for best aurora visibility.  With a great pre-tour option in the North Island, and a lovely post-tour option allowing you to experience one, two, or all three of New Zealand’s world famous scenic train journeys, this is a brilliant tour, even without the lights as a hoped-for bonus.

Please visit the main tour page for full details , and the day-by-day itinerary page for a breakdown of where you go and what you do each day .

We hope to see you, in New Zealand, next March.

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New Zealand’s Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) – Where & When to See Them

When it comes to starry skies, New Zealand does it best. With limited light pollution and incredibly clear night skies, the astonishing celestial galaxies shine bright for all to see.

The Southern Lights, or the Aurora Australis, is the southern cousin to the Northern Lights. Just like the Northern Lights, the Southern Lights occur when electrically charged solar wind reacts with the gases in our atmosphere, causing those gases to emit light and create a truly mesmerising sight.

If you’re keen to cross this experience of your bucket list and see the mighty Aurora Australis New Zealand is the place for you. New Zealand is one of the closest countries to the South Pole where the Aurora originates and is arguably the best location to witness this captivating atmospheric lightshow.

When to see Southern Lights New Zealand:

The majority of southern lightshows occur during the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn and winter months, from March through to December.

Where to see Southern Lights New Zealand:

There are a number of places in New Zealand that have proven to be hotspots for spotting the Southern Lights, but we’ve listed our Top 4 Locations below.

1. Lake Tekapo  

Located in the centre of the South Island, Lake Tekapo is home to the world’s largest dark-sky reserve, the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. This area that has become the centre of astro-tourism, synonymous with stargazing, and it delivers amazing Aurora Australis displays.

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New Zealand

Best time to see the southern lights.

Melanie Wright  |  7 June 2023

If you're looking for a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime experience, then seeing the Southern Lights in New Zealand should be at the top of your bucket list. Just like it's more well-known equivalent in the northern hemisphere (the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis), the Aurora Australis is a natural light display caused by the collision of charged particles with the Earth's magnetic field. New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to see this majestic phenomenon, but what conditions are needed, and when is the best time to go?

Seeing the Southern Lights can involve a little luck - it's a natural phenomenon after all and can be a little unpredictable, just like the weather! But there are locations in New Zealand known to put on spectacular aurora displays when conditions are right, so travelling to the right place, at the right time of year, can maximise your chances of seeing the southern lights for yourself.

  • When is the best time of year to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand?
  • Where in New Zealand can you see the Southern Lights?
  • Peak Aurora activity predicted in 2023-2025

1. The best time of year to see the Southern Lights in New Zealand

The best time to see the Southern Lights, also known as the Aurora Australis, in New Zealand is during the autumn & winter months of March until September, when the nights are longest and darkest. However, aurora sightings can occur throughout the year, especially during periods of high solar activity. During the equinoxes in March and September,  the chance of the aurora being bright is at its maximum thanks to a phenomenon called the Russell-McPherron effect - so you'll notice o ur Southern Lights by Flight   tours are timed to coincide with these dates!

Southern Lights

3. Peak aurora activity predicted for 2023-2025

As the aurora australis is a result of solar activity, the intensity of the southern lights follows the 11-year solar cycle of geomagnetic storms. According to NASA's predictions, the next peak of solar activity is expected in 2023-2025, so now is a great time to plan a trip to see the southern lights !

During this time, there may be an increase in auroral activity, and the lights may be visible at lower latitudes than usual.  You will be able to witness this awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience where the lights appear as ribbons or curtains of shimmering, colorful light that dance across the sky in a natural light show. The colors can vary from green to red to purple, and the lights can move and change shape rapidly or slowly.

Dark Sky Sanctuary NZ

Want to see the Southern Lights for yourself? Browse our Southern Lights tours and experiences or contact our Destination Specialists who can help you plan the perfect trip.

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Essential Info about Southern Lights in New Zealand

What are the “southern lights”.

What are the “Southern Lights?”

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

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

Conditions to witness Southern Lights

Conditions to witness Southern Lights

What causes Southern Lights?

What causes Southern Lights?

How can I photograph the Southern Lights?

How can I photograph the Southern Lights?

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15 Unique Places to Visit in Switzerland: Uncover the Unusual

Unknown Facts about Southern Lights

Unknown Facts about Southern Lights

Places to see Southern Lights in New Zealand

Lake tekapo.

Lake Tekapo

Stewart Island

Stewart Island

The Otago Peninsula

The Otago Peninsula

The Catlins

The Catlins

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Chatham Islands

Chatham Islands

Invercargill

Invercargill

The Great Barrier Island

The Great Barrier Island

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Tucked neatly on the northeastern coast of New Zealand’s North Islands, Bay Of Islands is an iconic destination known for its lush green landscape and sparkling turquoise waters. With more than 140 subtropical islands spread across the Bay, here you may get unmatched opportunities for adventure and exploration.Travellers visiting the Bay Of Islands may cruise through the iconic Hole in the Rock or unwind on the golden sands of Paihia Beach. Explore the stunning Bay of Islands with New Zealand packages, offering beautiful beaches, marine adventures, and rich Maori culture.You will be introduced to the Māori culture at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on your trip. If you are an adventure seeker seeking a major adrenaline rush, head to the Bay Of Islands and indulge in all adventure activities such as snorkelling, hiking, diving, wildlife exploration and more. From outdoor adventures to cultural experiences, the Bay Of Islands is known to captivate every traveller with its rich heritage and natural beauty. The place promises a major adrenaline rush if you are an adventure seeker. 

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The Waitomo Glowworm caves is known to be one of the best natural attractions in New Zealand. This cave is known for its glow worms that glow in the dark cave as you enter to check it out. There are more than 1000 glow worms that have been living in this cave for the past 130 years. This cave has a natural history of more than 30 million years where you can explore by both foot and boat. As you enter the cave and explore its interiors, you are sure to be amazed by the interiors. The cave will instantly transport you into a starry wonderland studded with lights in all directions. Visiting this magical site is often a highlight of various New Zealand packages, making it an unforgettable part of your travel experience.

Tongariro National Park

located in the central North Island of New Zealand, Tongariro National Park is a popular UNESCO World Heritage site that boasts great cultural significance and a stunning landscape. The park was established in 1887; thus, it is regarded as New Zealand’s oldest park. The park, a must-visit on any New Zealand trip classified into three active volcanic peaks, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu, which dominate its dramatic terrain. The park is famously known for Tongariro Alpine Crossing, often regarded as one of the best one-day hikes in the world. So, if you are an adventure seeker, it is a must-visit destination. This challenging trek takes hikers through diverse and striking landscapes, including volcanic craters, emerald-coloured lakes, and steaming vents. The trek's highlights include the Red Crater, Blue Lake, and the Emerald Lakes, each offering breathtaking views and unique geological features. In addition to hiking, the park offers a range of outdoor activities, including skiing and snowboarding on Mount Ruapehu in the winter, as well as mountain biking and fishing. The park's diverse ecosystems and stunning scenery make it a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

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  1. The 8 Best Places to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand This Winter

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  2. The 8 Best Places to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand This Winter

    southern lights new zealand tour

  3. Southern Lights: How to See the Aurora Australis in New Zealand

    southern lights new zealand tour

  4. The 8 Best Places to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand This Winter

    southern lights new zealand tour

  5. The 7 Best Places to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand (2019-2020)

    southern lights new zealand tour

  6. The 8 Best Places to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand This Winter

    southern lights new zealand tour

COMMENTS

  1. Southern Lights by Flight

    Tour Description. The greatest travel experience you can have! This 10-hour flight departing from Christchurch, New Zealand, will see you witnessing the most spectacular light show on Earth™, the Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights. You will experience an unforgettable round-trip including:

  2. The Best Times and Locations to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand

    The Best Times and Months to See Aurora Australis. Although auroras happen all year round, the best time to see them in New Zealand is during the winter months (March to September) with the best months being June and July. The widest part of the aurora is when the sun is on the opposite side of the Earth to where you are, so around midnight is ...

  3. Stewart Island Southern Lights Tour

    Visit the southern bays of the inlet with wildlife spotting opportunities including the Bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand Sea Lions and Yellow Eyed Penguins. There may also be a chance to see the striking Mollymawk Albatross. The tour will also visit an historic whaling base used by a Norwegian Whaling company in the 1920's.

  4. The 8 Best Places to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand This Winter

    Lake Tekapo. Located within the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the largest in the world and the only one in the southern hemisphere, Lake Tekapo is well-known among stargazers. Get here by bus or drive in from Christchurch (141mi/227km away) or Queenstown (160mi/256km away).

  5. Your guide to the Southern Lights in New Zealand [2024]

    Aurora Australis activity fluctuates over time, operating in a cyclical manner. Fortunately for us, 2024 is looking particularly good, due to increased solar wind activity! The sun is waking up from a couple of years of low activity (solar activity goes through an 11-year cycle) and we are starting to see it rise again.

  6. Southern Lights Tours

    Our most popular tour is our Southern Lights by Flight which departs Christchurch New Zealand on an Air New Zealand Dreamliner for a 10-hour flight heading south over the Southern Ocean towards Antarctica, aiming for latitudes of 62 degrees south where the Aurora Australis is brightest. Taking off into the night, you will witness one of the ...

  7. Southern Light 9 Days- South Island Tour

    The Southern Light tour has you finishing in Queenstown where there are regular daily flights to Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland with either Air New Zealand or Jetstar. There are also bus and shuttle services travelling daily from Queenstown to Christchurch. Please visit our how it works page for everything you need to know. Experience NZ ...

  8. How to See the Southern Lights NEW ZEALAND

    Duration: 10 hours. Price: Starting at $965. When it comes to viewing the southern lights, the only way to guarantee that you will see the natural phenomenon is aboard a southern lights flight. Viva Expeditions are known for offering one of the most unique ways to hunt for the elusive aurora australis.

  9. Southern Lights: Where to see the Aurora Australis in New Zealand

    Starry nights: New Zealand is often hailed as one of the best places in the world for stargazing. And now's the time, with the Aurora Australis dancing through the southern hemisphere 'til September.

  10. 10 Best Places to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand

    2. Lake Tekapo. This area in the centre of the South Island usually gets clear skies for some amazing Aurora Australis displays. In fact, Lake Tekapo and the surrounding Mackenzie region is an internationally recognised Dark Sky Reserve meaning it is one of the best places in the world to stargaze, and in turn, see the Southern Lights.

  11. Top rated by National Geographic

    With the Active tour Southern Light from Christchurch - Top rated by National Geographic, you have a 8 days tour package taking you through Christchurch, New Zealand and 9 other destinations in New Zealand. Southern Light from Christchurch - Top rated by National Geographic includes accommodation, an expert guide, meals, transport and more.

  12. 9 Day Southern Light

    See the highlights of the South Island of New Zealand, a visual paradise filled with jaw dropping scenery - from glaciers and mountains to beautiful beaches and wild coastlines. ... This is a 9 day guided adventure tour that travels the South Island of New Zealand, starting in Christchurch and finishing in Queenstown. Expand All Collapse All ...

  13. Stargazing Tours New Zealand's Aurora Australis

    New Zealand Travel Blog. "Starlight Reserve" Hopeful - Turns on a Good Show with Aurora Australis. The Southern Lights, as it is also known, is particularly active in our hemisphere during the winter months. The base is usually seen at about 100km up in the air, and can extend up to a further 300km at the top.

  14. Stewart Island Aurora Hunting

    About. Stewart Island/Rakiura is the southern-most Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world and is a fascinating place to see the Southern Lights. On this 6-day tour you'll explore the night skies with a local aurora hunter, searching for Aurora Australis and other secrets of the universe. By day you'll experience the best Stewart Island has to offer ...

  15. Southern Lights by Flight

    Experience the magic of the southern lights from aboard an Air New Zealand Dreamliner, flying above the clouds and beyond the reach of light pollution for uninterrupted and breathtaking views of the world's spectacular natural light show. Southern Lights by Flight from New Zealand - 21st March 2021. Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights.

  16. Southern lights in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand Aurora Australis

    The Southern Lights are one of the world's greatest sights, and most elusive! Travellers come from all over the world to set their eyes upon the night sky, illuminated by the bright pinks, magentas, and emerald colours that flash along the horizon during one of New Zealand's geomagnetic storms. You're probably making quite a journey to ...

  17. 9 Days Southern Light South Island Adventure Tour

    Day 9 Depart Queenstown (B) Feast your eyes on the breathtaking scenery of New Zealand's South Island. The Southern Light South Island Adventure Tour is a fantastic tour to make the most of the many adventurous activities it has to offer.

  18. The Best Places to See the Southern Lights

    Queenstown, New Zealand. There are a number of places on New Zealand's South Island that have proven again and again to be hotbeds for spotting southern lights, such as the city of Christchurch ...

  19. Winter Wonderland: Ski, Spa & Southern Lights

    13 days. Age 1+. May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep. Availability 100. Dive into a winter fairytale with "Winter Wonderland: Ski, Spa & Southern Lights in New Zealand's South Island," meticulously designed for the frosty months of June to September. This exclusive journey weaves together the thrill of skiing and snowboarding, the serenity of ...

  20. New Zealand Southern Lights Tour

    New Zealand is closer to the Southern Lights than Iceland is to the Northern Lights, and the skies are generally clearer with fewer clouds, adding further to the reasons why you should go to NZ to see the Southern Lights instead of (or as well as) to Iceland for the Northern Lights. We've put together a ten day tour next March, at the time of ...

  21. New Zealand's Southern Lights: Where & When to See

    Where to see Southern Lights New Zealand: There are a number of places in New Zealand that have proven to be hotspots for spotting the Southern Lights, but we've listed our Top 4 Locations below. 1. Lake Tekapo. Located in the centre of the South Island, Lake Tekapo is home to the world's largest dark-sky reserve, the Aoraki Mackenzie ...

  22. Best Time to See the Southern Lights

    Scandinavia and Finland. The best time to see the Southern Lights, also known as the Aurora Australis, in New Zealand is during the winter months of June, July, and August when the nights are longest and darkest. However, sightings can occur throughout the year, especially during periods of high solar activity.

  23. Southern Lights in New Zealand

    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.