It’s usually dark by 6pm during winter in Tasmania. This is good news, for when night falls in Tassie the cities and surrounds offer an invitation to explore and embrace the dark in ways few other places in Australia can offer.
This winter there are loads of events designed to take advantage of the pristine night skies, excellent produce and natural beauty. Here are six night-time adventures you can only get in Tasmania during the winter.
Walk on kunanyi
Mount Wellington (traditional name kunanyi) is Hobart’s stunning backdrop, standing 1271 metres tall over the city and featuring walking trails, lookout points, cliffs and views for miles. But at night in winter when the temperature plummets, the mountain is also the closest spot in town to the stars. Walk on kunanyi takes advantage of this by hosting stargazing tours from the mountain. On select dates, astronomers from the Astronomical Society of Tasmania will show you around the pristine night skies, including the moon, solar system, the Milky Way and deep space. On other nights, you’ll hear from palawa/Aboriginal Tasmanians who will share their cultural understanding of the night sky. It’ll be cold, but hot drinks and a lively fire are included to keep you toasty.
Australian Antarctic Festival: Southern Lights by Flight
As part of the biennial Australian Antarctic Festival, which takes place along the Hobart waterfront from August 24 to 28, a Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will fly from Melbourne to Hobart via a southern scenic route: over the Southern Ocean and into the southern auroral zone on the fringes of Antarctica. Onboard, you will catch a glimpse of the southern lights, an incredibly unusual and spectacular natural phenomenon. The light display, which glitters with shades of green, purple and red, is best viewed far away from the light pollution, above the clouds for a once-in-a-lifetime view. The trip – which leaves Melbourne in the early evening and touches down in Hobart in the morning – includes in-flight meals and onboard astronomers talking you through the sights, as well as giving you tips on how to photograph the phenomena outside your window.
Sarah Island Lantern Tour
Sarah Island – established in 1821 as a convict settlement on Tasmania’s remote west coast – is known for both its wild beauty and dark history. The Sarah Island Lantern Tour is a four-hour walk around the isolated island by the light of a lantern while a tour guide regales guests with stories of its history and inhabitants. While you’re being led around, you’ll learn about Tasmania’s harshest convict settlement that lies seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it's the perfect wintery, Off Season activity. A ticket includes a cruise from Strahan Wharf to Sarah Island, plus a beanie, nibbles, dinner and a whisky or gin tasting to ward away the chill.
Dark Sky Dinner
The “dark sky” movement is a worldwide campaign to reduce light pollution in our night skies, which not only impairs our view of the stars and affects the lives of nocturnal animals, but also our mood and sleep. The Dark Sky Dinner on Friday August 12 is a three-course meal by candlelight at Spring Bay Mill (an award-winning venue about an hour’s drive from Hobart) celebrating local food and drink from Tasmanian producers, alongside a talk from Professor Philip Boyd and Professor Catriona Hurd about their work to protect the marine ecosystems off Tassie’s East Coast. Learn about the cutting-edge science and complexities around ocean afforestation, carbon sequestration and negative emissions technologies.
Dark Sky Party
The following night on Saturday August 13 at Spring Bay Mill comes Nocturna (part of the Beaker Street Festival running from August 5 – 14), a party featuring talks from astrophysicist Karelle Siellez, Dark Sky Tasmania, Krystral De Napoli on Aboriginal Astronomy, new works by tech-art collective Soma Lumia, performances by harpist Emily Sanzaro and the When Water Falls ensemble. Running from 3pm until late, take part in the countdown to sundown, then sit and stargaze around a fire, or hop over to one of many scientific talks while sampling local whisky. This is the quintessential Off Season activity: sipping warming mulled wine in the crisp night air while looking up at some of the most pristine, inky skies in the world. A shuttle bus is available to book from Hobart, Orford and Triabunna, so you can have a mulled wine without worrying about driving home.
Winter Light Festival
It’s tradition for many cultures to gather and celebrate the end of the darkness and the coming of the light at the end of winter. That’s the idea behind Winter Light Festival: a new arts festival taking place at the beloved Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart. It’ll run from August 11 to 21 with a focus on art made by, and for, young people. Expect an eclectic mix of performance, music and visual art. The full program will be available to view on June 24.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism Tasmania. Explore more wild, weird and wonderful experiences during Tasmania’s Off Season.