Australians love the outdoors, especially in summertime when sunny days present great opportunities for fun and games on an outdoor patio while the warm nights are perfect for stepping out under the garden party lights or inside the pergola to 'hangout' with friends or spend some cosy times with the family. When you have invested so much effort and time in designing your outdoor space, shouldn’t you make sure it’s perfect for night-time alfresco soirees too?

When conceptualising your garden lighting design, keep in mind the primary objectives: illuminating the garden space to cleverly accentuate garden features, lighting up the pathways for safe navigation, using accent lights to showcase the hardscape, or exterior house lights to show off the facade of your home, and creating a stunning smartly-lit outdoor living space.

You can either go bold for a dramatic effect or subtle for a gentle, intimate ambience. Choose low voltage, energy-efficient and long-lasting LED strip lighting that are also waterproof for backyard lighting or garage lighting. Some of the fittings may need to be powered with a rechargeable battery or solar power. When planning light placement, it’s important to avoid creating hot spots or have lights at eye level that can make it uncomfortable for the user.

With the right backyard lights in your garden, pathways and driveway, you can bring your outdoor lighting ideas to life when the sun goes down and keep the party going late into the night – in a stunning outdoor space guaranteed to be the envy of your guests.

Top 10 lighting ideas for your outdoors

10. Pathway lighting

A well-lit pathway to your backyard or your garden serves two purposes: It not only guides your guests safely to the backyard but also aesthetically highlights the walkway. Installing lights at a lower height on the ground on both sides of the path will create a magical effect on the paving. You could also try edge-lighting along the borders, especially around planter or flower beds. Standalone solar lanterns or lamps mounted on a stake are a great idea for pathway lighting as they eliminate the need to run electric wires. Alternatively, ground lights embedded into the walkway underfoot will help you eliminate clutter.

Pathway lights

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9. Step lighting

Navigate the steps from your house to your outdoor area safely with discreet recessed lights. Under tread lighting using LED strip lights will light up the risers while shedding a warm glow on each landing. If the stairs abut a brick wall, you can embed the lights into the brickwork to provide soft illumination that doesn’t overpower the ambience. Step lighting can also be integrated with motion sensors.

Under-tread lighting

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8. Hardscape lighting

Showcase the beautiful hardscape features in your garden such as stacked stone walls, bench seating, planter beds, retaining walls, deck handrails, water features, garden posts and fencing with some clever low profile lighting. Accent lights, for instance, can subtly highlight each hardscape feature – use a mix of low voltage in-ground lights, uplights and downlights to provide both ambient lighting as well as visibility. Uplights and downlights can be used to effectively enhance wall textures, posts and pillars.

Retaining wall

Image source: Nuvi Landscape Step Light from Hinkley Lighting

7. Pool lighting

Safety is a critical component of pool lighting design, and so is ambience. Begin with the walkways and steps around the pool, using recessed lighting or ground lights along the perimeter of the path to light up the area and prevent tripping incidents. Underwater lighting using coloured lights placed in a layered style will add to the party atmosphere. String up fairy lights above the pool and on tree branches for a fun, festive and starry effect.

Coloured pool lighting

Image source: 1000Bulbs

6. Feature lighting for the garden

A clever mix of lighting fixtures will help you show off your beautifully designed garden to your guests. Use adjustable spotlights to uplight tall trees, plant small well lights within bushes or shrubs, place uplights between planters, use edge-lighting to border the lawn or along low walls, hang festoon lights on tree branches, and install accent lights for arches or any other garden structure with the play of light and shadow creating just the right amount of intrigue.

Garden lights

Image source: Hardy Island 1536 Accent Light from Hinkley Lighting

5. Open courtyard lighting

When you are relaxing under the open sky at night, add to the starry effect by running a few strands of string lights overhead. Drape festoon lights from tree branches or use uplights at the base of the tree trunk to cast ambient light. For additional illumination, install lanterns or uplights on your home’s exterior walls. Select waterproof, preferably solar-powered LED string lights to eliminate the hassle of running electrical wires.

Courtyard lighting

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4. Fire pits

A fire pit is an unusual idea for outdoor lighting but quite effective in creating an intimate, relaxed after-party vibe. The perfect centre-piece for your outdoor space, a flickering fire-pit adds a warm glow and sets the mood for some great after-dinner conversations. You can also choose from traditional wood-fire or LED candle options.

Image source: McKay Landscape Lighting

3. Luminescent planters

A planter by day, a light by night – planter lights are truly an outdoor lighting innovation. Available in a choice of shapes and sizes, these illuminated plant pots have a translucent body with colours ranging from milky white to a whole palette of psychedelic tones thanks to the colour-changing LEDs. The planters are completely waterproof. Placed in the garden, these planters have an ethereal look at night and can even optionally be house lighting.

LED light pots

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2. Alfresco dining area lighting

A sit-down alfresco dinner with friends or family needs the right ambience, which can be achieved with an optimal level of lighting. Portable lights such as decorative lanterns are charming conversation pieces that can also be moved around at will. If the dining area is in a niche or recessed space, use LED wall lighting or wall sconces with an open bottom, flush mounted to the wall to cast plenty of light on the table below. Use string lights, festoon lights or exposed globe lights placed in a zig-zag style to create a glowing canopy overhead.


Image source: Hayneedle

1. Deck lighting

Decks need to be illuminated well to avoid trips and falls, especially when guests are around. As an outdoor space with a high frequency of post-dusk usage, the deck’s lighting design needs to factor in the steps, the deck rails and the approach path. In-ground LED lights can be used to indicate the perimeter of the deck while bulkheads or sconces on the wall will increase brightness in the outdoor space. Illuminated balusters for the railings and illuminated risers for the steps will ensure safety while creating a visually striking deck space.

Image source: NextLuxury

Main image credit: dSpace Studio, Chicago - illuminated risers