As night descends over New South Wales, a glittering universe is revealed. Astronomy and stargazing tours are increasing in popularity, particularly in outback NSW, where the skies are free of light pollution and offer unparalleled views of the stars, planets and the Milky Way. Here are some spots to indulge your starry obsession.
Dark Sky Park, Central West NSW
The central western NSW town of Coonabarabran is considered the astronomy capital of Australia. And nearby Warrumbungle National Park has been recognised as the southern hemisphere’s first Dark Sky Park for its clear skies and exceptional starry nights. The Siding Spring Observatory between Warrumbungle National Park and Coonabarabran, is the nation’s premier optical and infrared observatory and features the famous AAT Telescope ― at 3.9m in width, it’s the largest optical telescope in the nation. Although the observatory is closed for research purposes at night, you can go behind the scenes of the telescope during the day, with tours led by working astronomers.
Continue the stargazing experience with an overnight stay at Skywatch Observatory Domestays in Coonabarabran, where you can look up at the night sky from the accommodation’s own observatory and viewing platform.
Blue Mountains Stargazing, Blue Mountains
Led by highly experienced astrophysicist Dimitri Douchin and his partner, Caroline Boulom, Blue Mountains Stargazing holds 90-minute astronomy tours at Wentworth Falls Picnic Area. This spot overlooks the spectacular Jamison Valley in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park, a 90-minute drive west of Sydney. This fun and interactive experience will lead you through the celestial wonders of the southern sky while you view the moon, planets, star clusters and nebula through professional-grade telescopes. You’ll also conduct naked-eye astronomy, hear myths and legends of constellations and be warmed by complimentary hot chocolate.
Dubbo Observatory, Dubbo
Dubbo Observatory, in the central western NSW town of Dubbo, offers a choice of several night sky tours, including an astrophotography tour for photographers keen to capture the beauty on their own cameras. The Night Sky and Telescope Tour involves viewing stars, planets and galaxies through a large 43cm telescope, while the Premium Tour includes a detailed astronomy presentation and teaches navigation of the night sky with local astronomer Peter Starr.