Warrego Way, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland/Sean Scott
Australia’s ultimate stargazing locations
Remote destinations and ink-black skies make Australia one of the best places in the world to gaze at a marvellously bright Milky Way.
From meteor showers and dust lanes to nebulae, Australia has front-row seats to incredible celestial wonders. From dark sky parks to astronomy tours, here are the best ways to see Australia's sparkling night skies.
Marvel at the Milky Way
The Milky Way contains billions of stars and when you gaze into the desert skies above Central Australia you’ll feel like they are all blazing down on you. Earth Sanctuary’s astronomy tours highlight not just planets and constellations, but also lesser-known phenomena such as dark nebulas, accumulations of gas and dust that will eventually collapse in on themselves and become the breeding grounds of new stars.
Be amazed at the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights)
Where: Multiple locations in Tasmania.
Like its Northern Hemisphere counterpart, the Aurora Borealis, the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, illuminates the night sky with shades of green, blue, purple and red that dance across the sky. The light show is visible all year round from Tasmania, although the best displays take place in winter. Hobart’s highest mountain, kunanyi/Mount Wellington, offers a magnificent viewpoint, as does the nearby – and more easily accessible – Mount Nelson.
How to experience it: The further south you are, the better your chances will be. Avoid a full moon and light pollution and set your camera's shutter speed between five and 15 seconds.
Sleep under the stars
Where: Various locations Australia-wide.
Like the idea of falling asleep beneath a blanket of stars? Wherever you go in Australia, you will find glamping and off-grid experiences that allow you to soak up the full splendour of the night sky. Simply step outside your tent and look up to see the spectacular display in all its glory. Each location is unique and offers experiences beyond stargazing, such as Aboriginal tours, magnificent wildlife viewing, beautiful bush settings or memorable outback experiences.
Moon-gaze at Perth Observatory
Where: Bickley, 35 kilometres (22 miles) east of Perth.
You don’t need to go far from the city to enjoy a spot of stargazing as Australia’s biggest cities all have observatories that are open to the public. In Western Australia's capital, the Perth Observatory has been around for more than 120 years. Tour guides use both modern and historic telescopes to showcase globular clusters, star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. Other urban observatories include Melbourne Observatory, located inside the Royal Botanic Gardens, and Sydney Observatory, next to the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Discover Indigenous astronomy
Where: An eight-hour drive or a 2.5-hour flight west from Brisbane to Charleville Outback Queensland
Sometimes things hide in plain sight – like the giant emu in the sky. Never seen it? The guides at Cosmo Centre in Charleville Outback Queensland will show you not just this emu, but also the other people and animals that, according to Indigenous lore, live in the night sky on their Universal Dreaming tour. Some are etched out in the stars, just like our own star stories, but others are depicted in the dark spaces between the stars. You'll enjoy listening to ancient stories over a fire pit with complimentary marshmallows to toast yourself a treat.
Take one small step in Canberra
Where: A 45-minute drive south-west of Canberra.
Australia plays a key role in NASA’s Deep Space Network – in fact, Australian telescopes were the first to receive clear images from the 1969 moon landing. The Canberra Space Centre is the largest antenna complex in the Southern Hemisphere. Here you can check out the latest images from across the solar system, discover what astronauts eat at the International Space Station, and see a piece of moon rock that is 3.8 billion years old.
Dine under the stars
Candlelit dinners are romantic but they can’t compete with starlit dinners, particularly when they take place in one of the outback's most atmospheric locations. Experience a multi-course dinner highlighting native ingredients – anything from crocodile Caesar salad to pressed wallaby with fermented quandong – before sharing Aboriginal stories and decoding the night sky as it glistens above you.
Experience a Dark Sky Park
Where: Warrumbungle National Park, a six-hour drive north-east from Sydney.
How did Warrumbungle National Park get the nod as the Southern Hemisphere’s first Dark Sky Park? The high altitude and low humidity, as well as its distance from the big cities mean the stargazing here is second to none. Sliding Springs Observatory, on the edge of the national park, is home to the largest optical telescopes in Australia.
Enjoy starry solitude
Where: a 90-minute drive from Adelaide.
South Australia's clearest skies await at the River Murray Dark Sky Reserve. With virtually no light pollution, you'll find yourself lost in the swirling cosmos above. Choose to take a tour, or take a drive toward the riverside town of Swan Reach, where a number of parking areas will give you ample opportunities to stop and admire the skies.