See the outback sky ablaze with the light of a billion stars.
By Lee Atkinson
Many people would say there's nothing quite like an Australian outback sky. Far away from the city lights, the stars do seem bigger and brighter. Learning how to locate the Southern Cross, a famous constellation visible in Australia, and listening to Aboriginal stories and legends of the night sky is one of outback Australia's most special experiences. Head to one of these seven outback hot spots for an unforgettable night out with the stars.
See Australia's beautiful night skies
TAKE AN OUTBACK SKY JOURNEY AT ULURU
The guided star gazing tour at Ayers Rock Resort is more than just a look at the night sky. Perfect for families (kids under 15 are free) it's a journey across the Milky Way and beyond with the resort's resident astronomer, who takes you on a trip through the history of the universe, using telescopes, binoculars and iPads.
SNAP A STAR AT ARKAROOLA
About 130 kilometres (80 miles) from the nearest town, Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, in South Australia's gorgeous Flinders Ranges, has some of the clearest skies in the country, and one of Australia's largest privately owned astronomical observatories. Guided tours using professional telescopes give you a close up look at distant galaxies. For the ultimate souvenir you can borrow the resort's astrophotography equipment and use your camera to snap a picture of a star trail to take home.
VISIT AUSTRALIA'S FIRST DARK SKY PARK
Warrumbungle National Park, near the town of Coonabarabran in central western New South Wales, is Australia's first dark sky park, where the skies are guaranteed to be free of light pollution. If you're on a camping road trip there's no better place for a spot of DIY star gazing. Check out the largest telescopes in Australia at the nearby Siding Springs Observatory. Getting there is all part of the fun as you explore the planets on the World's Largest Virtual Solar System Drive on the way: 3D scale models of the solar system fan out on the five main roads into Coonabarabran and each planet stop has lots of quirky space facts that are always a hit with kids.
STARGAZE FROM A LUXURY SWAG
A "swag" is a uniquely Australian canvas bedroll, a little like a sleeping bag, but with a comfortable internal mattress and built-in pillow. It's the ultimate way to camp in the outback, where the dry winter weather means you don’t need a tent. At Arkaba Station's luxury camps in the South Australian Flinders Ranges you sleep on a specially constructed raised timber deck, between crisp cotton sheets, beneath a soft feather doona (also known as a duvet) and under a canopy of stars.
SLEEP IN THE SWAGON GALAXY SUITE
If sleeping in a swag is not your style, you could try the Galaxy Suite in the Swagon at Kangaluma Camp on a Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safari on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula. It's a renovated covered wagon with mesh walls so you're protected from the elements but you've still got a million-star view of the sky from your bed. There's also an 8-inch computer-controlled telescope at camp for a close-up view of the moon, and planets such as Saturn and Jupiter.
CRUISE WITH THE STARS IN KAKADU
Discover the Dreamtime Aboriginal stories behind the stars on a night-time tour of Yellow Water billabong in Kakadu. The Algohgarrng Experience (Yellow Water Under the Stars) is a 90 minute cruise led by an Aboriginal guide that runs five nights a week between May and September. Not only will you learn about the sky's spiritual and cultural connections with the landscape, but you'll spot crocodile eyes watching you in the dark and see nocturnal animals you'd never get to see in daylight.
EXPLORE THE COSMOS DAY AND NIGHT
Who says it has to be dark to explore the universe? At the Cosmos Centre in Charleville, a town in outback Queensland (a two hour flight from Brisbane), Astronomy by Day activities including holding meteorites, travelling across the galaxy in the Cosmos Theatre and looking at the sun through a filtered telescope. After dark you can look through telescopes in the observatory or join an Aboriginal night sky story session.
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