Ok, so let’s just admit now that searching for stars won’t make you fit, but it will kind of blow your mind. In a good way. You’ll be able to turn off your mobile, get back to nature and contemplate your place on this teeny, tiny planet.
And as it turns out New South Wales has some of the best places for astro-tourism in Australia. It was even just certified for Australia’s first Dark Sky Park at Warrumbungle National Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. Yes, there is such an association.
So grab some mates, find a sweet ride and explore these NSW star-lover experiences:
1. Sleep under the stars in astro-accommodation at Skywatch Observatory Domestics at Coonabarabran, the astronomy capital of Australia. When you’re not sleeping you can visit the Siding Spring observatory, which houses one of Australia’s largest telescopes. Every October the area hosts Starfest, where you can tour the telescopes, hear talks by world famous astronomers and learn about all things Universe-related.
2. Star-gaze above the vines. Situated a 15-minute drive west of town, Mudgee Observatory has several telescopes as well as a planetarium that runs features on the night sky and space missions. They also run popular day-time sun tours, where you can spy on the firey orb which supports our whole planet over the backdrop of hundreds of vines.
3. See a living galaxy. So not technically an astro-tour, the Glow worm night walk in the Blue Mountains with Tread Lightly Eco Tours should be on your bucketlist. A medium level of fitness is required, as there are lots of steps, and in winter you’ll need to rug up! But the view of thousands of glowing lights inside the cool caves is incredibly powerful.
4. Experience an open night star tour. The Bathurst Observatory Research Facility conducts their astronomy tours out in the open. It’s a great way to get a live view of some of the wonders of the planets and the solar system. They also have special solar telescope tours to view the sun.
5. Experience a star safari. Located on Camp Road just behind Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo Observatory has up to five powerful telescopes to view the night sky. Solar viewing shows are available during the day, with star-gazing sessions all year round.
6. Visit The Dish. The visitors’ centre at the Parkes Observatory is open seven days a week, giving visitors the opportunity to view the iconic “Dish” firsthand and to visit a dedicated astronomy and space science exhibition. It’s been more than 45 years since Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first to set foot on the surface of the Moon and the dish helped record their journey.
7. Cruise the Milky Way. The vast desert plains of the NSW Outback provide the perfect blank canvas for star-gazing. Outback Astronomy in Broken Hill offers nightly tours (weather dependant) for novice star-gazers. The 60-minute tour gives participants an introduction to famous stars, constellations, nebulae and more during a virtual cruise across the Milky Way.