Depending on the time of year, if you look up at the night sky in Australia you might spy Jupiter, Mars, Saturn or Venus. Maybe you'll see the Southern Cross and a smattering of other not-too-distant or extra-bright stars like Alpha Centauri, Antares or Sirius.
Australia is rich with dark places where you can be truly starstruck by the plethora of twinkling balls of gas in the sky (let’s be real that’s what they are). From the real splendour of the Milky Way, interstellar clouds, colourful star clusters and our neighbouring galaxies.
Here are the best places to go stargazing in Australia.
New South Wales
Warrumbungle National Park
You’re going to want to bring your camping gear for this one. Warrumbungle National Park is a definite hike (six-hour drive from Sydney) but it tops the list for one very important reason. It is Australia’s first (and only) Dark Sky Park making it the ultimate spot for stargazing, amateur astronomy and camping under the starriest of skies.
Astronomers are a passionate bunch—and John Vetter, the founder of Mudgee Observatory, is no exception to the rule. About 15 minutes drive out of Mudgee, the observatory is essentially a private observatory Vetter built himself on his own property (including a towering fence of trees that shield the site from the lights of town).
His telescopes are used by researchers from the University of NSW, the staff of Sydney Observatory and members of the Sutherland Astronomical Society, and when we visited, Vetter showed us the Jewel Box Cluster, the Orion Nebular and the Omega Centauri globular cluster (a collection of about a million stars that looks like a firework). If you're after a personalised, educational experience, we highly recommend booking a tour here.
With nothing but white sand to reflect the night skies, Lancelin’s sand dunes (only an hour and a half out of town) have to be one of the best places to go stargazing. Grab a board and cruise down the massive dunes by day, then kick back and enjoy the stars after dark. The perfect day right there.
It's one of Western Australia's most famous landmarks, and Wave Rock also happens to be one of the best places to watch the sky literally explode with twinkling stars. It’s about 4-hours out of Perth, and the horizon is uninterrupted in all directions, meaning you’re in for one hell of a sky show.
Lying northwest from Melbourne is the absolutely stunning Lake Tyrrell (stemming from the Indigenous word “Tyrille” meaning sky). At this location, you’ll be able to spot the Southern cross, the Milky Way and moonscape-like terrain for days.
ASV Leon Mow Dark Sky Site
Victoria’s two largest telescopes reside at the ASV (Astronomical Society of Victoria). This place is tricky to get to (she’s almost set in the middle of nowhere and requires detailed directions to reach) but the stars here shine brighter than pretty much any other spot in Australia. You can access this one twice a year — in March and December (there’s also onside accommodation if you’re keen to stick around longer than a couple of hours).
Double Island Point
Double Island Point is particularly special for stargazing at night thanks to its remote beach location just three hours north of Brisbane. You’ll fall asleep to the sound of the ocean and wake up to a pretty special view.
Moreton Island is famous for its pitch-black skies at night and we all know what that means — epic conditions for stargazing. Light pollution is not a thing here which is what makes it super special if ever you camp out this way or do a spot of after-dark trekking (bring your binoculars).
River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve
For Australia’s best skyscape, the River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve holds one of the clearest of them all. Tucked just 90 minutes’ drive from Adelaide on the banks of the Murray River, starry solitude awaits stargazers with low rainfall, clear skies and virtually no light pollution creating the perfect conditions to explore the cosmos. It’s also one of only official Dark Sky Reserve in Australia.
Innes National Park
You can quite literally explore the universe from one of South Australia’s most popular coastal destinations — the Yorke Peninsula. Hit up Innes National Park — a secluded sanctuary for stargazers. Far from the city lights, the park’s remote location has resulted in some of the darkest skies in the state and is one of the best spots in South Australia to see the Milky Way. Set up camp at one of eight campgrounds dotted throughout the national park and spend the weekend soaking in the stars, sun and surf at this seaside paradise.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
It should come as no surprise that one of the absolute best places to treat your soul with a bit of stargazing is Tasmania’s crisp and clear Cradle Mountain. With some of the cleanest air in the world, this beautiful spot has little artificial light and is an epic region to hit when you want to gaze up at the Southern Cross constellation or want to try your luck at spotting the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) which illuminates the sky with flickering shades of blue, green, purple and pink.
Stargazing at Uluru is a bucket list travel experience. The sky above Uluru (Ayers Rock) is one of the most impressive skies in the world to stargaze because in the outback, there is literally no artificial light that could interfere with the dark night sky. You’ll also be front row across Australia to take in the Magellanic clouds and the famous Southern Cross constellation.
Mulligans Flat Woodlands
Canberra’s clear night skies provide a stunning backdrop to some of the brightest stars in the Southern Hemisphere. At the Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, you can book a Twilight Tour to see animals in the wild – many of them endangered – and feel the nocturnal magic around you. On a clear night, look for constellations and planets, or simply gaze at the moon.
Plus, here are the best places to go camping in Australia (for free!).
Image credit: Clarisse Meyers, Heiko Otto, Mahkeo Jacob Dyer, Daniel Weiss, Jairph, Evan Brocket, Eugenie Lai