Australia is home to some of the world’s most impressive sights, sounds and attractions. From the Sydney Opera House and The Great Barrier Reef to the surfing on the Gold Coast and swimming in one of Fraser Island’s lagoons. Australia is a destination of choice for the culturally minded and adventurous alike. What many don’t realize is that this continent is one of the world’s premiere places to star gaze and witness some of the most wondrous sights the cosmos has to offer. If you’re planning an astronomical trip to Australia, here are a few spots to consider visiting.
For the sake of convenience, many are choosing to purchase direct flights to Sydney, which also provides you the distinct opportunity to visit one of Australia’s oldest and most enduring observatories. Aptly settled on top of Observatory Hill, the Sydney Observatory is not only one of the continent’s most distinguished scientific institutions, it’s also very visitor friendly and easily accessible. After several hours of touring the observatory and enjoying the 3-D Space Theatre, spend your final glorious moments on Observatory Hill taking in the beauty of a Sydney Harbour sunset.
Siding Spring Exploratory
Located approximately 500 miles north of Sydney you’ll find the small town of Coonabarabran, which is otherwise known as the unofficial astronomy capital of Australia. Tucked away amongst the quaint shops and restaurants you’ll find the massive Siding Spring Exploratory, which boasts an impressive 12 observatories and is the site of innumerable scientific and astronomical discoveries. Astronomers and curious, amateur star gazers alike flock to this mecca by the droves each year to explore the observatories, participate in a variety of interactive exhibits and maybe even catch a glimpse of history in the making. There’s also a café, gift shop and other distractions to keep you busy until the sun goes down.
Staircase to the Moon
If you’re after a more organic, spiritual experience, look no further to the brilliant illusion otherwise known as the Staircase to the Moon. Every year between March and October, the small Northwestern town of Broome is inundated with tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of one of Mother Nature’s most unique marvels. For three nights each month, the full moon rises over Roebuck Bay, and the tide is low enough to create an illusion of a staircase rising toward the large, majestic orb in the sky. While in Broome, don’t forget to sample the local flavor, and patronize many of the booths that spring up on Roebuck Bay. The Staircase to the Moon is more than just a chance to witness something miraculous, it also allows you to commune with the locals, and join in one of the massive parties that ensue.
Located smack dab in the Australian Outback, Claireville’s Cosmos Centre and Observatory attracts over 100,000 visitors each year looking to explore the night sky through one of the world’s most unobstructed views. Located on the Queensland Heritage Trail Network, the Cosmos Centre is as much about interactive exhibits and educational opportunities as it is about simply observing the cosmos through a high-powered telescope. The centre’s location in Australia’s fabled outback—which is virtually devoid of pollution, industrial lights and features a low-lying horizon—makes it possible to witness the night sky in a way you never thought possible. If you’re after an educational experience for the kids, this is definitely the place to visit.
A Quiet Spot and a Comfortable Blanket
You could spend hours, and thousands of dollars, driving and flying to Australia’s numerous observatories and natural wonders, or you could simply step outside your hotel room, throw a blanket on the nearest grassy area, and wait for the sun to go down. Even if you’re entrenched in many of the continent’s metropolitan areas, an unobstructed view of the stars is never far away. Take these opportunities to marvel at what’s beyond our earth, and pass on your extensive knowledge of astronomy to your kids or impressed spouse.
Before patronizing any of Australia’s several observatories and space centres, pay attention to their policies, including hours of operation. Remember that even the most unassuming, seemingly low-tech telescopes are extremely expensive, and must be treated with the utmost care.
About the Author:
Harry Beaching is a globe-trotting astronomer specializing in cosmic evolution. He has visited over 500 observatories worldwide and lectures on progressive astronomy throughout North America.