There is truly something magical about looking up at the moon and stars. Perfect for an exciting and unique family outing that is also laidback and no-fuss, we’ve chosen the top NSW star-gazing spots for you to explore. We especially love this list because it shows off the wonder of the NSW Outback, where the night sky is unbelievably clear and peaceful.
It isn’t hard to see why this regional centre is also known as the starry capital of NSW. There are multiple night sky encounters to moon over. Start at Australian National University’s ‘Siding Spring’ Observatory 30 kilometres out of town. There, take a peek through Australia’s largest optical telescope, make the most of the interactive displays and soak up the views of the national park from the lookout.
Visit Australia’s first Dark Sky Park newly opened in the Warrumbungle National Park. A dedicated area with low light pollution, it is perfect for stargazers and environmentalists alike – you will spot a crazy collection of constellations!
An easy 15-minute drive from Parkes along the Newell Highway, the Parkes Observatory’s claim to fame was its starring role in the 2000 film ‘The Dish.’ It was also in the spotlight during the famed moon-landing of 1969, when it received a direct transmission of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first lunar steps. While you can’t, unfortunately, play cricket on this well-loved radio telescope as the characters did in the movie, you certainly can visit the CSIRO site and its awesome Visitor’s Discovery Centre with hands-on exhibits and a 3D theatre. Entry is cheap and perfect for families of all shapes and sizes.
Location is everything at Broken Hill, where you can see far into the distance and where the stars shine brighter because of the lack of light pollution. In fact, in 2015 locals and visitors joined forces at the Broken Hill Racecourse to participate in a Guiness World Record stargazing attempt.
There are also awesome guided experiences available with Outback Astronomy on the Barrier Highway. Access is easy, but if you talk to staff, a shuttle service from your accommodation can sometimes be arranged. The nightly Sky Shows will teach you about the history and the science of our galaxy, but you’ll have to rug up – it gets chilly.
Snuggled in just behind Taronga Western Plains Zoo, the Dubbo Observatory is just a 10-minute car trip from the city centre. Go planet-spotting through hi-tech telescopes, learn about the lifespan of a star in the film theatre and join a nightly guided tour suitable to all ages.
The star performer? The observatory’s Astro Mini Golf. This 18-hole mini golf course has you putting into black holes, entering Dr. Who’s TARDIS and launching a rocket to the moon. You can grab a coffee and cake afterwards at the Cosmic Cafe, in its lovely garden setting.
If location is everything, then Sydney Observatory’s got it all. It sits atop a hill in view of Luna Park, the Harbour Bridge and Barangaroo. Affiliated with the Powerhouse Museum as part of MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences), the Observatory runs day and night tours for children and adults on weekends, public holidays and NSW school holidays. You can visit on a self-guided trip any day of the week for free admission. That way, you can explore the historic building and museum in your own time, and take a picnic to enjoy under the huge trees outside.
There are plenty more star-gazing opportunities out in the open air and under the clear skies of rural New South Wales. Try a trip to Bathurst Observatory Research Facility, with public tours on Friday and Saturday nights and every night of school holidays, and Mudgee Observatory with its film theatre and flat-screen planetarium. You’ll be so dizzy with amazement after these observatory experiences that you’ll be seeing stars!
Read more here about family fun in Outback NSW and beyond: