Stargazing in the Warrumbungles
The Milky Way galaxy sparkles brightly in all its celestial wonder when you’re stargazing in the iconic Warrumbungle National Park, Australia’s first Dark Sky Park near Coonabarabran. Here, the stars are your destination - the pristine night sky above the volcanic landscape is unimpeded by artificial light.
Inside the national park is the Siding Spring Observatory, where the largest optical telescopes in Australia are pointed at the cosmos. Astronomy research in the Warrumbungles dates back to the 1950s, and the International Dark Sky Association bestowed the park with dark sky status in 2016.
Camping in the park under the stars is amazing. You’ll find a range of camp sites, including areas that allow caravans and camper trailers. Amenities vary from basic at remote sites to barbecues, picnic tables, hot showers and toilets at Camp Blackman, where you’ll be joined by the resident kangaroos.
Pop into the Warrumbungle Visitor Centre for tips on the best volcanic rock formations, picnic areas and walking trails. The Breadknife and Grand High Tops walk is one of Australia’s outstanding walks. You can complete it in a day or on an overnight walk, with campgrounds at Balor Hut and Ogma Gap.
During the day discover more about the Universe on the World’s Largest Virtual Solar System Drive on your way to Siding Spring, which is open to the public only in daytime. There are colourful three-dimensional billboards of the planets in the solar system at stops along the way to the observatory.
The fascinating Exploratory exhibition at the observatory is open all year. The research telescopes are only open to the public on the Siding Spring Observatory Open Day, on the October long weekend during the StarFest. You can meet an astronomer who works in the research facility.
For star-studded gazing through powerful telescopes on any night of the year, visit the Milroy Observatory or the Warrumbungle Observatory. Both observatories offer experts to guide you through the stars. You can even stay at the Skywatch Observatory, which has a large telescope.
The drive from Sydney to Coonabarabran is about six hours, via either the Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley wine region. The country town is only 100 minutes’ drive northeast of Dubbo. You can fly or take a train to Dubbo and rent a car for the scenic drive to the astronomy capital of Australia.