Ningaloo Eclipse 2023: Top places in Australia for best dark sky experiences
Get ready to witness a celestial spectacle like no other! The Ningaloo Eclipse is coming, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime event you won't want to miss.
Astrophiles, or astronomy enthusiasts, should get ready for an extraordinary event. On April 20, 2023, the town of Exmouth in Western Australia will witness a rare phenomenon - the Ningaloo Eclipse, which only occurs once every 400 years. The Total Solar Eclipse will have the shadow of the moon pass over the Ningaloo region in a 40-kilometre-wide track. During this brief moment, the region surrounding the UNESCO World Heritage-listed seascape will be the best land-based place on the planet to witness the resulting 62-second light show.
But for those who would not be able to experience this galactic phenomenon live, there is a myriad of stargazing experiences across Australia all year round. At a time when space and solitude are travel’s greatest luxuries, Australia shines bright, as the clear, dark skies of regional and outback Australia make for some note-worthy stargazing opportunities. Bucket list these, depending on the kind of sky-gazing activity you would be looking for. (Also read: 5 most scenic Indian highways for an unforgettable bus journey )
Australia’s top dark sky experiences for stargazers:
Many visitors to Western Australia’s Monkey Mia come to see its friendly dolphins, but what people don’t know about is over here you can also learn about the night sky through Indigenous eyes on an Aboriginal astronomy tour. The tours involve listening to the ‘Dreaming stories’, cooking a damper over a fire, and meditating to the sound of a didgeridoo. Further North in Western Australia in Broome, Ngurrangga Tours’ guides reveal how constellations were formed according to Aboriginal lore.
While at carbon-neutral Earth Sanctuary in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, astronomy programs are crafted to coincide with cosmic events throughout the year. There’s also an on-site observatory and an annual Dark Skies Festival for avid stargazers. But even if you wish to go to the east coast, there’s no shortage of experiences. In Burketown in outback Queensland, the brilliance of the night sky is paired with Aboriginal storytelling by a Gangalidda guide with Yagurli Tours.
Dark sky zones
There are designated dark sky zones that abound in Australia, like the Warrumbungle National Park, where the only thing glowing at night is the Milky Way. For astronomy fanatics who are looking for something unique, Australia’s first International Dark Sky Park is just outside the town of Coonabarabran, which houses the Siding Spring Observatory, famed for its daytime tours, and Milroy Observatory, which offers night-sky tours. Also, off the east coast of Australia, the star-splashed skies above Norfolk Island have earned it the designation of Gold Level Dark Sky Town.
If you happen to be in South Australia, The River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve, just 90 minutes from Adelaide, also makes for an immersive star-gazing experience. Negligible light pollution across regional Western Australia makes it another great place to admire the night sky, where one can use stargazing trails to guide themselves.
Stargazing sleep experiences
In case you are looking for stimulating your senses while stargazing, Australia offers some exclusive stargazing sleep experiences. At the Northern Territory’s Longitude of 131°, very little separates the stargazer and the galaxies overhead where glamping is elevated with stylish tents. One can see the impressive mass of Uluṟu and the constellation of Orion from their bed, or the balcony. Likewise, the Milky Way is the only backdrop at Bubbletent Australia in the Blue Mountains, where one can drift off to sleep while gazing at a bedazzlement of stars overhead.
The three transparent domed tents, each fitted with telescopes and stargazing apps, also overlook the world’s second-largest canyon. And in Tasmania, one can indulge in an alfresco night soak in an outdoor tub carved from a single piece of granite at Luna Lodge. Only 30 minutes from Hobart, a private eco-dome, replete with skylight to enjoy southern stars in bed, feels like its own planet.