Picture this: the campfire’s crackling, the smoky aroma of perfectly charred snags fills the air, and the night sky is ablaze with stars. Imagine the Milky Way twinkling above as a flash of light zipping through the darkness catches your eye. Moments later, an unidentified flying obj- OK, let’s not get carried away.
The good news is that such cosmic beauty isn’t just the stuff of dreams and sci-fi tales. Outside its major cities, Australia boasts plenty of remote hideouts where you can be well and truly star-struck.[related_articles]56255[/related_articles]
#1 Fraser Island, Queensland
World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is accessible from two mainland ferry ports at Hervey Bay (under two hours from Bundaberg) or Rainbow Beach (under two hours from the Sunshine Coast). Dubbed the world’s largest sand island, Fraser has far more to celebrate than just what’s under foot.
A night’s stay at one of Fraser’s beachside campsites is one you’re unlikely to forget. They have all the makings of a stellar stargazing spot: minimal light pollution, traffic-free roads (well, tracks and beaches), and the great open ocean. It really is something special.[related_articles]55543,40293[/related_articles]
It’s worth noting that soft-sand driving and the island’s rocky inland tracks can only be tackled comfortably and safely in a 4WD. Rent a vehicle from the mainland or let local tour companies like Sunrover Tours (starting at $289 per person) and Drop Bear Adventures (starting at $395 per person) do the hard work for you.
Beachside camping is available at Eastern Beach, Waddy Point or South Western Beach. Alternatively, treat yourself to a little luxury at Beach Camp Fraser Island – a glamping-style eco-retreat equipped with all the comforts of home.
#2 Coonabarabran, New South Wales
Six hours north-west of Sydney and under two from Dubbo, “Coona”, as the town is fondly known by locals, is home to one of only a handful of dark-sky parks in the world (areas that promote astronomy by prohibiting artificial light).
You can enter Warrumbungle National Park for just $8 per vehicle and camp for $6 per adult, per night. Enjoy view of impressive rock formations The Breadknife and Grand High Tops by day, and perfect darkness at night at Camp Blackman, Burbie Camp or Camp Pincham.
Dubbed the Astronomy Capital of Australia, Coona is a stargazer’s dream.
#3 Gawler Ranges, South Australia
A six-hour drive from Adelaide (or under three from Port Lincoln), the Gawler Ranges are characterised by unique rock formations sculpted by turbulent volcanic activity millions of years ago. The Organ Pipes – a series of rocks jutting from the earth – for example, are a fascinating spectacle by day.
The Ranges are both a geologically stunning wilderness and a welcome respite from civilisation.
Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris hosts guests at its very own outback retreat at Kangaluna Camp. Bask in the cosmic glory of the night’s sky from the “Kangaluna Swagon”, which offers a unique vantage point from the comfort of a renovated wagon. Fear not, glampers – a slightly more indulgent set-up is also available.
#4 Uluru, Northern Territory
Go on an Outback adventure to Uluru, where you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping scenes 24-hours a day. By day, you can explore the unique landscape of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and prepare to be astounded by extra-terrestrial beauty after dark.
Just 15km from Uluru, Ayers Rock Campground is perfect for an out-of-this-world experience. The campground rents unpowered sites from just $43 and cabins from $179.
Ayers Rock Resort (where the campground is located) hosts the annual Uluru Astronomy Weekend. Celebrating its fifth year in September 2018, the event is ideal for budding astronomers and old-school romantics alike.
#5 Whitsundays, Queensland
Just off the northeast coast of Queensland lies the turquoise-watered bliss of the Whitsunday Islands. Characterised by lush rainforest and pristine white beaches, the largely uninhabited islands are a favourite for island cruises, snorkelling tours and general escapism.
The seclusion lends itself to a spot of stargazing. Companies such as Scamper can help organise transport, permits, camping gear and all the pesky but necessary details of a well-planned camping trip, but you can make the most of the remote Whitsundays and take your sky-scanning offshore. Overnight sailing cruises run around the islands and Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach (generally for 1 to 2 days).
Camping out under the stars, wine in hand, is an experience second to none.
(Lead image: John White / South Australia Tourism Commission)