Ultimate Stargazing Experiences on WA’s Coral Coast
As one of the most remote and isolated regions in the world, Western Australia’s vast desert and coastline are ideal for stargazing. With more and more country towns enacting policies to protect their dark night skies, we’ve made a list of some of the best places around the state to learn about the night sky. Experience nature’s wonders through Astrotourism, including museums, attractions, and perfect stargazing spots.
Also located in Carnarvon is the Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre of Gwoonwardu Mia which celebrates the history and culture of the five Aboriginal language groups of the Gascoyne region. Not only does the building contain a brilliant gallery café and shop featuring many talented local artists, but includes an impressive Sky Dome exhibit which showcases a timelapse video of the starry Gascoyne night sky with commentary about the historical importance of stargazing within Aboriginal communities.
Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum
The little-known history of the coastal town of Carnarvon is that it was once home to not one but two of NASA’s Earth Stations during the height of the space race! The Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum is a top tourist destination that reveals the role of Western Australia in the 1960s and 70s Gemini and Apollo missions.
Marvel at the history of the small segment of Skylab, the first ever working laboratory in space, and learn about the difficulty of getting it there. Or climb up inside the Carnarvon OTC satellite dish which in 1966 helped communicate with Apollo 11 mission and helped broadcast footage of the moon landing all across Australia. Famous astronauts have also visited here, including the second man to walk on the moon – Buzz Aldrin. Buzz came to the museum’s 2012 opening and left a handprint cast in a tradition upheld by many other astronaut visitors back in the 1960s.
The iconic geological formations that form the Pinnacles are interesting to explore by day and absolutely otherworldly by night. The dark skies and ancient landscapes of Nambung National Park make it the ideal location to make stargazing plans. Tours run out of the Pinnacles year-round with companies providing powerful telescopes or binoculars to help you see the planetary wonders above in spectacular detail. Even as a self-guided experience, the pitch-black skies make it the perfect location for a picnic under the stars. The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre is the entrance to the national park is a valuable place to visit, providing maps of the area, knowledge of geology, and some fantastic stargazing tips.
Gingin Gravity Discovery Centre
The Gravity Discovery Centre located only an hour north of Perth is an amazing place to visit for anyone who’s ever wanted to discover more about what they’re looking up at in the night sky. During the day, the centre is the perfect playground for all sorts of curious minds, with fun interactive science displays including a 45-metre tall Leaning Tower, allowing for a hands-on learning approach to gravity. At night, the centre provides one of the best guided tours of the night sky in Western Australia.
The experience caters to all age groups with a knowledgeable guide explaining the many planetary and celestial objects overhead, as well as special tours organised to explore the storytelling power of constellations to the local Aboriginal people of Perth. The seasonal changes to the constellations also mean that every time you visit you learn something new!
Stargazing in the country
There has been a recent movement among many rural and remote communities around Western Australia to protect the state’s dark night skies from the threat of light pollution. The organisation Astrotourism WA, founded by ‘Galaxy Girl’ Carol Redford herself, has been working to protect outback night skies while helping to share knowledge to make them accessible for tourists from near and far.
The Astrotourism WA website is a fantastic resource for any amateur or professional astronomers out there looking for a stargazing experience in Western Australia. The website highlights some of the best towns and regions to get an unobstructed view of the sky, as well as trails of all lengths to help plan your very own Astrotourism adventure.
Square Kilometer Array Project
The Square Kilometer Array Project or SKA is an international effort to build the world’s largest and most capable radio astronomy observatory, consisting of two radio telescopes, one in the Murchison region of Western Australia and one in South Africa. The two telescopes will then observe the sky at different frequencies. The remote Murchison region was chosen as one of the best sites in the world for radio astronomy due to its relatively few sources of interference compared to other more populated areas. Whilst there isn’t a physical destination for you to visit, you can read all about the project on the CSIRO website and sign up to their newsletter.
Artists from Yamaji Art in Geraldton were involved in Ilgarijiri, meaning “things that belong in the sky”, a projected launched to celebrate the International Year of Astrology in 2009. The collaboration was between Aboriginal artists from the Midwest region and radio astronomers from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy with the intent to bring together the world’s oldest continuing cultural understanding of the sky, its stories and the worlds state-of-the-art technology. They created a variety of incredible artwork that went on to tour the country, South Africa and Europe.
Museum of Geraldton
A road trip up the Coral Coast isn’t complete without a visit to the Museum of Geraldton. Showcasing Geraldton’s rich heritage of the land, sea and people of the Mid-West region. Discover ancient landforms, Yamaji history and culture, the region’s unique natural landscapes and marine environment. Get a greater understanding of your surroundings before you learn about the night sky and its connection to the people of the Midwest.
If you’re planning a trip up the Coral Coast soon, be sure to check out the WAnderland itinerary planner and add your curated culture stops along the way!