Astronomy in the Northern Territory
Get a clear view of the solar system from your swag and see celestial bodies you won't see in the big city.
There're few places in Australia where you’ll get a better view of the night sky than in the Northern Territory. With a landmass of over 1.42 million kilometres, there's ample space for you to look upwards.
Outside of the major cities, where artificial light is limited, is where you’ll get unspoilt views of the magical Territory sky.
Choose from one of the many campgrounds across the Northern Territory where the noise and light of the city is switched off and you can just look up and enjoy.
You won’t even need a telescope.
Stargazing in Alice Springs
Just 15 minutes south of Alice Springs is Earth Sanctuary World Nature Centre. Earth Sanctuary focuses their operations on ecology, culture and astronomy giving a new perspective on the incredible life in the desert and the skies. You’ll learn not only about the night sky but its impact on wildlife, the environment and the creation stories of local Aboriginal people.
Choose from a range of experiences led by your star-guide including:
- Public and private night sky astronomy sessions with use of a deep sky telescope and laser pointer so you don’t miss a thing
- Sunset to sunrise tour where you spend your night in a swag watching the skies transform
- Paint the night by moonlight art workshop sessions run on the nights of full moon and half moon with a painting tutorial and the option to stay the night
- Dark sky specialty nights that coincide with special celestial events best seen from the sanctuary
- Dinner and a show where culture and astronomy combine.
These award-winning experiences are popular so it’s best to book ahead.
Under the stars in Uluru
If Alice Springs is a great place to see the stars, then the resort town of Yulara, home to Uluru, is even better. With very little lighting from the township, the night sky will come alive before your eyes.
Outback Sky Journeys Astro Tours operates two different tours departing from Town Square in Yulara. The Astro Tour departs 2 hours after sunset and with the guidance of an astronomer with telescopes, binoculars and iPads, you’ll learn everything there's to know about the sky.
The Family Astro Tour is suitable for all ages and leaves 40 minutes after sunset so it’s not a late night out for the little ones. You’ll still get a great view and the expert commentary of the Astro Tour.
Twinkle twinkle in Tennant Creek
As the most remote major town in the Northern Territory, Tennant Creek is a sky watcher’s delight. There're plenty of great vantage points to set up after dark and watch the skies.
One of the best spots is the Bill Allen Lookout on Battery Hill. The lookout gives a 360-degree view of the town and beyond making it an ideal spot to get comfortable and look skyward.
Tingkkarli/Lake Mary Ann also offers the perfect spot to watch the sunset, have a BBQ and then relax under the stars.
Outback astronomy in Katherine
Just like Tennant Creek, Katherine is a brilliant town to stargaze from. A small, remote town it has limited artificial light and plenty of space where you get uninterrupted views of the heavens.
The Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner Tour operates on Katherine Gorge offering guests a candlelit three-course dinner while you watch the sunset. Once the sun is down, enjoy the ambience of the night on the quiet and peaceful gorge.
On your way back from your dinner tour, head back towards town on Gorge Road and find a quiet spot on the banks of the Katherine River. As your eyes adjust to the darkening sky, the stars will pop. There're picnic tables and BBQ areas scattered throughout the area that will make a great base for the night.
Watching the skies in Darwin
You might think that stargazing in a big city like Darwin would be difficult but there're plenty of great spots within the city – and just outside – where you can find a great vantage point.
East Point Reserve offers stunning views of the sky just a few kilometres from the city centre. There're numerous spots where you can grab a picnic table or sit down on the grass or sand and watch the world go by including the Dudley Point Lookout on the western side of the reserve. The northernmost end of the reserve closes at 11pm when the gates are locked so make sure you’re packed and ready to go long before then. Camping isn’t allowed in the park.
Jervois Park – next to the Deckchair Cinema – and Goyder Park – next to the cruise ship terminal are both excellent places within Darwin City that offer sea views, amazing sunsets and great night sky viewing. There're grassed areas and a rock wall to make yourself comfortable and dinner at the Darwin Waterfront is just a short stroll away.
Cullen Bay Beach, Casuarina Beach, Nightcliff foreshore, East Arm (near the boat ramp) and pretty much anywhere in the rural area are also great places within driving distance of the city where the light is dimmer and you can see more above.
A Darwin Harbour sunset cruise is also a great option away from the light of the city. Once the sun sets, the sky becomes dark quite quickly and your return to dry land is lit by the stars. From your drop-off point at the Cullen Bay Marina or Stokes Hill Wharf, find a quiet spot and keep looking up.
If the sunset cruise isn’t your style, jump on a SeaLink ferry to Mandorah and Wagait Beach and watch the skies from the jetty or the beach. There’s a stunning view of the city and the sky from the beach or even from the open-air seating atop the ferry. Ferries run from 6:30am right through to 11pm, with midnight services on Friday, Saturday and public holidays.