Adelaide is the luckiest city in Australia when it comes to stargazing. Just 100 kilometres east of the city you can find the River Murray Dark Sky Reserve, the first of its kind in Australia and the closest internationally accredited dark sky place to a major city. Not all skies look the same and just one trip out to the core of the reserve, Swan Reach Conservation Park, will show you just exactly what you’re missing out on when darkness descends.
Even still, Adelaide’s got a bunch of other places near the city where looking up at the stars is simply gorgeous. Many are down dirt roads between small towns or up and down the coast as well where a blanket on the ground and a warm blanket will give you the best seat in the house for the nightly light show. But first, a bit more info on…
River Murray Dark Sky Reserve
If you’re going to head to the River Murray Dark Sky Reserve, then you’ve got to know that the core of the reserve is only accessible by 4WD. There are also no facilities in Swan Reach Conservation Park so you will need to take everything yourself to keep comfortable and safe. And, it should go without saying that you leave no trace behind.
If you’ve got no 4WD to make your way through the Mallee bushland, then fear not because the core is surrounded by a buffer zone where policy controls protect the reserve from light pollution. This area includes Ngaut Ngaut, Brookfield, Ridley and Marne Valley conservation parks.
In other words, there are plenty of stargazing spots in the River Murray Dark Sky Reserve. One of the most popular, though, has to be the Big Bend lookout. You can find it as well as other star viewing locations and astrophotography hotspots on this map.
Head 90 kilometres south to Wirrina Cove on the Fleurieu Peninsula to find stunning night skies filled with innumerable stars. The best bet to make the most of the incredible show would be to head down the plunging hills onto the beach, throw down the picnic blanket and lie down to watch the sunset across the St Vincent Gulf. Then, it’s star time.
If you’re keen on a tour while you’re down at Wirrina Cove, the Backyard Universe has got you covered. Their 90-minute multicultural guided tour will take you on a night-sky journey and include interpretations from non-Western cultures and from southern hemisphere indigenous cultures as well. Find out more here.
Palmer Lookout and Bear Rock
A little closer to the city, the Palmer Lookout throws up spectacular views during the day and keeps them coming at night. The lookout, which Google calls Scenic View Point, offers incredible vistas of the Murray Plains and its giant granite rock landscape that stretches between Tungkillo and Palmer and features Bear Rock.
When night falls and the stars come out to play, the location of the lookout (almost smack-bang in the middle of the two towns) has just a little light pollution and as you can see in the Instagram post above is peppered with stars, the magnificent Milky Way and other celestial wonders. Not bad for a place just an hour’s drive from the CDB.
Mallala / Grace Plains
To the north of Adelaide, keen stargazers who aren’t afraid of feeling like they’re out in the middle of nowhere can find pretty great dark sky conditions north of Mallala and towards Grace Plains. Out that way you’ll come across South Australia’s historical home of motorsport, the Mallala Motorsport Park, as well as a couple of cemeteries that would add a spooky sense to any astrophotos.
Parham / Windsor / Dublin
Nearby and a little closer to the seaside, the area between Dublin, Parham and Windsor is also a choice selection for stargazing in Adelaide. The towns, obviously, shed some light but move away and you can easily find a quiet spot. You’re only a 45-minute drive from the city as well which makes it even more of an enviable location if you don’t mind roughing it a little.
However, the area is also home to the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park – Winaityinaityi Pangkara, which is open 24 hours and free to visit. Winaityinaityi Pangkara means ‘a country for all birds and the country that surrounds these birds’ in the language of the Kaurna people and makes complete sense when you know that some birds fly from as far away as Siberia and Alaska to feed and roost.
Mount Observation / Tooperang
Heading back south of Adelaide again, but this time a little closer to home than Wirrina, land around Mount Observation and Tooperang is another great option for Adelaide stargazing. There are plenty of dark skies overhead and it’s only about 70 kilometres from the city. The Astronomical Society of South Australia also set up shop in Tooperang every so often, but more on that below.
The Astronomical Society of South Australia
The stars have fascinated humans for millennia and the Astronomical Society of South Australia is keeping the fascination alive with Public Viewing Nights. Visitors are able to look through the telescopes of the members at the public viewing nights held at The Heights Observatory (generally once per month) as well as at other locations like Tooperang and Stockport throughout the year. A small admission fee is charged to help cover the costs of the nights.
The group also holds public star parties, which we love the sound of, at their main site—the Stockport Observatory in February, May, August and November.