In case you weren’t already aware, stargazing as a hobby has (reportedly) seen a spike in interest over the past couple of years. I suppose being stuck in one place with little opportunity to go exploring does make the premise of escaping through astronomy that little bit more attractive… In saying that, it’s certainly not a new trend – especially in the travel industry – with stargazing tours long sitting as a popular option for folks keen to catch a glimpse of the cosmos.
Stargazing in Australia
In Australia, stargazing is a particularly satisfying experience because we get such a rich eyeful (or telescope-full) of celestial delights like the Milky Way, constellations like the Southern Cross or even the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) – if you’re in the right place at the right time.
According to Tourism Australia, in our part of the world “There are 100 times more stars on display than can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere, not to mention meteor showers, dust lanes and nebulae”. So, if you want to see some sparklers up above, you’re in the right place.
And in addition to all that, the cooler months of the year offer an even more promising setting for amateur astronomy. According to Accuweather, winter is generally best for transparency conditions, meaning you’re more likely to get a clear view. It also states that later at night tends to offer better sighting opportunities, and obviously, clouds (and light pollution) need to stay out of the way, too.
As a general rule, however, Tourism Australia states that once you get off-grid, with the right conditions, most parts of the country will offer striking stargazing opportunities for you to drink in.
Checking out the stargazing scene in Bilpin NSW
Riparide, an experience-focused holiday platform, is home to a whole list of properties around Australia that are perfect for getting your stargaze on.
I was given an opportunity to visit one such property in Bilpin, NSW and it was the epitome of a slow escape. When it came to making the most out of a stargazing visit to this part of NSW, however, there were a few lessons I walked away with.
- Download an astronomy app ahead of time: If you’re heading off-grid, chances are you won’t have a great internet connection. Don’t make the same mistake I did and be sure to download any information you may need about sky conditions and what will be visible that night while you still have access to WiFi. My first night was stunning, and I still enjoyed watching all that sky stretch over me, but I had no clue what I was looking for. I ended up downloading an app called Night Sky when I was back in town, but NASA also has an app and there are loads of other options out there.
- Dress (really) warmly: So, I know we mentioned that winter is the best time to go stargazing, but if you’re headed somewhere closer to the mountains or similar, the weather is likely to be a bit frostier than in your inner-city suburb. Pack layers, a blanket to cosy up with and maybe make yourself a spiked hot chocolate to take outside with you, too.
- Bring a torch: Might seem obvious, but if you’re heading outside to look up at the night sky, darker conditions are going to allow for the best visibility up above – so don’t have an accident on the way. I simply hung out on the back verandah when stargazing in Bilpin, but always carried a torch because I am as clumsy as they come.
- Taking photos is going to be tricky: As we’ve covered before, capturing photos of the night sky is particularly tough – especially if you’re trying to do so with your phone. I personally didn’t think it would be worth trying to capture the beauty of the sky on my iPhone, but if you’re a budding astrophotographer, there are cameras designed specifically for this.
Other useful bits from the Bilpin trip
Staying at a Riparide property is pretty nifty in that the website allows you to really easily build your own itinerary based on experiences you may like in the area. It suggested options like the Hawkesbury Lookout, the Grumpy Baker, Hillbilly’s Cider Shed (this was my fave), Bilpin Cider Brewery and Lochiel House to make daylight as enjoyable as the beautiful evenings.
The combination of experiences made for a quick, nature-filled weekend that offered a real reset from the rush of everyday life. I suppose stopping to stare up at the night sky for a little stargazing will do that for you.
This trip was made possible by Riparide.