Murchison brilliant starry night skies and ancient rock formations will captivate your every sense. The night sky and land have a connection like nowhere else on Earth. Time stands still and you can feel the ancient wisdom of the world’s first astronomers, Aboriginal people.
Each location along the Rock Stars Trail has outstanding dark sky tourism places with 14 sites identified with Sky Quality Meter (SQM) readings above 21 magnitudes per square arcsecond*. Each town and shire also has a range of unique sites to visit during the day, many of these along the Murchison GeoRegion trail.
Begin your outback adventure in Paynes Find. It’s a very small place with the darkest of night skies. There’s camping overnight to give you time to explore the Gold Battery and Museum and set up your telescope for an evening of stargazing..
Overnight: Paynes Find
Days 2-3: Paynes Find to Mount Magnet (150 kms/1.5 hours)
Rocks and stars unite at The Granites only 7kms north of Mount Magnet. It’s a special geo place to explore during the day and then bring out your camera for astrophotography at night. There’s so much to explore in and around Mount Magnet. Call into the Mount Magnet Mining and Pastoral Museum. It’s right next to the Visitor Centre where you can pick up handy geo maps, so you don’t miss a thing.
Mount Magnet Dark Sky Tourism Locations
- The Granites: SQM 21.12 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 17th September 2022 at 12.03am.
- Mount Magnet Town Common (near Cemetery Road): SQM 21.08 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 16th September 2022 at 11.45pm.
Overnight: Mount Magnet
Day 4: Mount Magnet to Sandstone (155 kms/2 hours)
It’s time to drive east to the historic town of Sandstone. An evening visit to the famous London Bridge is a must! The natural rock formation makes a spectacular setting for an astro image. Call into the Heritage Museum and Visitor Centre to pick up maps for short self-drive trails around town. Visitor Centre staff will also be able to tell you if the local Sandstone Observatory is running public stargazing nights while you’re in town.
Sandstone Dark Sky Tourism Locations
- Sandstone Observatory: SQM 21.36 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 21st September 2022 at 9.00pm.
- London Bridge: SQM 21.50 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 21st September 2022 at 8.39pm.
Rocks and stars create an amazing experience in the Murchison.
Travel via Leinster to reach Wiluna. Here, you’ll be crossing over the Goldfields region before keeping on track in the Murchison. You could stop in for lunch to break the journey and when you arrive in Wiluna, drop into the Wiluna Shire Office to gather all you need to know about this town on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert where the Canning Stock Route and Gunbarrel Highway begin.
A must see in town is the stunning Tjurkurba Art Gallery and the Canning-Gunbarrel Discovery Centre. Meet local Martu artists, purchase some Aboriginal art and discover the moving story of Warri and Yatungka, the last of the nomads. This beautiful couple are represented in a beautiful statue in town which is inspirational to see under the stars. Make sure you take your camera for some astrophotography at the statue.
Wiluna Dark Sky Tourism Locations
- Warri and Yatungka Statues: SQM 21.22 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 20th September 2022 at 8.57pm.
- Wiluna Cemetery: SQM 21.37 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 20th September 2022 at 9.11pm.
Overnight: Prior to arrival, call the Shire of Wiluna to assess accommodation options.
The nights at Peace Gorge, only a 5 minute drive from Meekatharra, are amazing! So much geological history and brilliant night skies where you can see the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. If you have a camera, you will be spoilt by all the different rocks to compose wonderful nightscape images.
By day, explore the Meekatharra Museum and head out on the drive and walk trails in the area.
Meekatharra Dark Sky Tourism Locations
- Peace Gorge: SQM 21.17 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 19th September 2022 at 8.57pm.
- Meekatharra Race Club: SQM 21.28 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 19th September 2022 at 8.29pm.
Overnight: Meekatharra. Self-contained camping at Peace Gorge.
Before getting on the road, drop into the aptly named Mama Moon’s Bakery for a Meekatharra breakfast. Then it’s south to the incredibly beautiful town of Cue. The Cue District Visitor Centre will arm you with maps and brochures. Delight in the gorgeous gift shop for souvenirs of your trip. The historic buildings that line Cue’s main street will amaze you. It has become a great film set these days.
Travelling around Cue, you’ll find the ghost town of Big Bell and the largest gallery of Aboriginal rock paintings in Western Australia at Walga Rock. Night time photo opportunities with the starry night sky are plentiful. The Old Hospital Ruins make a great scene under the Milky Way as does the Masonic Lodge! A little bit further from town at the disused Rifle Range, there are some stunning rocky breakaways that look magnificent in astro images. This spot makes a great place for an evening picnic dinner followed by stargazing.
Cue Dark Sky Tourism Locations
- Breakaways Rifle Range: SQM 21.32 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 18th September 2022 at 8.18pm.
- Garden Granites: An SQM was not possible due to cloud cover.
The Milky Way rises above breakaway country in the Murchison.
Days 11-12: Cue to Yalgoo (195 kms/2 hours)
Stay the next night or two in Yalgoo where there are fantastic landscapes for astrophotography. St Hyacynth Church makes a great target for an astrophotographer. Ask for the key at the Shire of Yalgoo office so that you can be behind the fence for your shot. The other amazing places for astrophotography are at the old railway water tank and the stunning Aboriginal sculptures at the northern entrance to town.
During your stay in Yalgoo, you’ll have time to visit Jokers Tunnel, Dalgaranga Crater and do some stargazing at the Yalgoo Racecourse where you’ll find some darkness close to town.
Yalgoo Dark Sky Tourism Locations
- Railway Water Tank: SQM 21.21 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 14th September 2022 at 7.49pm.
- Aboriginal Statues (Yalgoo North Road town entrance): SQM 21.31 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 14th September 2022 at 8.20pm.
Days 13-14: Yalgoo to Murchison Settlement (330 kms/4 hours)
What a great way to end a trip to the magical Murchison! The Murchison Settlement is an oasis to behold with great rangelands to explore. Pick up a local map, visit the Murchison Museum and drive out to Errabiddy Bluff. It’s spectacular and if you stay after sunset, billions of stars come out to play. If there’s a crescent Moon, use the natural light to illuminate Errabiddy for a terrific night image.
Murchison Settlement Dark Sky Tourism Locations
- Errabiddy Bluff: SQM 21.39 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 13th September 2022 at 8.33pm.
- Oasis Caravan Park: SQM 21.53 magnitude per arcsecond2 recorded on 10th October 2022 at 9.43pm.
Overnight: Murchison Settlement or Wooleen Station Stay
Driving from Perth? Explore some other wonderful dark sky destinations along the way. Another itinerary to explore on the way to the Murchison is Wildflower, Wild Stars. After the Murchison, continue your road trip north on the Starry Coast to Outback Adventure.
For additional information about the locations on the itinerary, check out the following useful link www.astrotourismwa.com.au. You can also find more about the Murchison Geo Region at www.murchisongeoregion.com.
Driving times and distances are intended as a guide only and may vary depending on exact route taken. Accommodation options are indicative as to what is available in the area.
WHERE ARE WA’S POPULAR STARGAZING DESTINATIONS?
New locations for stargazing and astrophotography are popping up in country WA!