The winter solstice on June 21st marked the beginning of the astronomical winter for the southern hemisphere and as winter and spring are the best seasons for viewing the Milky Way and other constellations, there couldn’t be a better time to check out Perth’s night sky. Plus, the novelty of looking through a telescope never gets old! So, if you’re feeling adventurous and fancy a weekend out of the city, book in for an Astro tour. Or, alternatively, pop into one of Perth’s space museums for the day to check out the telescopes and exhibits on display.
Perth Observatory, Bickley
The Perth Observatory is WA’s oldest observatory and has been serving WA for over 120 years. Notably, it is home to both the first digital camera ever built in WA and the first Star Atlas ever printed, the Atlas Coelestis. Printed in 1729, the atlas pre-dates Cook’s exploration of Australia’s east coast and is one of only 10 left in the world. Its pages are on display in a glass cabinet, allowing you to appreciate the detail close up.
From June to August, the Observatory holds winter night tours complete with cosmic sights that are best seen during the winter season. Following an exploration of the stars, the night always ends with a hot chocolate, so bring the kids along and make it a hilltop experience you both remember. Running each weekend, the tour begins at 7.30 pm and is priced at $35 for adults, $25 for concession and $20 for children. You can make a booking on their website.
On the first Sunday of each month, the Observatory also offers guided day tours. Get up close to the historical telescopes, walk the grounds, and learn about the site’s amazing history. The tours run from 2 pm – 4 pm.
The Museum is open from 10 am – 4.30 pm Mondays through Fridays, with entry by gold coin donation.
Location: 337 Walnut Rd, Bickley.
Phone: 9293 8255
Gingin Observatory & Gravity Centre
Boasting a fully retractable roof and state of the art telescopes, Gingin Observatory & Gravity Centre is best known for the famous Zadko telescope, a 1m telescope that scans the sky for potentially hazardous asteroids.
Join in on one of the observatory’s Aboriginal Astronomy sessions where you can sit with Indigenous elder, Dr. Noel Nannup. He talks you through the dark Western sky while teaching about Aboriginal dream time and creation stories. The session concludes with a look through the telescopes at the Observatory!
If you’re looking for something to do with the kids, take them along the Solar System Walk, a 1km scale model of the Solar System. You’ll begin at the sun and end at Pluto, following a track of model planets located at the correctly scaled distances. It’s both an enjoyable and educational experience.
Alternatively, public night tours and visits of the site are open every Friday & Saturday from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm and bookings are essential. Make your booking online or by calling 9575 7577.
You also have the opportunity to marvel at the Leaning Tower of Gingin. Standing as a 45m tall steel structure and leaning at an angle of 15 degrees, visitors can brave the thrilling climb of 222 steps, providing a stunning view across the Wallingup Plains all the way to the Darling Scarp.
Discovery Centre opening hours: Tuesday to Thursday & Sunday 10 am – 4 pm.
Visit their website here.
Location: 1098 Military Rd, Yeal WA.
Swan Valley and Chittering Valley stargazing dinner tour – GPS Adventure Tours
For something a little different, book in for one of GPS Adventure Tours’ stargazing dinner tours. Running for half the day in the Swan Valley and Chittering, the guided tour features the latest astronomy equipment, complete with Astro Binoculars and a powerful computerized telescope.
Beginning in the Swan Valley, you’ll sample produce from local providores including Whistlers Chocolate Factory and boutique winery, Coward & Black. Heading into Chittering Valley, you’ll then enjoy a guided walk at Blackboy Ridge. The final destination is the heritage-listed Enderslea Farm, an early settlers farm established in 1853. Here, you’ll dine under the stars with a barbecue dinner, local WA wine, and dessert. In the cooler months, there’s even a fire pit for you to toast marshmallows!
The tour guide provides in-depth knowledge of WA’s flora and fauna, and you can expect to learn all about the night sky from the perspective of different cultures, including Aboriginal Dreamtime stories.
Both tours sell out regularly so make sure you book well in advance.
XO Perth Private Tours
A family business with 10 years of local experience, XO Perth Private Tours is the ideal option for something a little more personal and tours such as the popular stargazing tour to the Pinnacles are especially popular with families.
On the 11.5 hour tour, you’ll be transported in a minibus from Perth to Cervantes with expert advice from local guides who provide commentary along the way. Complimentary tea, coffee, snacks, and bottled water are provided.
First up is a stop to Gingin with lunch at a locals’ favourite café overlooking Granville Park. Then, you’ll head to Lancelin for some sandboarding and views of the Indian Ocean coastline. When you reach the Pinnacles, you have the opportunity to wander the limestone pillars before enjoying a freshly prepared dinner, made with local produce. To round off the night, you’ll enjoy mesmerising views of the stars in the clear night sky.
Group prices for 1-8 people range from $865 – $1130 per group.
Pick up times:
- 10 am during May, Jun, July
- 10.30 am during Apr, Aug, Sep
- 11 am during Mar, Oct
- 11.30 am during Feb, Nov
- 12 pm during Jan, Dec
Scitech’s Planetarium offers an immersive journey into space through an expert-led show in their interactive dome theatre, an 18m 180-degree dome with surround sound and digital projection. Notably, it’s the largest in the southern hemisphere! Whether it be exploring the solar system, flying through the rings of Saturn, or learning about the patterns in the stars, it’s a great one for kids and parents alike.
Additionally, there are also special shows which change regularly and feature a range of astronomy topics. You can check out the daily schedule or upcoming shows on their website: https://www.scitech.org.au/experience/planetarium/
Opening hours: 10 am – 4 pm.
Location: City West Centre, Corner Railway St & Sutherland St, West Perth.
Carnarvon Space & Technology Museum
If you happen to be holidaying up on the Coral Coast, spend a half-day at the Carnarvon Space & Technology Museum.
Built to celebrate the role Carnarvon played in the manned space program, the museum is divided into two parts. The first of these is the Carnarvon Tracking Station, the last station to communicate with the space capsules leaving the earth orbit. Located 10km from Carnarvon, the station was originally built to support NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs.
The second part is the OTC Satellite Earth Station, the current museum site. Opening in 1966, it was initially constructed with a 12.8m wide Casshorn antenna. On the day of Apollo 11, this is the antenna that relayed Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon to Perth’s TV audience. It was the first live telecast into WA.
The Museum conducts informative tours, teaching kids through to adults about Carnarvon’s significance. Pricing is $15 for adults, $10 for pensioners, $8 for students (6 – 18) and children under 6 are free.
For more information see the website here.
Opening hours: April – September 9 am – 4 pm, October – March 10 am – 2 pm.
Mahoney Avenue, Carnarvon WA.
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