For an amateur astronomer, or just someone casually wanting to look at the night sky, it can be challenging to know where you are welcome or best to do that. Where is dark enough? Where are you allowed to be? Will it cost money to be there? Are you allowed to stay overnight?
I have a series of suggestions which I often share in my astrophotography workshops which I run here in Perth and I thought I would put together a page here with a few of them listed.
If you’d like to learn astrophotography, particularly nightscape photography or deep sky astrophotography, checkout my Astro Photography Australia page.
I own and operate a private dark sky property in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia, under my Astro Observatories Western Australia business. I also use this site for group and one-on-one astrophotography workshops. So, if you would like to have some tuition on your astrophotography, and camp over, you are most welcome to contact me.
My favourite short trip (not overnight) locations for astrophotography and astronomy near Perth
- Lake Leschenaultia is a much closer to home location. Not far out of Perth, this is often a good compromise on travel time vs light pollution for a quick trip only for a few hours one evening. Located in Chidlow it’s only about 35min drive from Midland. You can camp there overnight (there is a fee) with good facilities provided, or you can come after dark, park outside the gates, and walk in (which they have always been accommodating of). If it’s open during the day you can take the family for a evening BBQ and move your car outside the gates before they are locked.
- Mundaring Weir (25min from Midland), like other dams and weirs in the hills of Perth provides some opportunity to be away from light pollution but within reasonable drive of the city. Mundaring Weir is the one I frequent most because I live nearby. It is a compromise between travel distance and light pollution. I like most the opportunities at South Ledge (also called Golden View Lookout) which presents many nightscape opportunities and overlooks the weir to the NE. For other opportunities consider Serpentine Dam, Wellington Dam and others, though I am less familiar with them.
- Shoalwater and Point Peron. While brightly lit by surrounding light pollution to the east (mainland) if your targets are over the ocean to the west, or are targets such as bright conjunctions, then these locations present many great nightscapes opportunities and are easily accessible from anywhere in the Perth metro area.
- The Pinnacles is very popular for astrophotography. Being north of Perth and only a couple of hours drive, the light glow on the southern horizon is quite significant, but there remains much of the night sky which is of good quality. The landforms of The Pinnacles of course provides a good opportunity for nightscapes. Beware though, on a weekend night you are likely to see a lot of visitors to the park, with the expected amount of light. So be prepared to throw away some exposures interrupted by passers by.
- Other locations I am less familiar with but come recommended include: Lake Clifton, Serpentine Dam, Boulder Rock, Woodman Point, Island Point Reserve.
- I specifically do not recommend Mt Dale or Boulder Rock as they have a history of unsocial behaviour.
My favourite overnight astrophotography and astronomy locations relatively near Perth
- Mellenbye Station in the shire of Yalgoo, a little north-east of Morowa is apparently the closest station to Perth. This is approx 4.5hr drive from Midland but if you’re able to do 2-3 nights stay, is absolutely worthwhile. There are many accommodation options from camping to modern onsite self contained units. You can set up your astronomy equipment near your accommodation or drive/walk as short or far as you like away from accommodation/station homestead. Daytime landscape photography opportunities are endless also.
- Dryandra Lions Village (about 2hrs drive south from Midland). While no longer perfectly dark thanks to the Boddington Gold Mine, this location is a fantastic combination of relaxing, environment, walk trails, cycling, practical (but somewhat minimal) accommodation. There are endless nightscape opportunities.
- Kokerbin Rock east of Quairading (about 2.5hr drive from Midland) is a place I know very well, after camping there multiple times every year for many years 2000 – 2015. It’s beautifully dark and has some remnant vegetation and landforms to make the landscape interesting. In recent years camping here has been prohibited at Kokerbin Rock and instead they built a camp site 3 min drive down the road at Knowlin. The camp site its self is perfectly adequate for astrotourism activities but lacks the natural landforms of Kokerbin Rock nearby.
- Lake Ballard is an iconic dark sky location in the goldfields region of Western Australia. This is a long drive from Perth (approx 10 hours). The lake has a recognisable island and well known sculptures, all of which make for fantastic nightscape opportunities. If looking purely for dark skies to use a telescope you do not need to travel this far for equally dark skies, as even at Lake Ballard there is some light visible from mine sites.
- Karalee Rocks is a reserve along the route from Perth to Kalgoorlie. Maintained by the National Trust there are onsiteablutions and good clear camping spaces among woodland trees. There is plentify opportunity for nightscapes including man made (large steel and wood aqueduct) and natural (rock formations, trees, etc).
- Elachbutting Rock out beyond Mukinbudin is not a short drive (about 5 hours) but is a nice combination of natural rock formation (wave-rock like), remote camping, red dirt and eastern wheatbelt, almost goldfields woodland. The site is very dark and camping is free, but it is BYO everything.
- Other locations I am less familiar with but come recommended include: Lake Brown, Yorkrakine Rock, Coalseam Conservation Park.
- I specifically do not recommend Wave Rock as it has a caravan park and other settlement along with other types of accommodation immediately at it’s base, which creates light pollution.
Where to get more information and location ideas
The first stop I would recommend for where to stargaze in Western Australia is to check out AstrotourismWA.com.au which has maps and information for subscribed ‘astro tourism localities’. These are shires which have subscribed to support astro tourism and welcome astronomy enthusiasts.