Inland Astro-Tour

The Inland Astro-Tour is Big Skies Collaboration’s astro-tourism, cultural heritage, STEAM outreach (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), and restorative development initiative to link, share, promote, and conserve sites of astronomical significance in southeastern Australia’s rural and remote inland.

A very amateur representation of the revised Inland Astro-Tour which takes travelers on an epic journey into southeastern Australia’s rural and remote Inland, from one Stargate to the next, to experience this country’s astonishing astronomical heritage. Rough graphic by non-designer Merrill Findlay, August 2020.

January 2022: Latest interactive map of our IAT routes

Please note: This is a draft only map. The sites shown are not necessarily placed in their accurate street addresses, and there are still many space industry, dark sky and astro-sites not yet included. Please tell us about sites you’d like added or deleted to the draft map.

As you might have noticed, we’ve invented, just for fun, a new label – astro-gastronomy – for astro-tourism and foodie sites where you can wine and dine under the stars. A good example is the Barossa Valley in South Australia. We’ve also included mining sites, because all the elements were created in stars (see Fifield or Cobar, for example); a few massacre sites where knowledge holders were killed, tragedies which contributed to the loss of astronomical knowledge in many First Nations communities; as well as many other First Nations sites where we can celebrate our country’s ancient astronomical heritage dating back at least 65,000 years; and some unique astro-arts sites, such as the Cobar Sound Chapel.

Read our founding vision here >>


January 2022: The IAT Concept Paper – Dr Merrill Findlay, who introduced the IAT concept way back in 2016, plans to present a new concept paper at the National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) over the 2022 Easter long weekend.

February 2020: Destination Network Country and Outback, one of six networks responsible for supporting the NSW tourism industry on behalf of the State Government, released its Night Skies Experience Concept Plan in February 2020 to introduce astro-tourism to tourism operators and to guide the development of night skies experiences throughout inland NSW.

January 2020: Read Stuart Pearson’s article, The Sky’s the Limit With Astro-Tourism (Western Advocate, 2 January 2020), on what the eclipse in July 2028 could mean for Inland communities along its path  >>

About the Inland Astro-Tour initiative

The Inland Astro-Tour concept was first mooted at an event co-hosted by the Big Skies Collaboration‘s Skywriters Project in 2017. In brief, we want to develop an astro-tourism trail linking all the astronomical sites in southeastern Australia from CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) near Narrabri, in north-western New South Wales, to Mt Stromlo Observatory in the Australian Capital Territory. We’ve named this region the 700 Kilometre Array (700KA). And, after we’ve established the IAT in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, we want to extend it south into Victoria and South Australia and north into Queensland.

Why? Because we believe that our astonishingly dark Inland night sky, and the 60,000 or more years of astro-cultural heritage associated with it, need to be more fully recognised and celebrated by Australians and by stargazers from all over the world! We want people to be inspired by our big inland sky and to explore it in new and thrilling ways. And we want tens of thousands of visitors to experience the full glory of our sky and its unique cultural heritage, as told by the Inland’s own storytellers. We also want these visitors to contribute to the social, economic and cultural development of the Inland’s rural and remote communities to ensure their future.

Our Inland Astro-Tour (IAT), as initially conceived, includes CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory and the Australia Telescope Compact Array near Narrabri, and ANU’s Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, the upgraded Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST) or UTMOST near Bungendore, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, ANU’s Mount Stromlo Observatory and the old tracking station sites in the Australian Capital Territory.

The IAT also includes many of the private observatories within the 700KA region, such as Millroy Observatory operated by astronomer Donna Burton at Coonabarabran, Peter Starr’s Dubbo Observatory and Warrumbungle Observatory, Ray Pickard’s Bathurst Observatory Research Facility, Les Dalrymple’s new observatory near Billimari, and the Tamworth Regional Astronomy Club‘s facilities, for example. Plus astro-heritage sites where Wiradjuri and Gomeroi astronomers have observed the stars for millennia, and many other sites were migrants and their descendants have been observing our southern sky since the early nineteenth century.

Big Skies Collaboration’s Skywriters Project took the first steps towards making the Inland Astro-Tour routes a reality in 2017 by establishing a not-for-profit organisation, Inland Astro-Trail Incorporated. We held our first IAT Symposium and AGM in February 2019.

Credits for featured image at top of page
Detail of a mural in the corridor of Weddin Shire Council’s Community Hub, in Grenfell, New South Wales, featuring a quotation from the first stanza of Henry Lawson‘s 1888 ballad, ‘A May Night On The Mountains’. Lawson was born in Grenfell in 1867. Photo by Merrill Findlay.

Page established 27 July 2017. Last revised 4 February 2022.

[On 4 May 2020 the term Astro-Trail was changed to Astro-Tour to better reflect the aspirations of contemporary travellers, most of whom visit the inland by road.]