Inland Astro-Trail

The Inland Astro-Trail is an astro-tourism, cultural heritage, STEAM outreach (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), and sustainable development initiative to link, promote, utilise and conserve sites of astronomical significance in southeastern Australia’s rural inland for the benefit of rural and remote communities.

Read our founding vision here >>

NEWSFLASH: 29 October 2019 Destination Network Country and Outback, one of six networks responsible for supporting the tourism industry on behalf of the NSW State Government, will soon be releasing its Night Skies Experience Masterplan to guide the development of night skies experiences throughout inland NSW. More news soon!

The Inland Astro-Trail concept was first mooted at an event 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 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, within a region we call Southeastern Australia’s 700 Kilometre Array (700KA). And, after we’ve done that, we want to extend the astro-trail into Victoria and 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 proposed Inland Astro-Trail (IAT) would include 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 would also include 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-Trail 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.

Certificate of Incorporation as an Association for Inland Astro-Trail Incorporated, an initiative of the Skywriters Project, Big Skies Collaboration,:

The organisation is currently led by President Donna Burton, an astronomer and astro-tourism operator, Milroy Observatory (Coonabarabran); Vice  President Clr Peter Shinton, Warrumbungle Shire Council (Coonabarabran);  Secretary Tracey Callinan, Executive Director of Arts OutWest (Bathurst); Public Officer Merrill Findlay (Forbes); astronomer and astro-tourism operator Ray Pickard who runs the Bathurst Observatory Research Facility; David Clarkson of Stalker Theatre Company (Sydney); community development practitioner Alexandra Burke (Parkes); and community advocate Gail Lander (Grenfell).

To join IAT Inc. please download a membership form (below) and email it to inlandastrotrail[at]

PDF version IAT Inc Membership Form 2018
Word version IAT Inc Membership Form 2018.


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 7 April 2019.

700KA map last updated January 2018.