Join leading Australian astronomer, guide, and author Fred Watson on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Australia. You'll visit top observatories like Siding Spring and Parkes, home of "The Dish," a 64-meter radio telescope made famous by the 2000 movie of the same name. You'll tour historic parts of Sydney, hike in the stunning Blue Mountains, enjoy wine-tasting in Mudgee, and stargaze in the incredible dark southern skies of Southeast Australia, among many other activities.

Our travel partner for this tour is Sydney-based Dark Sky Traveller (formerly known as Travel Ogg), which specializes in running astronomy-themed tours but has wide experience orchestrating general tours worldwide. Its owner, Marnie Ogg, veteran of travel to over 75 countries, will be in day-to-day charge of our tour. Note there are two exciting optional extensions: a pre-extension to the Great Barrier Reef and a post-extension to Uluru, or Ayers Rock.

Below, you will find:

Itinerary for 8-night/9-day Australian Observatories Tour

Itinerary for 3-night/4-day pre-extension to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Itinerary for 2-night/3-day post-extension to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the Great Australian Desert

Payments & Terms

Register for the tour now!

Sunset over Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge / Destination NSW


Date Itinerary at a Glance Accommodation Meals
Tuesday, October 1 Sydney InterContinental Sydney D
Wednesday, October 2 Sydney & Northern Beaches InterContinental Sydney B, L
Thursday, October 3 Katoomba & the Blue Mountains Heritage Hotel Katoomba B, D
Friday, October 4 Mudgee & Siding Spring Astronomers Lodge B, L, D
Saturday, October 5 Siding Spring & Pilliga Reserve Astronomers Lodge B, L, D
Sunday, October 6 Parkes Observatory ("The Dish") Station Motel B, D
Monday, October 7 Canowindra & Canberra Crown Plaza Canberra B
Tuesday, October 8 Tidbinbilla & Stromlo Crown Plaza Canberra B, D
Wednesday, October 9 Departure from Canberra Home or Post-Extension B

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 — Sydney

Welcome to Sydney! Flying into this beautiful city is a spectacle in itself. Make sure to ask for a window seat and take in the harbor views as you land. On being met at Sydney Airport from your early-morning flight from Los Angeles, you will be transferred to the InterContinental Hotel Sydney. (Early hotel check-in prepaid)

The Rocks waterfront, Sydney / Tourism Australia

This area, opposite the Royal Botanical Gardens, Conservatorium of Music, and Sydney Opera House, is one of the most beautiful in the Central Business District. Later this afternoon you will meet up with your guide for a walking tour of this area featuring the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and Royal Botanical Gardens. The day ends with dinner in a local restaurant. (D)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 — Sydney and Northern Beaches

Today we will explore the Northern Beaches of Sydney. The beaches are famous for their golden sand surrounded by National Parks. We’ll take the opportunity to explore some of the bush land, becoming aware of the native flora and fauna in the area. A seafood lunch is included at Palm Beach, home to the rich and famous, before returning to Sydney via the Manly Ferry. This 30-minute journey from Manly Cove to Circular Quay takes you through the Heads and past Sydney’s inner harbor beaches.

In-camera double exposure of the 2016 supermoon rising over Sydney Harbor, November 14, 2016 / Destination NSW

This evening we meet up and head to the highest point in Sydney. Perched on the top of this peninsula, Sydney Observatory has sat predicting the weather, observing the stars, and keeping time for over 150 years. We’ll do an evening tour of this 1859 building and, if the weather is good, some stargazing too, after which we return to the Intercontinental Hotel Sydney for the night. (B,L)

Thursday, October 3, 2019 — Katoomba and the Blue Mountains

No visit to Australia is complete without seeing the dramatic sandstone scenery of the Blue Mountains, home of Australia’s first nation’s people, the Darug. We’ll visit the famous “Three Sisters” at Echo Point in Katoomba, an area renowned for its steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls, and villages dotted with guesthouses, galleries, and gardens.

Blue Mountains, Australia / Winton Gibson

Included in our day’s activities is a walk in this pristine wilderness area to Pulpit Rock, a lesser-known photographer’s delight. We overnight at the Heritage Hotel Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, getting a feel for the old way of life in this rural mountain region, with dinner at a local restaurant included. (B,D)

Friday, October 4, 2019 — Mudgee and Siding Spring Observatory

We head north today with the destination of Siding Spring Observatory, our resting place for the next two nights. En route we’ll stop in Mudgee for some wine-tasting and lunch overlooking the valley. The area is renowned for its quality red wines: shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. We’ll continue on to Australia’s largest optical telescope facility, home of the recently designated Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park. In 1971, Prince Charles declared the Australian Astronomical Telescope (AAT) opened. Since then, this multi-telescope site has featured in many papers on astronomical discoveries.

Siding Spring Observatory in southeast Australia / Winton Gibson

You’ll have the exclusive right to stay in the Astronomers Lodge, within the grounds of the facility. Join together for a special dinner under the stars with Fred Watson. Fred was the Astronomer in Charge of the Australian Astronomical Observatory for over 20 years, and he has forged a reputation as a popular science communicator through national radio and television appearances as well as through his books. (B,L,D)

Saturday, October 5, 2019 — Mudgee and Siding Spring Observatory

Breakfast is included this morning in the Astronomers Lodge before you meet again with Fred Watson, who will conduct a site tour around Siding Spring Observatory. Together we’ll explore the 23 telescopes on the mountain and learn what amazing science is taking place here.

This afternoon we’ll head to Sandstone Caves in the Pilliga Reserve for a ranger-led tour. This 1.5-km trail follows in the footsteps of the Gamilaroi people along the short Sandstone Caves walking track in Pilliga Nature Reserve. Pass through scenic forest to the impressive sandstone hills, with some containing ancient Aboriginal rock engravings. Take some time to read over the interpretive signage for more of an insight into this special place.

Star trails seen from Siding Spring / Bill Garside

We’ll end the day with dinner in a country bush setting at a local potter’s home – Pilliga Pottery. There is an optional tour available to Milroy Observatory, the new home of the original 40-inch telescope from Siding Spring. This new observatory offers public viewing nightly. Tonight we spend our second night in the Astronomers Lodge. (B,L,D)

Sunday, October 6, 2019 — Parkes Radio Observatory ("The Dish")

Leaving Siding Spring, we head south to the home of “The Dish,” the large radio dish in Parkes, famous around the world for the movie of the same name. An icon of Australian science, the Parkes radio telescope has been in operation since 1961 and continues to work at the forefront of astronomical discovery. This includes playing its part in the Breakthrough Listen project.

Parkes Radio Telescope, aka "The Dish," New South Wales / Ian Sutton / Wikimedia Commons

We’ll do a behind-the-scenes tour with radio astronomer Dr. John Sarkissian, then enjoy lunch and some time in the Parkes gift shop. Parkes is also famous for the Elvis Festival that takes place every January (yes, that Elvis). We stay overnight in the country town at the Station Motel. (B,D)

Monday, October 7, 2019 —  Canowindra and Canberra

Today we head to the Australian capital city of Canberra via Canowindra (pronounced Ka-NOUN-dra). This small town offers a fabulous museum of fish fossils, giving a unique glimpse into life during the Devonian Period — the “Age of Fishes.”

National Gallery at dusk, Canberra / Thennicke / Wikimedia Commons

We’ll arrive into Canberra with time to visit the National Gallery before reaching our centrally located hotel, a short walk to several great restaurants in the CBD. Our hotel is the Crown Plaza Canberra. (B)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019 —  Tidbinbilla and Mount Stromlo Observatory

The NASA-run Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex will be our first stop for the day. Located in Tidbinbilla, it is famous for the part it played in the Moon landing 50 years ago. We’ll tour around the telescopes, meet with Outreach Manager Glen Nagle, and understand the role this southern telescope plays in current exploration. From here, we head on to Molonglo Radio Telescope for a quick visit and a picnic lunch.

The heart of the Milky Way, as seen from Siding Spring Observatory / Winton Gibson

We finish the day with a tour of Mount Stromlo, which was damaged by bushfires in 2003. The shell still remains and is popular with photographers. We’ll investigate the site’s history, from its use as a World War II optical munitions factory to the observatory’s post-2003 recovery. We’ll finish with dinner on this astronomical site, with some stargazing, then return to the Crown Plaza Canberra for the night. (B,D)

Wednesday, October 9, 2019 —  Depart

Your Australian Observatories tour ends after breakfast. Transfer with the coach returning to Sydney or travel onto Uluru to experience the magnificent Australian Desert. (B)


8-Night/9-Day Australian Stargazing Safari Tour Includes:

  • Air-conditioned coach transport
  • Accommodation as stated in the above itinerary (4-star)
  • Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D) as stated
  • Entry to observatories and all activities
  • Siding Spring Observatory tour with astronomer Fred Watson
  • Tour Manager
  • Set of tour documents

8-Night/9-Day Australian Stargazing Safari Tour Does Not Include:

  • International flights or regional scheduled flights not part of tour and/or extension(s)
  • Passports and cost of same
  • Meals not noted in the itinerary
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Anything not mentioned in "Includes" list above


Ribbon Reefs on the Great Barrier Reef / Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree

Saturday, September 28, 2019 — Cairns

Flying in to the northern city of Cairns today, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in Palm Cove. This quaint coastal village, 25 kilometers north of Cairns, is popular with travellers looking for a relaxing natural environment. Buildings have been restricted to the height of the paperbark trees, a member of the melaleuca family that Captain Cook noted in his diaries as he cruised along the coastline. From your seaside resort, you can walk along the beach or to several restaurants. You will have 3 nights at Palm Cove – Reef House.

Sunday, September 29, 2019 — Kuranda Railway

Cairns has a long history of sugar cane farming, and the Kuranda Railway is a tranquil way to journey through both the history and agricultural land. The town of Kuranda was first settled in 1885 and surveyed by Thomas Behan in 1888 in anticipation of development that would accompany the arrival of the railway. Kuranda Station is one of the earliest stations to be built in Australia. We’ll travel from Cairns by rail and return from the scenic mountaintop by cable car.

Kuranda Scenic Railway / Tourism Australia

We return to Palm Cove in the afternoon, with a special dinner and stargazing organized at Thala Beach Resort overlooking the stunning Daintree Rainforest coastline. (B,D)

Monday, September 30, 2019 — Great Barrier Reef

No trip to Australia is complete without a visit to the Great Barrier Reef – one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Journeying out to sea with Reef Magic Cruises, we depart from Cairns to the Outer Great Barrier Reef, spending 5 hours at the Marine World Pontoon. Suitable for all age groups and swimming abilities, activities include snorkeling, a marine biologist presentation, a fish feeding demonstration, semi-submersible and glass-bottom boat tours, visiting an underwater observatory, or simply relaxing on a sun-lounge. Optional activities, available at additional expense, include biologist-guided snorkel tours, an advanced marine snorkel safari, and scenic helicopter flights. The day includes morning and afternoon tea plus a hot and cold buffet lunch. Travel back to Palm Cove for a shower and refresh before dinner on your own in any of the many local restaurants. (B,L)

Challenger Bay Drift at Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef / Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 — Depart for Start of Main Tour

Transferring from Palm Cove after breakfast this morning, you will be assisted with your flights (not included) to Sydney to meet the Australia Observatories Tour. (B)

3-Night/4-Day Pre-Extension (Cairns & Great Barrier Reef) Includes:

  • Air-conditioned coach transport
  • Accommodation as stated (4-star)
  • Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D) as stated
  • Kuranda Rail and Cable Car experience
  • Great Barrier Reef Cruise
  • Stargazing dinner at Tharla Beach
  • Tour Manager
  • Set of tour documents

3-Night/4-Day Pre-Extension (Cairns & Great Barrier Reef) Does Not Include:

  • International flights or regional scheduled flights not part of tour and/or extension(s)
  • Passports and cost of same
  • Meals not noted in the itinerary
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Anything not mentioned in “Includes” list above


Wednesday, October 9, 2019 — Sydney to Uluru

Leaving Sydney behind this morning, we board our 3.5-hour flight (not included) to Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock. Crossing half of this large continent, we will experience the red sands and vastness of the dry land out our plane windows.

Creating traditional Aboriginal art in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park / Tourism Australia

Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s arid “Red Centre.” The nearest large town is Alice Springs, 450 km away. Sacred to indigenous Australians, Uluru is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago. It lies within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which also includes the 36 red-rock domes of the Kata Tjuta (colloquially “The Olgas”) formation. Arriving into Uluru, we will be met and transferred to Sails in the Desert, where you will spend two nights.

Sunset is a magical time of the day in the outback, and we’ll venture out this afternoon on camel for a truly unique experience. Ideally suited to the hot, dry climate of Australia’s interior, camels were imported in the 19th century and remained the principal means of outback transport until railways and roads were established. Today there are an estimated 200,000 one-humped, dromedary-type camels in the wild. Only a few are still used by humans, mostly for touring the desert. Dinner is included at the hotel when we return. (B,D)

Thursday, October 10, 2019 — Uluru and Kata Juta

Starting early this morning we venture to the base of Uluru for an awakenings tour of the land. Experience the tranquility of your pre-dawn surroundings under a canopy of stars. Watch the amazing transformation of colors and life as the desert awakens. The tour is designed to introduce you to the natural and cultural landscapes of this remarkable region.

In the Australian Outback / Tourism Australia

After lunch we’ll make our way out to Kata Juta (the Olgas). Meaning “many heads,” Kata Juta is sacred to the local Aboriginal Anangu people, who have inhabited the area for more than 22,000 years. Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park is Aboriginal land and jointly managed by its Anangu traditional owners and Parks Australia. The park is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Area for both its natural and cultural values.

We end the day with a regional highlight: the award-winning Sounds of Silence Dinner. It will leave a lasting memory of your Australian outback experience. (B,D)

Friday, October 11, 2019 — Depart

The morning is yours to sleep in, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, or take one last tour of the region. Flights (not included) traveling through to Los Angeles leave after lunch. (B)

2-Night/3-Day Post-Extension (Uluru & Great Australian Desert) Includes:

  • Fred Watson as special tour host
  • Air-conditioned coach transport
  • Accommodation as stated (4-star)
  • Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D) as stated
  • Sunrise and sunset tours of Uluru
  • Kata Juta Tour
  • Sounds of Silence Dinner
  • Tour Manager
  • Set of tour documents

2-Night/3-Day Post-Extension (Uluru & Great Australian Desert) Does Not Include:

  • International flights or regional scheduled flights not part of tour and/or extension(s)
  • Passports and cost of same
  • Meals not noted in the itinerary
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Anything not mentioned in “Includes” list above


Pricing (per person, in USD) Double Single
Australian Observatories Main Tour $5,495 $7,230
Cairns & Great Barrier Reef Pre-Extension $1,995 $2,340
Uluru & Great Australian Desert Post-Extension $2,095 $2,565


An advance, non-refundable payment of US$500 per person, along with the completed reservation form for each traveler, are required to secure your reservation. See link below to Reservation & Payment Form.

Final payment is due by July 1, 2019. Any reservations made after July 1, 2019, may be accepted provided space is available and payment in full is received.

Cancellations must be made by email to Marnie Ogg at A reply acknowledging receipt of the cancellation email must be received back by cancelling clients for the cancellation to be valid.

All advanced payments, less a US$500 per person service fee, are 100% refundable until July 1, 2019. There are no refunds after July 1, 2019.

All clients are required to read and sign two documents: Terms & Conditions, and Release of Liability & Assumption of Risk. You will find these on the Reservation & Payment Form (see link below).


Email Marnie Ogg at


Important: When you click the link below, you will be taken to the secure Registration page for this tour on the Dark Sky Traveller (formerly Travel Ogg) website. The site will ask you to choose a single supplement (1 person 1 room), Twin (2 people in 2 beds), or Double (2 people in 1 bed). Please choose the total number of people you are booking. Also, you will book any extensions you'd like to join through this Registration page. Finally, because of the way the booking system works, you may see $0 listed in several places. Don't worry: the exact prices (listed above) will appear on the invoice Dark Sky Traveller (formerly Travel Ogg) will send you after you register.


Register here for the pre-tour extension to the Great Barrier Reef.

Register here for the post-tour extension to Uluru.