I am a huge fan of Milky Way. I get transformed into a small child when I see stars. The dust in the sky, the shooting stars, and the star trails, everything excites me. I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to live in Australia, where Milky Way is visible almost from everywhere.
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What is Milky Way?
Milky Way is our home and our Solar System resides in Milky Way. The Milky Way is the galaxy in which we live. The term Milky Way is derived from a Greek word that translates to milky circle. According to the Greek mythology, the goddess Hera sprayed milk across the sky.
A galaxy is a collection of stars and all the interstellar components and there are more than 100 million stars in our galaxy.
It is estimated that the Milky Way contains around 100 to 400 billion stars, a warped disc with gas and dust. Did you know that Milky Way is made up of 90% dark matter (that cannot be seen through our naked eyes) and 10% luminous matter (that can be see through our naked eyes)?
How can we see Milky Way if we reside in it?
When the photographers or the astronomers say that they see Milky Way, they are addressing the core of the galaxy. This is the brightest part of our galaxy and is very concentrated that it is visible to the naked eye. From Earth, the Milky Way appears in the shape of a disc as the structure is viewed from within.
Places to see Milky Way in NSW
New South Wales (NSW) has a lot of places that are pollution free and have great visibility of the Milky Way. In this post I have tried to list the 10 places in New South Wales (NSW) where Milky Way can be spotted quite easily.
Warrumbungle National Park
Known as the dream destination for astronomers and star gazers, the Warrumbungle National Park is the darkest place in NSW. Designed as the Dark Sky Park, the national park is a heritage-listed national park in Australia. The region is famous for mountains that are said to be created around 13 to 17 million years ago as a result of volcanic activity. It is located near Coonabarabran in the Orana region of NSW. The distance between Warrumbungles and Sydney is about 550 kilometres.
An interesting fact about the Warrumbungle National Park is that the name ‘Warrumbungle’ is derived from the Kamilaroi language and the word means ‘crooked mountains’.
Directions for reaching Warrumbungle National Park using Google maps.
The Blue Mountains
About 60 kilometres from Sydney, the Blue Mountains offer a great opportunity to capture Milky Way. The Blue Mountains is the rugged mountain region, west of Sydney, and is known for its dramatic cliffs and scenery. Katoomba is the major town in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains is one of the closer options from Sydney to spot Milky Way.
Any part of the Blue Mountains at night is a great spot to view the Milky Way. However, the best place is to view the Milky Way from the heritage-registered Linden Observatory.
Directions for reaching The Blue Mountains using Google maps.
There are many places in NSW where one can camp under the Milky Way. The camp sites in some of the camp grounds have zero pollution and have awesome visibility of the Milky Way.
Mungo Brush and Diamond Head Campground – I have camped in the Mungo Brush and Diamond Head Campgrounds (See the section below, Camping under Milky Way for more details) and I must say that the experiences have truly been one of my most favourite camping memories ever.
- The Mungo Brush Campground is within the Myall Lakes National Park on the north coast of Sydney. Located near Hawks Nest, the Mungo Brush campground is about 230 kilometres from Sydney.
- The Diamond Head Campground is just by the beach and is a very popular camp ground in the Crowdy Bay National park. The campground is around 360 kilometres from Sydney.
Directions for reaching Mungo Brush Campground using Google maps.
Nestled in the Central Coast region of NSW, the distance of the Glenworth valley is about 65 kilometres from Sydney. The Glenworth Valley is the gateway to the Hunter Valley region and is one of the outdoor adventure centres with camping and horse riding options. Camp sites have no light pollution and is perfect for seeing the Milky Way.
The closest train station for Glenworth Valley is Gosford. The distance between Gosford and Glenworth Valley is around 23 kilometres and one can catch a taxi to the Glenworth valley which cost about AUD 65 one way.
Directions for reaching Glenworth Valley using Google maps.
Eden is a coastal town located on the Sapphire coast NSW. Famous for its whaling stories and history, the town of Eden has very secluded camping grounds where one can spot the Milky Way easily. About 550 kilometres from Sydney to the south, this is one of the farthest places from Sydney. But the beauty this place offers is something worth traveling for.
Eden is also famous for the light to light coastal walk where one can hike and camp for multiple days.
Directions for reaching Eden using Google maps.
Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse
The Sugarloaf Point lighthouse, also known as the Seals Rock lighthouse, is located on the Sugarloaf point in the Seal Rocks region of NSW. This is an active lighthouse and is operated by the Australian Maritime Society Authority. The Sugarloaf Point is part of the Myall Lakes National Park and is about 280 kilometres from Sydney.
Directions for reaching Sugarloaf Point lighthouse using Google maps.
Bombo Beach, Kiama
The Bombo beach is one of the places to see in Kiama and is about 120 kilometres from Sydney. It is a 1.2 kilometres long beach located between Cathedral Rocks and Pheasant Point.
Kiama is easily accessible by train from Sydney. Also, note the quarry at the Bombo beach is very dangerous as the waves swirl up very high rapidly, so be extremely careful at this point.
Directions for reaching Bombo Beach using Google maps.
The Turimetta beach is the closest option and is at a distance of just 30 kilometres from Sydney. The beach is a very small beach of just 350 metres and is located between Turimetta and Narrabean Head.
Note the Turimetta beach is not a patrolled beach and hence it is dangerous for swimming. As there are no swimmers and the lifeguards, the beach is not crowded and hence can make a perfect spot to see and capture the Milky Way.
Directions for reaching Turimetta beach using Google maps.
The Barrenjoey lighthouse stands at the Palm beach and is about 45 kilometres from Sydney. The lighthouse is accessible through two ways and is a bit of steep hike to reach to the top. Read Hike to Barrenjoey lighthouse for the details.
Directions for reaching Barrenjoey lighthouse using Google maps.
Distance of about 500 kilometres from Sydney, Thredbo is located in the Kosciuszko National Park. It is part of the Snowy mountains, and is a very famous skiing destination in Australia during the winter season. And in summer season, the national park offers the visitors with some breath taking hiking trails. As there is absolutely no light pollution in the national park, the town of Thredbo place makes it best for viewing the Milky Way.
Directions for reaching Thredbo using Google maps.
Best time to view Milky Way
The best time to view the clear skies to see the Milky Way is in winters. And winters in NSW are between the months of May and October.
Look out for the moon. The new moon is the best time to see the clear Milky Way.
I love clicking the Milky Way and I love the shots that my camera, Canon 7D Mark II DSLR, captures. The pictures of the stars and the Milky Way are absolutely stunning. However, there are few settings to keep in mind while clicking the Milky Way:
- The wide angle lens provide the best output.
- Lowest f point – ideally f1.4 to f4.
- ISO – 1600 to 3200.
- Shutter speed – about 15 to 20 seconds.
- And a tripod is a must to get a clear picture of Milky Way and less the moonlight, the better the picture is.
Ensure to try various settings with the above baseline to get the best results as the pictures depend on the lighting and the type of the camera.
Camping under the Milky Way
One of the best things about Australia are the camping grounds across the country. Some of the camping sites are so remote that one can pitch their tents under the Milky Way. These sites are amazing and are spectacularly well placed.
Mungo Brush National Park
The Mungo Brush campground is about 180 kilometres north of Sydney. It is a popular and well-known camping ground with about 75 camping sites and some basic facilities like barbecue tables, non-flush toilets, and picnic tables.
If you are camping in your caravan, the visit Caravan Camping website for best camping equipment solutions.
The camping ground is the perfect camping ground for viewing and camping under the Milky Way. There is absolutely no light pollution. There are some picnic tables that are in the middle of the ground between the two barbecue areas. And this is the perfect place to lie down and watch the beautiful, magical, and magnificent milky way.
The total cost for one night for one site is AUD 16.40. The booking can be made online through the NSW National Parks website. Up to date information on availability and costing can be found on the National Parks website.
The camp site also has abundant wildlife. Beware of the goannas and take care of the food. I saw a huge Goanna around my tent and a few Kookaburras around the ground.
Diamond Head CampGround
The Diamond Head Campground is one of those camping sites where one can see the spectacle called the Milky Way. The Diamond Head Campground is just along the beach and the sites to pitch the tent are a few metres from the beach.
The camping site has basic facilities such as barbecue, well-maintained toilets and showers (no hot water though). The cost for one site for 3 people is AUD 27.75. And the booking can be done using either National Parks NSW or Youcamp website.
The camp ground has zero light pollution and is a great place to see millions of stars and the Milky Way. Beware of the kangaroos during the night as they wander around the camp ground.
We, Australians have truly been blessed with such amazing skyscapes. By just traveling a few hundreds of kilometres from the city, we can find such spectacular spots where we can see the Milky Way.
Did you know that Ayers Rock (Uluru) is another spot to get zero light pollution and to do the star gazing without any disturbance?