Sky & Telescope visits AUSTRALIAN OBSERVATORIES With FRED WATSON / 9 - 17 March 2021

From AUD $7,195.00
  • Duration: 9 Days
  • Location: Canbera
  • Product code: AUST2021

*From USD $4,403.23

  • Duration: 9 Days/8 Nights
  • Location: Canberra to Sydney
  • Product code: AUST2021
  • Fitness Level:   Easy   Modest   Moderate   Active  Difficult

DAY 1 – Tuesday 9 March 2021 - Canberra

Welcome to Australia – and our capital city. After Federation in 1901 and years of debate as to who should host the capital city, the existing farm by the name of Canberra was chosen as it was halfway between the two biggest cities, Melbourne and Sydney. Now home to our political entities, international embassies and best national museums, the city is now the eighth biggest in Australia. After collection from Canberra airport, we’ll commence a city tour with a drive around the key attractions, including, Lake Burley-Griffin, named after the city’s designer, then and install you in the Crowne Plaza, our hotel for two nights.

A welcome dinner, with a talk by your host, Professor Fred Watson, is included in our hotel. Fred was the Astronomer in Charge of the Australian Astronomical Observatory for over twenty years and has forged a reputation with national radio, television and through his book writing, as a popular science communicator. (D)

*Pre-tour accommodation is available on request. We recommend an additional night in Canberra to recover from jetlag.


DAY 2 – Wednesday 10 March 2021 - Canberra

Tidbinbilla is famous for the part it played in the moon Apollo landings 50 years ago. This NASA- run base, Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, will be our first stop for the day. We’ll tour around the facility’s enormous radio telescopes, meet with CDSCC’s Glen Nagle, and understand the role this southern telescope plays in current exploration. From here, we head on to the Honeys Suckle Creek radio-telescope platform, where we have time for a picnic lunch, in the regenerating bush landscape amongst the Kangaroos. We return to our centrally located hotel - a short walk to several great restaurants in the Central Business District.

Later this afternoon, we’ll head to Mount Stromlo Observatory. Damaged by bushfires in 2003, the shell of its largest dome still remains and is popular with photographers. During a short tour of the site, we’ll discover 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 of beautiful southern hemisphere objects, complete with a picnic dinner. (B,D)


DAY 3 – Thursday 11 March 2021 - Parkes

Heading north today (, we travel via Canowindra (pronounced Ka’now’ndra) to our final destination of the Parkes Observatory. This small country town offers a fabulous museum of fish fossils giving a unique glimpse into life during the Devonian Period - the 'Age of Fishes'. Stopping for lunch in the historic gold-mining town of Forbes, before arriving at ‘The Dish’ – the large radio dish in Parkes, (3h 30m by road - 279km /173m), 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 be at the forefront of astronomical discovery with its part in the Breakthrough Listen project. We’ll do a behind the scenes tour with radio astronomer John Sarkissian and then enjoy dinner on site. Parkes is also famous for the Elvis Festival that takes place every January. We stay overnight in the country town. (B,D)

DAY 4 – Friday 12 March 2021 - Siding Spring Observatory

We head north today with the destination of Siding Spring Observatory, Australia’s largest optical telescope facility and our resting place for the next two nights. Mid-afternoon, we’ll reach Australia’s largest optical telescope this world-renowned facility, recently designated, the home of the 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 provided the observations for many astronomical discoveries. 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. Before dinner, your Sky & Telescope host, Peter Tyson, will entertain us with a presentation. (B,L,D)

DAY 5 – Saturday 13 March 2021 - 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 some of the 27 the telescopes on the mountain.

This afternoon we’ll head into the Warrumbungle National Park and, led by a National Park Ranger, learn a little about the volcanic history of the area. The Breadknife, Split Rock and Belougery Spire are all well worth a closer look.

We’ll end the day with dinner in town at the local Chinese restaurant followed by stargazing at Milroy Observatory, the new home of original 40” telescope from Siding Spring. This new observatory offers public viewing nightly. (B, L, D)


DAY 6 – Sunday 14 March 2021 – Blue Mountains

No visit to Australia is complete without seeing the dramatic sandstone scenery of the Blue Mountains, (1h 30 min by road from Sydney - 79km / 49m) home of Australia’s first nation’s people, the Darug. 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 and has been deemed as the 'most liveable' rural town.

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. We stay overnight in the Blue Mountains at the Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains with dinner included. (B,L,D) 


DAY 7 – Monday 15 March 2021 - Sydney

Leaving the Blue Mountains behind, we travel into Sydney and transferred to the InterContinental Hotel Sydney, where we’ll have two days to explore this harbour city. The hotel is opposite the Royal Botanical Gardens, Conservatorium of Music and Sydney Opera House - some of the most beautiful sights in the Central Business District.

After checking in, we’ll explore Sydney’s Colonial history with a walking tour of ‘The Rocks’ in the afternoon. This area was were white man first set foot on Terra Australis, 26 January 1788, claiming the land as British Territory. Continuing in this area, we 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 building built in 1859 and, if the weather is good, some stargazing too. After which we return to the InterContinental Hotel Sydney for the night. (B,L)


DAY 8 – Tuesday 16 March 2021- Sydney

Today we will explore the Northern Beaches of Sydney, starting with a ferry trip to the iconic, Manly Beach. This starts with a 30-minute journey from Circular Quay to Manly Cove, sailing through the Heads, and past Sydney’s inner harbour beaches, and finishes with a walk along the Esplanade. Returning by coach to the heart of the city, we'll do a tour of the remarkable Sydney Opera House. Designed by Jørn Utzon but not completed to his plans, the building is undergoing a makeover that will finally bring it to the high standards inside, matching the exquisite design outside.

Our final evening is spent dining under the stars, looking over Sydney Harbour. (B,D) 

NB Additional nights post-tour are available at the InterContinental on request. 


DAY 9 – Wednesday 17 March 2020

Your journey ends after breakfast. Transfer by coach to Sydney Airport, or travel on to Uluru to see the magnificent Australian desert. (B)



Canberra – Crowne Plaza Canberra

Parkes – Station Motel

Siding Spring Observatory – Astronomers Lodge

Sydney - InterContinental Hotel Sydney, harbour- view room

Katoomba – Fairmont KatoombaResort & Spa Blue Mountains



·    Coach transport with air conditioning

·    Accommodation as stated

·    Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D) as stated

·    Entry to observatories and all activities

·    Siding Spring Observatory tour with Astronomer, Fred Watson

·    Tour Manager and local guides

·    Sky and Telescope Host



$7195 AUD / ^$4790 USD – *twin / ^double share 

$8695 AUD / ^$5780 USD per person - single 

^ Tour payments are to be made in Australian Dollars. Prices are approximations and subject to currency fluctuations



Not included

·        Drinks with meals

·        Room service, or items of a personal nature

·        Tips

·        Travel insurance (Mandatory)


Room Preference

*TWIN SHARE = two single beds. Twin-share rooms may available for single travellers wishing to reduce the cost and happy to share with another guest of the same sex. If another traveller is not available, the single supplement will be passed on to the guest

^DOUBLE = one double bed

~ SINGLE = One person one bed, single, queen or king-size

** Please choose the number of people, not the number of rooms required.


Health and Fitness

We want to be sure you find the trip that best suits your interests and level of fitness. Prior to submitting a reservation, it is the responsibility of each traveller included in the reservation to thoroughly read the itinerary, in order to acquire and understand all pertinent medical advice to determine whether or not they are of an appropriate physical and healthy state to undertake the trip. At a minimum, participants must be able to climb into and out of buses, vans and trains without assistance, keep up with the pace of the trip, and carry their own luggage. If you have any questions about your trip’s itinerary or its level of difficulty, please contact us prior to booking.