Stargazing-road-trip-Queensland

Seeing Stars: This Big Sky National Park camping trip is on another level  

If the only twinkling lights you see on a regular basis come from a light bulb on the blink, it’s time to escape the CBD, pack your camera, tripod and hit this national park stargazing loop from Brisbane to St George.

Enter, the suite of seven Big Sky Country Drives crisscrossing south-east Queensland and Outback Queensland, which offer more star power than the Hollywood walk of fame, while also connecting five national parks with Brisbane’s doorstep.

Not only will you find some of the most scenic road tripping country this side of a car commercial, but you’re guaranteed to find the real milky way (and not just the kind you unwrap from a chocolate packet we might add).  

DAYS 1-2: Brisbane to the Bunyas / 225km

Bunya Mountains | Stargazing

Photo by @jrmcgregorjr

Swap Brisbane for the Bunya Mountains and put 225km between skyscrapers and stars, as you head west along the Warrego Way towards this 30-million-year-old national park.

If you thought you were leaving long lunches behind, stop into Toowoomba where The Finch will prove you wrong with loaded burgers, gourmet baguettes, and beans from Fonzie Abbott.

From the Garden City, follow the pine-tree signs to new, 975m heights and pull up for the night at the Bunya Mountains National Park.

You’ll know you’ve arrived when the windy, rainforest clad scenic route breaks out into three grassy campsites and you see the A-frame cottages that make up The Bunyas (side note: the perfect accommodation-antidote for not-so-happy campers).

Take your pick from Dandabah, Burton’s Well, or Westcott camping areas, which may just be the best spot to drop your pegs if you’re new to camping because you still have the creature comforts of a village nearby.

As the sun sets and the moon rises, take your nightcap up a notch with a tipple at Australia’s highest whiskey bar, Shackleton’s. Perched inside Bunya Mountains Tavern within the Bunya Mountains, this bar beckons with over 130 different whiskies, sourced from over the world.

By the time you’ve finished a couple of neat nips, the real show will begin. Dust off your tripod and grab a long exposure of where this mountain meets the milky way.

Overnight: Dandabah, Burton’s Well, or Westscott campgrounds in Bunya Mountains National Park.   

DAY 3: Bunya Mountains to Miles / 190km

For star trails with more sparkle than Meghan Markle’s wedding tiara, set your GPS towards Miles, 190km north-west of the Bunya Mountains.

Proving country hospitality isn’t just something from the movies, stop into small Western Downs towns like Chinchilla to see it in action for yourself.

Looking for more quirks and character than country charm? Time your trip with the town’s biennial Melon Festival which takes over the town every second February (FYI – in odd years only).

Further west in Miles, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to a classic country pub feast. In fact, there are three iconic establishments in what feels like as many metres on the main street.

Take your Instagram feed to new levels by pulling up for a night of stargazing at Dogwood Crossing, the creekside rest area on the western outskirts of town.

Don’t put your lens cap on just yet. There’s 212km more of Dogwood Creek for exploring – proving there’s miles to do in Miles.

Overnight: Possum Park, Miles

DAY 4: Miles to Carnarvon Gorge / 342km

Southern Queensland Country | Stargazing Big Sky Drive

Fuelled by petrol and a parmigiana, it’s only a 142km drive from Miles to Roma to find a taste (physically and literally) of Outback Queensland.

Out here, the star game is as good as its cattle game which is saying something because you’ll find the largest cattle saleyards in the southern hemisphere, with over 300,000 cows sold under the hammer each year.

From Roma, put 240km of light-pollution-free sky between you and the sandstone structures of Carnarvon Gorge.

Set up camp at the Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge, with camping, caravanning and cabin lodgings available.

Although not directly within the national park, the lodge is so close you might as well be, with walking trails starting from your tent’s door.

As night falls and the campfire smoulders, the stars turn up for their nightly show. A star-studded night sky is followed by an encore performance of endless blue skies by day.

Make the most of daylight hours taking to the national park on foot, across creeks and waterfalls, through woodlands and dense forest, and around the sandstone gorges and cliffs.

Overnight: Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge

DAY 5: Carnarvon Gorge to St George / 663km

Sunset | Stargazing Big Sky Drive

Take off from the semi-arid heart of Central Queensland to the southern border of the state, hitting the road from Carnarvon Gorge to St George.

If you thought vineyards were confined to the southern states, Queensland’s most western winery, Riversands Vineyards, gives your favourite daily-drinker a run for its money.

Catch a glimpse of the inland fishing capital of Queensland with a sunset cruise on the Balonne River. The 230 species of birdlife seen swooping will be all the evidence you need to prove the fish are always biting out here.

Stay the night at Pelican Rest Tourist Park, where campers, caravanners, and those who prefer a cabin, are welcome to kick back at the parklands.

With a tent, wide-angle lens and a tripod, you’ve got yourself front-row seats to the glow show.

Overnight: Pelican Rest Tourist Park

DAY 6 – 7: St George to Girraween / 430km

Girraween | Stargazing

Photo by @ali.agan

Set your compass east 430km to find Australia’s version of Stonehenge – Girraween National ParkStanding amongst the balancing boulders, rock pools and cascading waterfalls, it’s easy to see how this area earned the moniker of the Granite Belt.

You’ll want your hiking boots for this one. Walking tracks span 17km through untamed wilderness to reach the famous rock formations in this mountainous national park.

You won’t be the first photographer to use the oddly formed rocky structures as your muse, especially at night when the stars create a sparkly crown.

Stay close to the action with a two-night stay in the national park at Bald Rock Camping Area, where the majority of the walking tracks start. If you’re heading out in winter, pack a few layers as temperatures are more reminiscent of a European winter than a Queensland one.  

If you’d rather treat yourself (or rather, retreat), book into a chalet at the Girraween Environmental Lodge, where you can soak up the sparkling skies from the comfort of an outdoor spa.

Psst! You won’t have to worry about toiling over a camp oven, the Granite Belt also happens to be a food and wine haven.

Overnight: Bald Rock Camping Area, Girraween National Park

Day 8: Girraween to Brisbane / 263km

Take the scenic route back to Brisbane, stopping into Stanthorpe, Queensland’s answer to the big apple. Seriously, on the outskirts of town, you’ll find a giant one – like an X marking this food and wine hot spot.

Your homeward journey is far from boring. Keep your camera poised from Stanthorpe to Warwick to find sunflower fields (in summer).

If time is on your side, spice up your return journey and take a detour along the Cunningham Highway to return to Brisbane via the Main Range National Park.

Do you get sparkly eyes about starry skies? Check out these photography guides:

Have you been stargazing in these national parks?