Dark skies and ancient landscapes: stargazing in the Pinnacles Desert

Last Updated: 17 Jan 2024
Localista Team

Did you know the best time of day to see the Pinnacles Desert is actually at night? Located roughly two-hours from the Perth CBD, the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park is a renowned tourist destination for daytime and now night-time visitors.

It’s still unknown how exactly the Pinnacles were formed. However, the most common theory is that they are dissolution remnants of the Tamala Limestone, formed over 30,000 years ago from karstification. The Nyoongar word ‘Nambung’ means ‘crooked’ and makes reference to the river which weaves through the region. A spiritual site, the local Aboriginal community believe that that Pinnacles are fossilized ghosts.

If you think that the Pinnacles a really just a bunch of rocks, you’ll be amazed at how the landscape transforms after dark. If you are interested in witnessing the site come to life under the stars, there are a couple of local tourism companies running tours to the Pinnacles!

Lake Thetis Observing Site Cervantes

Stargazing at Cervantes

The small fishing town of Cervantes is the gateway to WA’s Pinnacles Desert and the start of Australia’s Coral Coast region. Astro Tourism Western Australia named Cervantes an official Astro Tourism town in August 2018. The small fishing town has low levels of artificial light, making it the perfect destination for stargazing and astrophotography.

If you’re up for an adventure, one of the best stargazing spots in Cervantes to check out is Lake Thetis. Located roughly 2km from town, Lake Thetis is home to the oldest and largest living fossil known to man – stromatolites. It is one of the only five sites across WA you can find stromatolites, and it’s also the perfect place to set up a telescope and take in the spectacular Cervantes sky.

Stargazing in the Pinnacles

Stargazing | Adams Pinnacle Tours

Perfect for anyone seeking an escape from the city, Adams Pinnacle Tours’ Stargazing tour allows guests to experience the Pinnacles desert at sunset as well beneath the starry night sky.

Heading on the scenic drive from Perth to Cervantes, the Adams coach bus departs Perth at roughly 3pm, stopping in at Yanchep National Park where you’ll be able to see the koalas and kangaroos, before driving up the coast to the Pinnacles Desert. You’ll have time to explore the desert in the late afternoon avoiding the crowds and heat. Witness the true beauty of the Pinnacles as the sunsets over the Indian Ocean and the moon rises. As darkness falls, your tour guide will take you further north to the small fishing town of Cervantes, where you’ll get to enjoy dinner at the local tavern. You’ll then head back out to the Pinnacles Desert to experience the tranquility of the national park.

Although times vary throughout the year, the tour is roughly eight hours with drop offs at approximately 11pm. It’s important to note that the Adams stargazing tour at the Pinnacles is more a relaxed sightseeing experience with stargazing included in the tour. It’s encouraged that you bring your own binoculars or even download a stargazing app to enhance your experience on this tour. Along with the stargazing tour, Adams also runs a Full Day Pinnacle Desert Explorer with Lancelin Sand Boarding and Full Day Pinnacles, Koalas & Sand Boarding 4WD Adventure.

Price: $99 – $174

Stargazing tours in the Pinnacles Desert

Pinnacles Sunset Stargazing Tour | Lumineer Adventure Tours

Join Lumineer Adventure Tours on their Pinnacles Sunset Stargazing Tour and experience the natural wonders of the Pinnacles desert at night-time. This tour is perfect for those wanting a bit of an adventure mixed with WA’s spectacular scenery. There are two options for those wanting to experience the Pinnacles at night; you can either book a tour on the company’s mini bus or there is the self-drive option.

If you’re opting for the full tour, the day kicks off with pick-ups from Perth. The thrill seekers of the group will get to try their hand at sand surfing in the Lancelin sand dunes before heading out along the spectacular Indian Ocean Drive. Arriving at the Nilgen, you might be lucky enough to see wildflowers when in-season or, if not, your tour guide will take you to Hangover Bay. Reaching the final destination of the tour at the Pinnacles Desert just before sunset, you’ll explore the desert when it’s still light before settling in for a classic Australian BBQ dinner and waiting for the stars to appear.

Specialising in small group tours, the company has a fleet of mini-buses, capable of driving into the middle of the desert for your stargazing experience. The tour includes stargazing equipment including a computerised telescope helping you to get the most out of your stargazing experience. This tour runs all year round and although it may get a little chilly in the desert during the colder months, this is usually the best time to experience WA’s night sky where you’ll be able to see the Milky Way and planets in the southern hemisphere. Pick up times and tour lengths vary throughout the year, but it is roughly a 12-hour day. The Pinnacles Sunset Stargazing Tour regularly sells out, so be sure to get in quick!

Self-drive tour: $50 – $65

Full tour: $105 – $145

Stargazing in the Pinnacles

Pinnacles Guided Sunset Tour and Sound Healing | Jurien Bay Adventure Tours

Perfect for families and small groups, Jurien Bay Adventure Tours’ Pinnacles Guided Sunset Tour is personalised especially for your group. Your tour guide will arrange your itinerary before the tour meaning you can choose where you want to go before reaching the final destination at the Pinnacles Desert. Take in the spectacular Pinnacles Desert as sunset whilst enjoying a local cheese platter with strawberries and a glass of sparkling wine.

Jurien Bay Adventure Tours has recently including stargazing into their mix of tours. It’s important to note that this is not a stargazing tour, but if you’re wanting to experience the pinnacles at sunset, there is the option for a further stargazing experience with a local Astronomy guide and equipment provided. Or you can just take in the stars and enjoy a night of stargazing!

Jurien Bay is located roughly 30 minutes from Nambung National Park, with pick-ups and drop-offs are available at Jurien Bay or Cervantes and tours running for approximately five hours. Jurien Bay Adventure Tours also offers another Pinnacles Tour which includes a visit to Cervantes for a Lobster lunch and factory tour at the iconic Lobster Shack. Enjoy a guided tour through a live working factory where you’ll get a bit of insight into the multi-million dollar crayfishing industry.

Price: Starting at $95 pp

Header image credit: Michael Goh; photographer and astronomy enthusiast

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