Get closer to the stars, with a holiday house under the world’s best

Spanning 80km of the Mighty Murray River, conservation parks and farmland, the River Muray International Dark Sky Reserve is your go-to destination for astronomical wonder. Sitting at only a 90-minute drive east from the South Australian capital Adelaide, it is the perfect getaway for you and your stargazing friends.

Image: Dave Hartley

Where else do you get to rug up along a riverside, and experience some of the planet’s brightest stars? The answer is nowhere.

To put things into perspective, it’s important to note the night sky’s darkness is measured on a scale of 0-22, with the RMIDSR coming in at an astounding 21.8 on average. This makes it the ideal spot to marvel at the beauty that is our bright night sky.

The stunning scenes are growing in popularity from astronomers, photographers and nature-lovers from around the world – but while the world is still subject to a global pandemic, we can have it all to ourselves here in South Australia.

Image: Dave Hartley

Oh – and did we mention that this is the FIRST international dark sky reserve in the Southern Hemisphere, and one of only a few in the world?

Where to stay

While some people like to camp under the stars, others (like us) prefer to have a comfortable bed, bathroom and a little luxury.

Experience this all from the breathtaking Lake Bywater Cottage in Walker Flat. This 4.5-acre property has spectacular views of the Murray River with direct access and landing area. The classic, old warm charm of this historic 1886 cottage will make everyone feel like time is standing still.

Its open plan kitchen/living area is the perfect area to relax with friends and family; plus the big windows that span the cottage front, will make you feel like you’re in the outdoors, without the cold (yes please!).

If you are keen to brave the cold, pop on your beanie and get cosy on the veranda with a rug for nightfall. Here you’ll have a front row seat to a preview of the most brilliant after dark show you can imagine. Simply look up!

But it’s not just this place that offers magnificent views and access to the dark sky reserve, we have plenty of others.

Some other properties, within the reserve area, and with views directly to this phenomenon from are:

The reserve is brilliant on its own – however, there are plenty of other local experiences to take in while you’re visiting (so why not make a week of it?).

In all of our holiday rentals you’ll have close proximity (or complete frontage) to the Murray River cliffs. These iconic natural wonders provide the opportunity to watch the sunrise light up the ochre cliffs, otherwise known as the “Golden cliffs of South Australia”.

And when you’re not getting lost in the stars…

For a morning dose of exercise, try the nearby walking and cycling trails throughout our region. Only a few kilometres away are sections of the Murray Coorong Trail, Lavender Federation Trail, Mannum Waterfalls, Kinchina Conservation Park (good for mountain biking); or even try your hand at a kayak trail in historic Mannum.

Image: Murray River, Lakes and Coorong (Murray Bridge levee bank)

If the day started to get a bit cold you could jump in the car, turn up the heater, and go for a road trip through the area. The lookouts over the beautiful national parks, reserves and historical sites will keep you entertained for hours. Along with this, we’d recommend paying a visit to the local towns of the region to see what you can find There’s a car museum in Swan Reach, the Mannum Dock Museum (with interactive fun for kids), or views over the river’s edge while you dine in at the Bowhill General Store.

Image: Murray River, Lakes and Coorong (Mannum Dock Museum)

And if you’re from the city, even the simple fun of crossing the local ferries is a must-do while you’re visiting! If you’re after a longer on-water experience you could even take the family (or friends) out on a boat trip with the PS Marion, PW Mayflower or Four Knots Cruises – just make sure you check times and book in advance!

When to visit

The Dark Sky Reserve is an attraction all year round but is best viewed in the winter months when tourist numbers are at their lowest. This means that there will be minimal artificial light coming from shacks, boats, and campers, ensuring you the maximum viewing potential! [*Packs telescope*.]

Image: Juggle House Experiences

As the River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve is protected from light pollution, you won’t have to worry about choosing a spot out in the wilderness. Make sure to look out for a calm clear night on your weather watch, so you are sure to catch the best possible experience. Binoculars or a telescope will get you closer to the stars, but you really don’t need anything but your eyes on a clear night.

You should DEFINITELY pack the camera though. Even the cameras on our smart phones can take great photos of the stars out here.

And if you need some help with your astrophotography, RSR owner Dave Hartley can set you up with his top tips and tricks (just let him know at the time of your booking) to help you with capturing the Milky Way! Dave spends many nights out in the RMIDSR capturing the sky and knows his stuff.

If you’d rather someone plan your experience for you, jump on a Dark Sky Tour with the bubbly Kel from Juggle House Experiences, which also includes dinner at the Swan Reach Hotel and a tour of the Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Site before getting into the star viewing action.

So grab your stargazing friends and come for a visit soon (before everyone else does!).

See more about the Murray River Dark Sky Reserve here.