I stumbled upon the Sydney Observatory as I was walking back “home” to my hotel in Darling Harbour. My stay in Sydney, Australia was an unexpected one as my ears ruptured during the decent into Sydney airport from Perth on my way back home to Los Angeles and the airport doctor grounded me, literally. I was not able to fly until my ears had time to heal. My coping mechanism, explore the city! It’s amazing what you discover when you are grounded in a foreign land.
Sydney Observatory is in the Rocks district of the city, with the actual observatory perched on Observatory Hill (hmmm, how did they get that name?). In any event, it simplifies the memorization process of its location and offers beautiful views of Sydney harbour and the world-famous Sydney harbour bridge. Free self-guided tours are offered daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm (except Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing day holidays) with a fee based guided tour offered several times a day that includes a 3D movie and day telescope viewing. The night tour, which I recommend, has a slightly higher fee and is offered Monday through Saturday (except Good Friday, Christmas day and Boxing day holidays) at specific times as well. Ticket reservations for the night tour must be made in advance. I suggest you pack a small picnic and have dinner on the park-like grounds before the night tour and let the lights of Sydney dazzle you.
Sydney Observatory opened in 1858 and held an important role in not only astronomical exploration, but also in shipping, navigation, and timekeeping. Today the observatory continues to house a 29 cm refractor telescope, the oldest telescope in Australia that is still in use. When I visited, the night sky was cloudy as a rain storm was brewing. However, we were each guided to look through the historic telescope. Because of the clouds, we did not see the stars. Instead the telescope was pointed at a clock tower across the harbour. This didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of our guide. With his excitement, I looked through the viewing glass and back through time when this observatory took some of the first astronomical pictures of the southern sky and helped with the compilation of the first atlas of the whole sky!
The Sydney Observatory is a must when visiting this city. To make tour reservations or find out more about the observatory, visit their website at www.sydneyobservatory.com.au