The Backyard Universe
Multicultural night sky & astronomy experiences in South Australia
Heysen Trail & Fleurieu Peninsula shuttle bus services
Nature, scenery, geology, winery & day tours
Frequently asked questions
- Heysen Trail service brochure with maps and GPS coordinates
- School camps brochure
- Tour terms and conditions
Covid-19 safety update
as of 28 April 2021
We resumed our tours and shuttle bus services in June 2020, after 12 weeks of mandatory shutdown and the development of a government-approved Covid safe plan before reopening.
To comply with current Covid-19 health regulations the following rules apply to all our tours & trips until further notice:
- Everyone will be using hand sanitiser at start of tour, and whenever boarding our vehicles. We supply hand sanitiser.
- Guests cannot attend their tour or travel in our vehicles if they have a cough, sore throat, fever, other flu-like symptoms; or if they have been in contact with a known Covid-19 case in the last 14 days. You will have the option of a refund or re-booking (subject to re-booking availability).
Tours will also be cancelled / postponed / refunded if any of our staff are known or suspected to have Covid-19; or if any staff have been told to self-isolate by SA Health.
- Names & contact details of all guests will be recorded in case Covid-19 contact tracing is required later.
In addition to our existing cleaning procedures, all equipment and vehicles are also being disinfected between all tours. Our staff are also getting daily temperature and health checks.
Our night sky & astronomy tours are all “Weather Permitting”. Our telescopes don’t like strong winds and they can’t see through clouds or rain. On the day of the tour we will be reading the weather & cloud forecasts for the evening, and examining latest weather satellite images. If conditions are unfavourable the tour will be cancelled, and we will try to notify you via a message to your mobile phone before 3pm on the day of tour. Conversely if weather is favourable we will notify you to confirm your tour is ON.
Cloud Forecasts at our public venues are unreliable before the actual date of a tour, so there's no point asking us "is my tour still happening?" until the day.
If we cancel your booked night sky tour, we will try to offer you an alternative tour date if possible. Otherwise you will receive a refund of any payment we've already processed; or the option to convert to a Gift Voucher.
If clouds interrupt a tour in progress, we'll wait for them to clear and then resume the tour. Or look at something else in a different direction.
We have occasionally started tours later than scheduled if we know sunset clouds are going to clear away. Or earlier than scheduled if we know a clear evening will become cloudy later. We'll notify everyone of the changed starting time in the tour confirmation message.
For daytime tours which are outdoors and exposed to weather, we will cancel the tour (or modify en route) if there's thunderstorms or heavy rain in progress, or forecast to happen during tour. The tour will also be cancelled if the roads & tracks we use have been officially closed by the relevant authorities.
We will do a daytime tour if it's only light rain / occasional showers, but we may modify it to avoid walking on any steep slippery slopes, or driving on any "dry weather only" tracks.
Shade temperatures exceeding 40 degrees C are common during November to March. If it's a hot day our vehicle(s) will be carrying extra drinking water. We may also modify the tour to reduce your risk of heat exhaustion. If Catastrophic Fire Danger conditions are forecast then many of our venues will be closed as per their safety policies, and we will cancel the tour due to "severe weather" as per our tour terms and conditions.
The Heysen Trail traverses a variety of public lands, parks, reserves, and private properties. The part of the Heysen Trail we service is within the Mt Lofty Ranges fire district.
All Heysen Trail segments that cross private property are officially closed during our annual Fire Danger Season (normally early November to mid-April). Segments on public lands & reserves will also be closed on any days of extreme / catastrophic fire danger and on days of Total Fire Ban.
For your own safety we will not transport you onto an officially closed part of the Heysen Trail. Contact us if you're unsure about your proposed walking date and location.
Great State Experiences Voucher
This is a tourism promotion sponsored by the South Australian state government.
We are not allowed to refund Vouchers or redeem them for cash. So if we cancel your Voucher tour due to weather then you can either choose another tour date, or convert your booking into our Gift Voucher. Your rescheduled date can be after 31 July 2021.
Notes and photos are included on each tour's description page. Click on the photos to see a larger version.
For night sky tours we always pick locations that are safe to walk around in the dark, easy to walk to in the dark from your parked car, and accessible for our heavy telescopes. This also makes the locations wheelchair and pram-accessible, and easy for mobility aids to traverse.
We use free-standing stepladders with grab rail on all tours. Ideal for balance or mobility problems, and for supporting small children too!
We've also got a kneeling pad for when the telescope is looking near the horizon.
One of our telescopes can be used from a seated position or from a wheelchair, but this requires specific preparations on the day. Our online booking system will ask if anyone in your booking has difficulty standing up.
Most of our tours offer reduced prices for families and children, but any children must be accompanied by at least one responsible (and paying) adult.
Very young children on night sky tours depends a lot on the individual child, and on how active they've already been on the day. We've met 3 year olds who stay alert and well behaved for an entire tour and ask us profound questions too. Meanwhile their older sibling falls asleep 10 minutes after the tour begins....
Free-standing stepladders with grab rail are used on all night sky tours.
We've already done many tours with an occupied pram or stroller parked nearby, or a picnic blanket spread nearby with kids inside sleeping bags.
Please tell your kids to leave any light-emitting shoes/clothes/jewellery, toys and gadgets at home. The light from these things destroys everyone's night vision.
On our day tours, young children tend to ignore our presentation and instead try exploring for whatever interests them. You may have some extra rocks and other items by the end of the tour 🙂
We do not have any baby capsules or child seats for our minibus, but 3 of its 11 passenger seats are fitted with anchor points for your own capsule/seat.
What do your prices include?
All tour prices and payments are in Australian Dollars and include 10% GST, plus any booking fees, credit card fees and booking agent commissions.
See the individual tours’ descriptions for any specific inclusions or exclusions in their advertised prices.
Any refunds are also processed in Australian Dollars; so if you paid us with an international credit card your refund may be affected by variations in Currency Exchange Rates.
What is Adult / Child / Family pricing?
For our public night sky tours:
- Adult is anyone 18 years or older. We do not offer concessional adult pricing unless you're part of a Group, or a certified carer for another guest.
- Child is anyone from 5 to 17 years old inclusive. Children under 5 are free.
- Family is 1 or 2 adults + up to 4 children. The children and adult(s) don't need to be related to each other.
- Group is 8 or more adults and/or children booking together on the same public tour, and must include at least 1 adult per 8 people. The children and adult(s) don't need to be related to each other.
- All children regardless of age MUST be accompanied by a responsible adult during the tour.
Prices for private group & school group night sky tours depend on the location and the group size. Contact us for a quote.
Prices for special events involving other businesses may be different from our usual categories. For example if we need to comply with Australian liquor licensing laws at a venue, then a "child" is anyone under 18 years old. See the special event's description for details.
Prices for our minibus trips & transfers depend on the number of passengers and the specific details of the journey. Contact us for a quote.
What payment methods do you accept?
(1) Online bookings on our website:
MasterCard credit & debit cards.
Visa credit & debit cards.
American Express credit card.
Some booking agencies may accept additional types of cards.
(2) Payment in person on the day of tour (or travel). Contact us first:
Cash (in Australian dollars).
Our mobile EFTPOS accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express; and the EFTPOS cards issued by Australian banks, credit unions & Australia Post. It also works with most smartphone digital wallets.
(3) Direct Payment from your bank to our bank:
name -- The Backyard Universe Pty Ltd
BSB -- 633 000 (Bendigo Bank)
account -- 157 173 428
payment reference -- your name, or our invoice number
SWIFT code (for payments from outside Australia) -- BENDAU3B
(4) We can also issue Tax Invoices, by prior arrangement.
Where are your tour locations and can I go without booking first?
- Regional map of the Fleurieu Peninsula & Adelaide, showing all our public night sky tour locations.
- Wirrina Cove map.
- Google Maps link.
We recommend using your own car (or a rental car) to travel to Wirrina Cove from Adelaide, McLaren Vale or Victor Harbor. This will be much cheaper for you than travelling in our minibus, or hiring a taxi.
No, you can't go to a tour without booking first. Because...
- If we have no bookings for a scheduled tour we'll stay home instead. We can see thousands of stars from *our* backyard.
- If you don't book, or contact us beforehand in some other way, we don't know you're wanting a tour.
- If we cancel a tour due to weather, we'll only notify the tour guests that we already know about.
- When there's a larger tour group expected, we need to transport and setup (and pack up) extra equipment. This requires more time both before & after the tour. So we don't bring the extra equipment to a tour unless we know we have to.
- If the tour has a lot of guests already we may not have enough places available for you.
What do I bring or wear to a tour?
For night sky tours our advice is to wear more layers of clothing than you think you will need. It's easy to remove a layer or two if you're too hot, but it's impossible to put on an extra layer if you forgot to bring it to the tour. Remember when choosing your tour clothing that (1) you're outdoors in an exposed area, (2) there's usually some air flow, and (3) winter night temperatures at some venues may drop below zero degrees C after midnight.
- We also recommend closed footwear such as walking shoes or boots. Thongs and sandals and high heels are likely to painfully discover sharp sticks, stones, thorns, or soil fissures in the dark.
- The mosquitos at all of our venues are active all year, and they like tourists.
- If your legs tire easily you may want to bring a portable chair or a picnic blanket to sit on.
- Bring your own binoculars if you want. We can point out a few things to look at.
- If you bring a torch we prefer it to be *red* light, so you don't destroy everyone's night vision with a white light if you need to see the ground or your own stuff during the tour. If you don't have a red torch, try using a bicycle's rear light, or fix a few layers of red cellophane over a white torch.
- All of our night sky tour venues are designated as no-alcohol zones.
- Please tell your kids to leave any light-emitting shoes/clothes/jewellery, toys and gadgets at home. The light from these things destroys everyone's night vision.
In sunny weather it's also a good idea to wear a hat and sunscreen, and bring a full bottle of water.
What's it like on a night sky tour?Some comments from previous tour guests:
- I am keen to learn more so will be booking again in the near future. And I will be recommending this experience to as many people as I can. -- Karen, January 2018
- Such a great initiative bringing the glories of the heavens to the average person with fascinating insights, including indigenous perspectives and ancient understandings from a range of cultures. -- Phyll, March 2018
- The skies on the Fleurieu are just amazing. It has changed the way we look at the stars forever. Highly recommended. -- Jo, March 2018
- Thanks for opening our eyes to the skies and traditions of the Southern Hemisphere. -- Javier, April 2018
- A wonderful way to experience the Majestic wonder of the Milky Way and the planets. You need an experienced professional astronomer, a dark cloudless night away from city lights, a really good telescope, and good explanations and commentary. The Background Universe has it all. Highly recommended. Maurice, August 2019
- Thanks again for a brilliant tour on Monday evening. We all thoroughly loved it and have been reflecting on your extensive knowledge and stories ever since. -- Becky, January 2020
- We loved it! -- Nicki, July 2020
- "It was a great night!!" -- Blair, April 2021
- "It was one of the most amazing experiences I'd ever had! Would highly recommend!" -- Olga, April 2021
- “Was a great night, very interesting.[stars. nebulas, galaxies} and a bonus saw 4 shooting meteors entering our atmosphere. 5 star rating” -- Andrew, May 2021
- "5/5 Brilliant with a lot of explanation.” -- Peter, May 2021
Private group tours and other tour dates/times
Additional tour dates or times at Wirrina Cove can usually be arranged by us with a couple of weeks notice. Their golf course doesn't get used much at night, but may occasionally be unavailable to us for various reasons.
Some of the "gaps" in our tour calendar are due to Full Moons. We don't recommend picking a tour date with a bright moon because its light blots out almost everything else.
We can also do, subject to our availability:
- Private group night sky tours at your venue, including Bed and Breakfasts, hotels and holiday rentals. If you're a larger group we can divide you across two or more sessions, or do a shortened version of our tour.
- Tours for your school group or camp. We can customise to ACARA requirements.
- Daytime presentations at your venue.
- Combined tourism events or packages with your tourism business.
- Activities or presentations as part of a larger event.
- Isn't overshadowed by buildings or large trees.
- Isn't afflicted by outdoor lighting that cannot be turned off. Including any motion-activated lighting.
- Has an unobstructed view of the sky, especially to the south.
- We can drive onto with our car. Telescopes are heavy, we don't want to carry them a long way!
- Doesn't have any tripping or falling hazards, wandering livestock, manure blobs, soft/slippery surfaces, steep slopes, or passing traffic.
- Won't be sprayed by an irrigation system while we're there.
- Isn't close to any neighbours who may be trying to sleep during our tour.
- Is more than 5km from the nearest part of any commercial airport runway that is routinely used at night. We're not allowed to use laser pointers near commercial airports.
- Isn't subject to a lock-out or curfew time before we can finish packing up after tour.
Contact us to arrange the details. A contract and regular invoicing may be appropriate for regular work at a venue.
- South Australian government Working With Children & Vulnerable Persons clearances, which include National Police Clearances.
- First Aid training. In remote regions we also travel with our satellite phone and additional First Aid kit items.
- Risk Assessment documentation.
- Sustainable Quality Tourism accreditation from the Australian Tourism Industry Council.
- Tour Operator Permit for many South Australian national parks and conservation parks.
- Government accreditation of our minibus as a Passenger Transport Vehicle, with an accredited driver.
Bungala House 1856
Links Lady Bay
Mt Ive station
Rawnsley Park station
Lush Pastures B&B
Mt Jagged Wines
Sky-Watcher Australia telescopes
New Terry Resort
Wirrina Cove Holiday Park
OK...so you still have a question that wasn't answered already? Contact us.