Australia is a land of beautiful extremes. To the east, you’ll find powder white beaches, fertile wine valleys and ancient tropical rainforests. Yet head west, and these verdant lands soon give way to a sprawling desert stretching as far as the eye can see. This lends the country a diverse landscape of untold natural splendour, and one that would take several lifetimes to tire of.w
But of all Australia’s sublime beauty spots, which are the best? Here, we take a whistle-stop tour of 10 natural wonders of Australia.
Where else to begin an exploration of Australia’s iconic natural wonders than the Great Barrier Reef? Located off the country’s eastern Sunshine Coast, this magnificent underwater ecosystem is the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 133,000miles2 and home to a staggering array of marine life. Selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981, the Great Barrier Reef was labelled one of the seven natural wonders of the world by CNN, thanks largely to the diversity of its wildlife. The reef is integral to the cultures and spirituality of Australia’s Aboriginal people, as well as those of the Torres Strait. Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands remain the best places to travel to encounter the Great Barrier Reef, with regular charters to the coral world waiting just offshore.
Uluru, or Ayer’s Rock, is Australia’s greatest natural icon. This vast sandstone rock formation, located in the hostile Northern Territory, has become symbolic of Australia and remains sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu, an Aboriginal tribe who have lived under the shadow of the mountain for tens of thousands of years. Appearing to change colour at dawn and sunset due to its red/brown colouring, Uluru is the basis for many Aboriginal dreamtime artworks, some of which can be found on neighbouring rock formations in the area. Currently, Uluru is also hosting an enchanting art installation by Bruce Munro called the Field of Light, which will remain in place until February 2018.
Located on the south-east coast of Queensland, Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, with a surface area of around 1144miles2. Although humans have inhabited Fraser Island for over 5,000 years, much of its indigenous flora remains, making it one of Australia’s most biodiverse regions. Mangrove forests, eucalyptus woodlands, peat swamps, sand dunes, rainforests and coastal heaths exist side-by-side across Fraser, and the island is also home to several mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, including dingoes and saltwater crocodiles. Once called Great Sandy Island, Fraser Island took its name from shipwreck survivor Eliza Fraser, who landed on its shores after her ship ran aground on a reef hundreds of miles out to sea.
One of the most beautiful and fertile regions of the Northern Territory, Glen Helen Gorge lies at the point where the West MacDonnell Ranges part to make way for the Finke River, one of the largest waterways in central Australia. With the presence of fresh water and shade aplenty, Glen Helen has been a popular spot for travellers to seek shelter from the heat of the Outback for hundreds of years. It’s also wonderfully picturesque, with the high sandstone formations creating a dramatic backdrop, and a cool place for wildlife and flora to flourish away from the heat of the day. Sights not to miss in the area include Ochre Pits, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole and Simpsons Gap.
With its esteemed viticulture and charming riverside towns, the Margaret River is quickly becoming one of Australia’s most popular off-the-beaten-track visitor destinations. Located in the fertile west, not far from the cosmopolitan heart of Perth, this wonderful waterway carves through a pristine and untouched landscape, forging natural wonders like Wyadup Rocks — a granite headland of arresting beauty. Stretching from Injidup Beach to the mouth of the river, this geological feature is the perfect union between river and sea. The rocks here form a dramatic headland that’s at its best on a stormy day, though the area is great for snorkelling when the seas are calm.
Bordered by tropical rainforests, eucalyptus woodlands and soaring creeks, Thala Beach is paradise found on Australia’s sun-soaked east coast. Lay your beach towel on some of Australia’s softest sands, and dip your feet in some of its clearest waters. Thanks to the shape of the bay, Thala Beach rarely suffers large swells, so you can enjoy safe swimming in the crystal waters. The rainforest which stretches to the sand line is millions of years old, and the perfect place to encounter local wildlife or else seek shade from the sun — which always seems to shine.
The Pinnacles are a series of limestone formations, located within the Nambung National Park in Western Australia. Inciting mystery and intrigue for generations, these unique limestone monoliths are thought to have formed over millions of years, with their structure formed from seashells broken up and blown inland. To this day, however, it’s still not known exactly how The Pinnacles came to be, with the natural stones continuing to baffle geologists. Visit The Pinnacles during your tour of Western Australia, and you may spot some of the wildlife native to the park, including grey kangaroos, black cockatoos and emus.
Cascading through the ancient woodland of the Lamington National Park, Elabana Falls is an elegant string of waterfalls which tumble over countless limestone plateaus deep in the rich undergrowth of the forest. Accessed via the Green Mountains on the Toolona Creek circuit, this dramatic watercourse is just one of the many natural spectacles to be found across the Lamington Plateau of McPherson Range, which lies on the Queensland/New South Wales border. For 6,000 years, Aboriginal people have lived and worshipped amid the ancient trees of Lamington, and the spirituality of the setting is almost tangible beside the torrential waters of Elabana.
Welcome to Mossman Gorge, one of the most inspiring natural wonders of Queensland’s ancient Daintree National Park. Part of the traditional homeland of the Kuku Yalanji people, this tropical river valley is steeped in history and spirituality, and remains sacred to the Bama tribes, clans and communities who call the subtropical forested areas of northern Queensland home. The gorge itself is home to several walking trails, and recently a suspension bridge was erected across the Mossman River, helping visitors explore more of this fascinating and biodiverse creek.
Forged over 1,000 years by the corrosive power of the Southern Ocean, The Twelve Apostles are a series of limestone sea stacks which stand on Australia’s Great Ocean Road, on the southern coast of Victoria. Despite the name, only nine stacks ever existed, and there are now only eight left standing, with one stack collapsing dramatically in 2005. The rate of erosion at the base of each stack is thought to be around 2cm a year, and there’s little telling when another could be lost to the sea. The Twelve Apostles are without question one of Australia’s most inspiring coastal landforms, so be sure to seize your chance to marvel at these structures while you still can.
Join Scenic for a luxury escorted tour of Australia, and discover for yourself these unforgettable natural wonders. Our handcrafted itineraries criss-cross the length and breadth of the country, introducing you to the special highlights of the land down under. For more information, call our team today on 0808 159 7985.