A vast country that offers plenty of diversity, you could dedicate years to exploring Australia and still find glorious gems afterwards. A land that is rich with Aboriginal culture, there are many sacred sites and places where the indigenous peoples have left their indelible footprint on the landscapes. Natural treasures abound, with varied terrains and wildlife. There are large thriving cities brimming with an array of activities and attraction. Let’s not forget too that Australia is a perfect destination for an awesome road trip.
1. Lake Hillier, Western Australia
Lake Hillier is located on Middle Island, off the coast of Western Australia. The blue of the ocean meets a fringe of white sand backed by verdant forests. Within the greenery is a spectacular natural phenomenon: a lake with waters as pink as a flamingo. Lake Hillier is definitely one of Australia’s natural jewels.
2. Purnululu National Park, Western Australia
Part of the incredible Kimberley region, Purnululu National Park is most famous for the range known as the Bungle Bungles. Aboriginal heritage is ripe in the stripy sandstone and unusually shaped cone-like mountains.
3. The Pinnacles, Western Australia
The jagged limestone spikes of the Pinnacles are somewhat of an enigma; nobody knows for sure how they actually came into existence. Rising like needles from the flat landscapes, though, they are an unusual and impressive vision.
4. Rottnest Island, Western Australia
A scenic island with plentiful beaches, Rottnest Island is also ideal for active adventures. Swim in the warm waters, see an array of aquatic life with snorkeling and diving, fish for your supper, cycle the various trails and kayak around the coast.
5. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is home to one of Australia’s most iconic sites: the spectacular Uluru. A huge sandstone rock, it is especially stunning at sunset when the setting sun makes the rock flicker with fiery hues. A sacred place for the local Aboriginal groups, the area also has a number of fascinating rock paintings. The domes of the Olgas are other arresting features within the national park.
6. Nitmiluk National Park, Northern Territory
A land that changes colors throughout the year, red rocks tower alongside watering holes and streams in Nitmiluk National Park. Creatures big and small are drawn to the water, with birds, lizards and crocodiles to see. The park’s main features are the dramatic gorges along the meandering Katherine River. Waterfalls of all sizes and rapids can be found along the river. Soak up the views with a canoeing or hiking trip.
7. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
Steeped in Aboriginal significance, the wildlife-rich Kakadu National Park has several scenic river systems and numerous interesting rock formations. The country’s biggest national park, you can admire intriguing rock art and mighty waterfalls, explore the terrain on a number of hiking trails and try to spot crocodiles and a colorful range of birds.
8. Mount Gambier, South Australia
The ancient volcanic landscapes around Mount Gambier cannot fail to impress visitors. Deep craters and picturesque lakes dot the landscapes, with the dazzling Blue Lake among the most stunning. Climb Centenary Tower for glorious views over the area, enjoy long scenic hikes and explore the Tantanoola Caves.
9. Barossa Valley, South Australia
Rolling vineyards with plenty of wineries are part of what makes the Barossa Valley so appealing. The colors of the landscapes change with the seasons; fall is especially attractive when the foliage turns to shades of orange, yellow and brown. Following the Barossa Scenic Heritage Drive is a great way to fully enjoy the area’s rustic glory.
10. Kangaroo Island, South Australia
A rare, untamed wilderness, Kangaroo Island is a prime destination for nature lovers. Home to a wide assortment of flora and fauna, some of the island’s local species cannot be found anywhere else. Look out for koalas, sea lions, platypus, lizards, dolphins, wallabies, various bird species and, of course, the island’s namesake kangaroos. There are stunning rock formations and natural features to capture your imagination too, such as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch.
11. Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland
The huge Great Barrier Reef is the biggest coral reef in the world. The waters are rich with biodiversity, making for some superb underwater adventures. Whether you’re into snorkeling or scuba diving, the Great Barrier Reef is sure to wow you. There’s plenty of natural beauty on dry land too; head to the glorious Whitsunday Islands within the reef system and bask on secluded sandy bays, swim in emerald waters and soak up the postcard-worthy views.
12. Daintree National Park, Queensland
With one of the world’s oldest ecosystems, a journey around the Daintree National Park is sure to be an enlightening experience. Many of the park’s features are important for local Aboriginal groups. See where the lush rainforest meets the sparkling waters of the ocean at Cape Tribulation and feast your eyes on the spectacular falls at Mossman Gorge.
13. Fraser Island, Queensland
The biggest sand island in the world, Queensland’s Fraser Island is pretty unusual. Along the coast you can see the bizarre Champagne Pools with their bubbling water that is teeming with fish. Take endless Instagram-worthy snaps of the red rocky cliffs named the Cathedrals and see shipwrecks jutting up from the waters at the dramatic Five Mile Beach. Nature-filled rainforests, pristine lakes and tall dunes can be found further in on the island.
14. Sydney Harbour, New South Wales
The thriving and cosmopolitan city of Sydney boasts many interesting attractions, but two major sights not to miss are the sail-like Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. A boat trip around Sydney Harbour is a terrific way to admire both man-made splendors from the water.
15. Blue Mountains, New South Wales
Named after the blue color of the many eucalyptus trees, the UNESCO-listed Blue Mountains have an abundance of natural delights. See cliffs, canyons, waterfalls, rock formations and forests, not to mention a wide array of flora and fauna. Head into the area’s heart with hiking trips and admire the sweeping views with a ride on the gondola at Scenic World. Highlights of the area include Jenolan Caves, Three Sisters and Wentworth Falls.
16. Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Often cited as one of the world’s greatest road trips, the Great Ocean Road reveals a plethora of delights along its 151 miles. There are many interesting towns, villages, lookout points and beaches to stop at along the way; take your time and enjoy the ride! Major points of interest along the route include the 12 Apostles, London Arch, Loch Ard Gorge, Tower Hill Volcano, Melba Gully, Split Point Lighthouse and The Grotto.
17. Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria
In the part of Victoria known as Gippsland, Wilsons Promontory National Park sits at the most southern point of mainland Australia. The rugged peninsula boasts glorious sandy beaches, lots of wildlife and unusual rock formations. Highlights include the strange Skull Rocks, the picturesque Squeaky beach and the sands and rocks of Waterloo Bay.
18. Melbourne, Victoria
Australia’s cultural heartland, there is much to admire in Melbourne. The street art is especially eye catching and the European-style architecture lends a certain sophisticated air to the city. The Royal Arcade is an attractive shopping area.
19. Bay of Fires, Tasmania
Red lichen covers the rocks on the shore of the Bay of Fires, presenting a striking contrast to the blues of the sea and the white sandy beach. Incredibly photogenic, it’s also a fantastic place to feel as though you’ve found your own little piece of paradise on earth.
20. Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
Rugged and relatively under-visited, Freycinet National Park is a top destination for lovers of the outdoors. Don’t miss Wineglass Bay, where deep blue waters seductively lap pale sands around the curved bay. It’s easy to see how this picturesque bay got its name! The Hazards is another must. The diverse wildlife includes a number of rare species and there are several cultural sites throughout the park too.
Before you do hit the road, be sure to check out this backpacking packing list from Travel Tom.
Amazingly, these 20 sites are just a small selection of all the wondrous places waiting to be discovered in Australia. Which are on your wish list?