Top 10 UNESCO Sites in Australia
There are many spectacular sights to discover in Australia and sometimes it’s hard not to wonder where to start. UNESCO has designated 19 World Heritage Sites in the country as of 2017, and that’s a good place to begin.
These noteworthy locations hold cultural and environmental significance and often place you in stunning surroundings; they include three cultural sites, 12 natural sites, and four mixed sites (national parks and lakes regions); here are 10 must-see spots you can add to your itinerary.
Great Barrier Reef
Probably the most famous of all Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Great Barrier Reef is home to over 3,000 coral reefs and 600 islands. In fact, it’s so large that it’s visible from outer space! Just off the coast of Queensland, it can be explored through a range of excursions including snorkelling, kayaking, cruising or even scuba diving – a great way to get closer to the stunning marine life on offer. You may even catch a sight of the dugong (sea cow) and large green sea turtles.
Western Australia’s Shark Bay has three remarkable features: sea-grass beds, three billion-year-old stromatolites (special rock-like structures) and its wildlife. Shark Bay is even home to five species of endangered mammals including the boodie, rufous hare-wallaby, banded hare-wallaby, the Shark Bay mouse and the western barred bandicoot.
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Dwarfed by ancient time-defying rainforests, the 76-mile long island is made up from freshwater dune lakes, rainforests, swamps, mangrove jungle, sand dunes and uncultivated coastline all of which forms one of the most incredible islands on earth.
Greater Blue Mountains Area
If you’re looking for stunning natural beauty, look no further than the Blue Mountains. Consisting of eight different protected areas that serve as natural habitats for various endangered species, the area consists of sandstone, aboriginal engravings, gorges and forests. Looking to go hiking? You won’t find a much better location in the world! Some of the best times to catch the slate-coloured haze that gives the mountains their name is early morning and late evening. One thing is for sure, if you’re looking to capture spectacular views, the Blue Mountains are an unmissable experience.
Sydney Opera House
One of the most iconic landmarks in Australia, the Sydney Opera House was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2007. It is an innovative building and a major cultural centre which provides world-class performances from a variety of acts. More than just a unique piece of architecture, it is an unmissable structure which will forever be known as one of the most iconic buildings in Australia for it expressionist style and radical influence. You wouldn’t go to Paris and miss the Eiffel Tower – so don’t miss Sydney’s Opera House!
Kakadu National Park
Looking for something which has strong cultural importance but is also exceptionally pretty? Look no further than Kakadu National Park. This World Heritage Site contains some creatively astounding aboriginal rock art, cave paintings and archaeological sites which encourage visitors to explore the 40,000 years Aboriginal Australians have inhabited the land. The national park includes tidal flats, floodplains, lowlands and plateaux and habitats for rare and endemic species.
Australian Convict Sites
The Australian Convict sites were recognised for their cultural importance and were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010. There are 11 penal sites including the famous Cockatoo Island, Cascades Female Factory, Darlington Probation Station and Fremantle Prison. Built by the British government to aid in the transport of prisoners from England, these sites were evidence of the British empire’s power, but also of key significance to Australia as the convicts who arrived there helped to build the modern-day country. The First Fleet was sent to Sydney in 1788 and this went on for the next 80 years.
Purnululu National Park
The star attraction of the National Park is the Bungle Bungle Range. This is a series of deeply dissected sandstone towers which have eroded over the past 20 million years and formed the beehive-shaped cones. One of the most popular ways to discover Purnululu National Park is by helicopter; from the air you can see the sheer size of the land that encompasses these towers. As you arrive at the Bungle Bungle Range the appearance of these formations appears to change depending on your angle of approach, making this a truly unique experience.
Lord Howe Island Group
Created by volcanic activity over seven million ago, these neighbouring islands are home to a range of diverse endemic species as well as a unique group of plants. The Lord Howe Island Group is also home to the world’s most southerly coral reef. Mostly made up of a protected nature preserve, its landscape is made up of sheer mountain slopes, remnants of volcanic eruptions and lagoons. This World Heritage Site is most popular for bird watching and aquatic activities.
Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens
The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens in Melbourne were Australia’s first purely cultural site. Hosting international exhibitions, the venue is one of the few surviving buildings of the golden age. The venue reflects the “the global influence of the international exhibition movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.” It’s well worth a visit.
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