Australia is a land of great natural beauty that many travelers find both exotic and accessible. It is not a surprise that a majority of the UNESCO World Heritage sites Down Under are of the natural variety (there are a couple of very notable man-made sites as well). However, the teeming waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the stark beauty of the Outback and the lesser known regions of inland Australia and Tasmania provide a very diverse set of attractions for people who want to get a taste of a little bit of everything that this continent has to offer.

Here are the most interesting and attractive UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

Australia is a land of great natural beauty that many travelers find both exotic and accessible. It is not a surprise that a majority of the UNESCO World Heritage sites Down Under are of the natural variety (there are a couple of very notable man-made sites as well). However, the teeming waters of the Great Barrier Reef, the stark beauty of the Outback and the lesser known regions of inland Australia and Tasmania provide a very diverse set of attractions for people who want to get a taste of a little bit of everything that this continent has to offer.

Here are the most interesting and attractive UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park
Photo: Marc Dalmulder / Flickr

Sitting in a remote corner of Australia, in the Northern Territory, Kakadu is one of the true historic treasures on the continent. It is thought that people have been living here, continuously, for more than 40,000 years. A huge collection of archeological sites, cave paintings, and rock carvings back up this claim. They provide a glimpse into the little known ancient human history of Australia. In addition, Kakadu is a great destination for nature lovers. The vast floodplains and lowland landscapes provide unique habitats for plants and animals that do not grow or live anywhere else on earth.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef
Photo: Kyle Taylor / Flickr

The world’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef, off of Australia’s northeastern coast, is a haven for all sorts of colorful and unique sea life. The coral reef is so large that is can actually be seen from space. Because of concerns about conservation, the number of diving tours and boat cruises into the Great Barrier waters are limited, but if you plan enough in advance, you can have your fill of underwater (or above-water) adventure during your stay. With sharks, rays, and colorful reef fish, this is certainly one of the best options in the world for people who want to enjoy a water-based safari

Fraser Island

Champagne Pools, Fraser Island
Photo: Eduardo M. C. / Flickr

This is arguably one of the most unique islands on earth. Located off the east coast of Australia, Fraser is actually one huge sand bar (over 100 kilometers long). The winds shift the coastal dunes daily while jungle landscapes and freshwater lakes sit inland. This very unique set of eco-systems supports some great wildlife, but the star here is the very unusual set of landscapes. You can even enjoy a little bit excitement by driving in a 4×4 along the beach as the waves come in and the tide changes.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House
PHoto: cloudzilla / Flickr

One of the world’s most recognizable structures, the Sydney Opera House was finished 40 years ago. Its sail-like roof and position on the edge of Sydney Harbor make it a truly memorable sight. Concerts and other performances still take place inside, but most people see it from the outside, either up close or as they are cruising the harbor. This symbol of Sydney is best when viewed multiple times from multiple vantage points. Sightseers can appreciate it up close and from across the harbor. During the day, the stunning design is easy to see, while the lights of the Opera House and the surrounding city make for a unique visual treat after dark.

Australian Convict Sites

Guard Tower, Port Arthur
Photo: Tim Keegan / Flickr

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, when Australia was part of the British Empire, it was used as a prison colony. Some of the sites from these early days still remain, and the most historic have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These prison settlements can be found on both the East and West coasts of the continent. The sites feature the remnants of living quarters and public buildings.

Uluru

Uluru
Photo: Rupert Ganzer / Flickr

You can’t create a list of the most famous sights in Australia without mentioning Uluru (a.k.a. Ayer’s Rock). Sitting in the middle of the desert in inland Australia, Uluru is a monolith that consists of very hard sandstone. Its unique shape and steep sides make it a very picturesque topographical feature. Thousands of years of erosion and weathering have created the curtain-like slopes and also numerous caves and overhangs. The site is important to local aboriginal culture.

What do you think the most memorable attraction Down Under is? Let us know what we should add to our list of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

Categories: Sydney

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