A hundred and fifty years after the last convict ship, the Hougoumont, arrived in Western Australia filled with Britain’s petty criminals, the country still has not quite rehabilitated its rakish reputation. But finding the highlights of the country for those who dream to visit Australia is a job we love.
We go in search of adventure and wonder, danger and otherness. We go to escape our civilizations at what we have designated the top of the world… in the place we call, with a thrill of mischief, Down Under.
And, when we know where to look. Extraordinary is what we find.
Warning: You will be tempted to visit Australia by the end of this blog
1. The Blue Mountains
Close to Sydney, the Eucalyptus oil from the gum tree forests turn the very sky a blue-green hue in the Blue Mountains. Find 2493 foot (760 m)-deep gorges and some of the world’s oldest species of plants here.
2. The Bungle Bungles
A condensed sandstone range that formed 300 million years ago, this massif in the northwestern region of the continent rises to 1896 feet (578 m). Discover its hidden gorges, tropical pools, caves and unique mammals and wildlife.
3. Daintree Rainforest
At 180 million years, Daintree Rainforest is holding up pretty well for an old lady. She predates the Amazon and her 430 bird species, fauna and flora will keep you busy during your stay.
4. Fraser Island
A very big sand island lies at the end of the Great Sandy Straight. At 76 miles long and 13 miles wide it is the world’s largest of its kind and boasts rainforests on sand dunes at elevations of over 656 feet (200 m), 100 freshwater lakes and diverse wildlife that includes dingoes. It continues to move and evolve.
5. The Gordon River
The Gordon-Franklin Wild Rivers National Park is home to the World Heritage listed river that flows 124 miles from source in the central Tasmanian highlands through an uninhabited wilderness and lush, ancient rainforest to Macquarie Harbour.
6. The Great Barrier Reef
Over 1800 miles of reef lie along the Queensland coast featuring 400 different types of coral and 1500 species of tropical fish. There are also 900 islands and 2900 individual reefs.
Dive, snorkel, sail, preserve… if you are lucky enough: repeat.
7. Horizontal Falls
Natural phenomena created by two narrow openings between two escarpments, the unique Horizontal Falls feature 39-foot (12m) tides. One of the most incredible features deep within Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago of the Kimberley region, this waterfall consists of intense tidal currents hurtling through two narrow coastal gorges. These massive tidal movements create a waterfall effect as the tides turn.
8. Hyams Beach
A seaside village on the shores of Jervis Bay this beach is famous for its powdery white sand and bright aqua water. Swim, snorkel visit the forests of the Jervis Bay National Park for some birdwatching and trail walking and then return to kayak, fish or watch the dolphins before sunset.
It is difficult to beat the tropical biodiversity of the over 12 thousand square mile Kakadu, 106 miles southeast of Darwin. With floodplains, tidal flats and rock country, the area also features Aboriginal rock carvings, a uranium mine and its share of fresh and saltwater crocodiles (Kakadon’t).
10. Kangaroo Island
Australia’s third largest island has pristine beaches, local wines, and fabulous sunsets. Surprisingly diverse, it isn’t home only to kangaroos but also features koalas and sea lions and even though it is quite remote visitors can expect excellent cuisine too.
11. Kata Tjuta
Thirty-six domes spread over 12 miles, the tallest dome rises 1791 feet (546 m) above the plane. Kata Tjuta is the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal tribe word meaning ‘many heads’ and they are thought to have originated at the same time as Uluru which is only 30 miles away.
12. Lord Howe Island
A volcanic remnant in the Tasman Sea, Lord Howe is a well-kept secret. This subtropical island lies 869 miles off Australia’s east coast and is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world. Sandy beaches, subtropical forests and clear water. It is close to paradise found.
13. Mackenzie Falls
Grampians National Park rises from the plains west of Melbourne. A sandstone mountain range it is home to many kangaroos and a 98 foot (30 m) tall, year-round waterfall that paints the scene with a rainbow mist in the sunshine.
14. Mon Repos Conservation Park
This park is special. Supporting the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the Eastern Australian mainland it also has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the entire South Pacific region. Their nesting and hatching success is critical to the survival of the endangered loggerhead turtle species. And you can witness this globally significant nesting and hatching happening right here.
15. Ningaloo Marine Park
The fringing reef of Ningaloo stretches 186 miles halfway up the West Australian coastline. Easily accessible, you can snorkel 32 feet (10 m) from shore and swim with whale sharks. You’re welcome.
16. Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge
Amidst the often harsh outback terrain, these 13 gorges in sandstone country is an oasis. The waterfalls, monsoon rainforest, waterholes, Aboriginal art, and wildlife can be explored by helicopter, foot, canoe or boat. And not too far away you can also visit a monster crocodile caught after 10 years on the run.
17. The Pinnacles
Only 30,000 years old, the Pinnacles were formed when the receding ocean abandoned seashells on the shore. Today these deposits rise several meters out of the sand in the Nambung National Park where they are guarded by grey kangaroos, emus, and reptiles.
18. Rottnest Island
Let’s make a list of what we would like from our dream vacation location. Shall we add gorgeous scenery, incredible marine life, fabulous beaches and pristine bays? Also, dolphins, a variety of wildlife and birdlife, please. And then, at the bottom of our list, we remember that a magical creature with a permanent cheeky grin might be quite nice too. Welcome to Rottnest and the beautiful rats it was named for; the Quokkas.
19. Shark Bay
Tens of thousands of dugongs, dolphins, threatened species and the world’s most diverse seagrass, Shark Bay lies along a W shaped coast of rocky limestone edged with white sand dunes and cliffs.
20. The Simpson Desert
An endless desert that stretches across the corners of South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, the Simpson is filled with sand dunes, salt crusted lakes and after rains an extravaganza of wildflowers blooming across the dunes.
21. Sydney Harbour
The man-made beauty of Sydney perfectly complements the natural perfection of its harbor. There are the iconic buildings and 150 miles of shorelines.
22. Twelve Apostles
You can catch the limestone stacks in their disappearing act off the Victorian Coast. Nine when they were named, they recently became eight and their base erodes at a rate of about an inch a year. Visit at sunrise or sunset and enjoy the ultimate road trip, stopping at fabulous little towns along the Great Ocean Way.
The heart of the Outback is around 700 million years old. There is no way to prepare yourself for the punch this sacred Anangu site packs. No matter how many times you return it always has a new hue and you will find yourself believing you can hear the ancient Tjukurpa whispering another creation story.
24. Whitehaven Beach
There are 10,000 beaches in Australia and Whitehaven is one of the best. In the Whitsunday Islands of Queensland, it is where Oprah chose to have a barbeque when she visited Australia.