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12 Natural Wonders That Have Us Dreaming About Life Down Under

Whatever you fancy, there's something for you down in Australia.

Considering how little of Australia’s vast land is actually populated, it’s unsurprising that there’s so much natural beauty in the world’s sixth-largest country. And with a huge area of 7,617,930 square kilometers to explore, seeing everything could take a considerable amount of time. But who doesn’t love a challenge? From the unusual grandeur of Uluru to the vivid colors of the Great Barrier Reef, these 12 natural wonders are enough to make us want to book a trip to the sunburnt continent down under.

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WHERE: Northern Territory

Arguably the most recognizable natural wonder on mainland Australia, Uluru is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is sacred to the Indigenous Anangu people. Located around 335 kilometers (208 miles) southwest of Alice Springs in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the huge red sandstone formation stands 348 meters (1,142 feet) high and could be as old as 500 million years old.

As a mark of respect to the land and laws of the Aboriginal people who have resided here for thousands of years, Uluru became permanently closed to the popular tourist climbs in October 2019.

Related: Uluru 101: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Australia’s ‘Red Centre’ Monolith

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The Great Barrier Reef

WHERE: Queensland

Stretching for over 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) alongside the Queensland coast, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system and is the only living thing visible from space. Colorful, epic, and ever under threat from climate change and pollution, the reef is home to over 400 different types of coral and 1,500 species of tropical fish. There are many ways to see the Great Barrier Reef—snorkeling, scuba diving, and helicopter all come to mind—but a ride on a submarine may just be the most popular.


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The Twelve Apostles

WHERE: Victoria

The Twelve Apostles off the coast of Victoria are unique and not just for their erroneous name. Formed by constant erosion of the cliffs from the Southern Ocean, what was once limestone arches are now a collection of rock stacks up to 50 meters (160 feet) high. They’re also a spectacular stopping point along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. And yes, despite the name, there are only eight (reduced from nine due to a collapse in 2005).

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Blue Mountains

WHERE: New South Wales

At first glance, the mountain range just west of Sydney is clearly not blue, but the ethereal haze formed in the far distance by the rolling eucalyptus forests has a blue tinge, which is why the name has stuck. The 96-kilometer (60-mile) Blue Mountains offer some gorgeous vistas, and arguably the finest is from the stunning plateau of Lincoln’s Rock. Though for the most classic shot, head to Echo Point, where visitors are treated to grandiose views, including the famous Three Sisters rock formation.

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Kangaroo Island

WHERE: South Australia

Australia‘s third-largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island, Kangaroo Island, is one of the country’s greatest natural escapes, both in its wildlife and its scenery. From quiet coves to rugged rocky outcrops, Kangaroo Island packs a lot into its 145 kilometer (90 meter) length and also has a number of native species.

The Kangaroo Island kangaroo, southern brown bandicoot, tammar wallaby, common brushtail possum, short-beaked echidna, Australian sea lion, and long-nosed fur seal are native to the island, as well as six different bat and frog species.

Related: 12 Secret Islands in Australia You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

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The Pinnacles

WHERE: Western Australia

One of the more otherworldly-looking sights on this list, The Pinnacles, is a series of limestone formations within Nambung National Park in Western Australia. The sandy desert location three hours north of Perth only adds to their mystique. Thought to be around 30,000 years old, they were formed when the receding ocean left deposits of seashells on the shore. A visit to this remote corner of Australia won’t only reward you with these strange scenes, as the area is also home to grey kangaroos, emus, and several reptiles.

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Lord Howe Island

WHERE: New South Wales

From its turquoise coral reef lagoon to the soaring summit of Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island is a unique outpost in the Tasman Sea around 600 kilometers (320 meters) directly east of mainland Port Macquarie. Of its 28 satellite islands, by far the most interesting is the 6.5 million-year-old Ball’s Pyramid.

Measured at 562 meters (1,844 feet) high but only 300 meters (984 feet) across, it’s the world’s tallest volcanic stack, and its rocky build and steep shape make it one of Australia’s most arresting sights.

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Shark Bay

WHERE: Western Australia

Western Australia’s first World Heritage-listed area, there are many reasons why UNESCO could have chosen to honor this site, but the main one is the bizarre dome-shaped stromatolites at Hamelin Pool in the southern part of the bay. Modern equivalents of the earliest signs of life on Earth, Hamelin Pool, contains the most diverse and abundant examples of living stromatolite forms in the world. Shark Bay also stays true to its name as the whale shark—the largest fish in the world—gathers in the bay during the April and May full moons.

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MacKenzie Falls

WHERE: Victoria

The most iconic waterfall in Victoria’s Grampians National Park, MacKenzie Falls, cascades down from a height of 35 meters (38 yards) and often sprays a rainbow mist in the glittering sunshine. There’s a small hike to reach the various viewing platforms, but the journey is worth it, as is the steep climb to the base of the falls. MacKenzie Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in Victoria and is also the only waterfall in the Grampians that flows all year round.

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WHERE: Northern Territory

One of the most ecologically and biologically diverse parks in Australia, Kakadu National Park covers an area of almost 20,000 square kilometers (7722 square miles). The park contains over 1,700 plant species and fauna, including wallabies, saltwater crocodiles, plumed whistling ducks, dingoes, and brown bandicoots.

Aside from its obvious natural draws, Kakadu is also home to some fascinating examples of Aboriginal rock art, with some paintings dating back an almost-unfathomable 20,000 years.

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Rottnest Island

WHERE: Western Australia

Rottnest Island is beautiful in its own right, though its white sands and gentle turquoise shores aren’t the main reason visitors head to this languid island 18 kilometers (11 miles) west of Fremantle. Quokkas are small marsupials found extensively across Rottnest Island and are best known for their seemingly smiling face (even though that’s just their natural facial structure).

In fact, such are their happy expressions, they’ve even become stars of their own “quokka selfie” internet phenomenon (and as someone who’s been to Rottnest Island and done this, I can confirm it’s an amusing experience and one of the more light-hearted tourist traps I’ve fallen into). 

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Kata Tjuta

WHERE: Northern Territory

Similar in physical prominence to Uluru, Kata Tjuta is a series of large domed rock formations jutting out of the desert landscape southwest of Alice Springs. In fact, the rocks are only 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of Uluru but are formed of a slightly different rock type than their more illustrious neighbor.

Rising more than 546 meters (597 yards) above ground level, Mount Olga is the highest point of Kata Tjuta and—somewhat surprisingly—sits more than 200 meters (219 yards) higher than the eminent Uluru.