Even though The Great Barrier Reef and Uluru missed out on being crowned one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, Oz has arguably some of the world’s most stunning landscapes.
We’ve chosen 10 of the country’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders.
1. Great Barrier Reef
The only living thing on Earth visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef was born 25 million years ago. The world’s largest reef system that stretches for 3,000 kilometers off the Queensland coast has 400 different types of coral and 1,500 species of tropical fish. Beautiful but precious, pollution and increased tourism threaten its future.
Uluru is a sacred site to the indigenous Anangu people, who request individuals not to climb the sandstone monolith 450 kilometers (280 miles) southwest of Alice Springs in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Once known as Ayers Rock, it’s 348 meters high (1,142 feet) with a circumference of 9.4 kilometers (5.8 miles). It’s famed for the different hues that bathe it, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
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3. Shark Bay
Some 800 kilometers north of Perth on Australia’s west coast, Shark Bay’s W-shaped coastline of rocky limestone, white sand dunes and cliffs is 1,500-kilometers long. The bay has many shallow peninsulas and is home to 10,000 dugongs, as well as many threatened species, dolphins and the world’s most diverse sea grass. Historians say it was where Europeans first landed and deemed it “no good.”
4. The Pinnacles
A three-hour drive north of Perth, these limestone formations were created 30,000 years ago when the receding ocean left deposits of seashells on shore. The Pinnacles rise several meters out of the sand in the Nambung National Park, which is home to grey kangaroos, emus and reptiles.
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5. Twelve Apostles
Erosion created these limestone stacks that are viewable from the Great Ocean Road, off the Victorian coast, where they continue to erode. In spite of being named the Twelve Apostles, there were only nine when they were named — but after a recent fall, there are now eight. Their base erodes at a rate of 2 centimeters a year.
6. MacKenzie Falls
The biggest waterfall in the kangaroo-infested Grampians National Park, a sandstone mountain range that rises from the plains 235 kilometers west of Melbourne. At MacKenzie Falls, waterfalls 30 meters into a gorge, all year round, and gives off a rainbow mist in the sunshine.
7. Fraser Island
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, 123 kilometers in length and up to 22 kilometers wide, lies at the end of the Great Sandy Straight. It has rainforests, 240-meter-high sand dunes, 100 freshwater lakes and a diverse wildlife including many dingoes.
Encompassing 20,000 square kilometers of tropical biodiversity, including 1,700 plant species, Kakadu lies 171 kilometers southeast of Darwin. It contains floodplains, tidal flats and rock country. It’s covered in Aboriginal rock carvings and, controversially, has a uranium mine. It’s also home to freshwater and saltwater crocodiles, so watch your step.
9. Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are two hours’ drive west of Sydney. Eucalyptus oil from gum trees gives the panorama a green hue. From Echo Point, on the ridges of the Great Dividing Range, the limestone rock formation, the Three Sisters, rises from sandstone plateau and 760-meter-deep gorges. It contains some of the world’s oldest species of plants — including Wollemi pines, the botanical equivalent of dinosaurs.
10. Bungle Bungles
In the northwestern region of the continent, the 350-million-year-old massif in the Bungle Bungles/Purnululu National Park is a condensed sandstone range that rises to 578 meters. Gorges, tropical pools and caves are home to unique mammals and wildlife.