Australia has 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites of outstanding universal value. The list includes a mix of natural and cultural wonders, including the popular Kakadu, Great Barrier Reef and Tasmanian Wilderness. Of course, these rugged and remote areas get the most airtime.
But did you know Shark Bay in Western Australia, the Blue Mountains NSW and even Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens are World Heritage listed? Some of Australia’s richest offerings can be experienced not-so-far off the beaten track.
Fraser Island, QLD
About 15km off the Queensland coastline, a stone’s throw from Hervey Bay, lies Fraser Island. Here, you can spot the humpback whales until November. And if you miss whale season, it’s year round fun swimming in freshwater lakes that sparkle like jewels, walking through rainforest growing in sand, 4WDriving along the beach or exploring the Maheno shipwreck.
Australian Convict Sites
There are 11 convict sites spread across Australia that reveal a grim history of forced migration. Harrowing tales of convicts that were shipped to our penal colony can be seen at sites in Sydney, Norfolk Island, Tasmania and Fremantle.
Our favourite is the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart, where you can relive the heart-breaking stories of convict women forced into hard labour, their babies and young children imprisoned with them, in appalling conditions.
You’ll need a drink after visiting this attraction! Luckily Hobart is foodie heaven, with its fresh produce and incredible pinots. There are plenty of great hotels to choose from. But right up the history alley is The Henry Jones Art Hotel.
Blue Mountains, NSW
This world heritage site comes with all the big city conveniences. The Blue Mountains are less than 2 hours drive from Sydney. There’s plenty of outdoor activities for all fitness levels. From adventure bushwalks and canyoning, to the impressive railway ride at Scenic World. There’s also fine dining, art galleries and spa treatments for indoorsy types.
Our favourite spot to stay in the Blue Mountains is Leura.
Shark Bay, WA
Shark Bay has an abundance of marine life. Think dugongs, turtles and, yes, more tiger sharks per square kilometre than anywhere in the world. It’s also home to the famous Monkey Mia, a haven for dolphins and visitors alike. Ok, it’s not super easy to get to – about a 10 hour drive north of Perth – but you’ll love the scenery along the way, we promise!
With absolute beachfront accommodation, interaction with the dolphins costs nothing at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort.
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne
Surely Australia can’t compete with Europe for “really, really old buildings”, can it? The answer is yes. The Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton is one of the world’s oldest Great Halls and the first building in Australia to reach World Heritage fame. It has a huge, grand dome that’s been beautifully restored and the surrounding gardens are stunning. We love it here in autumn with its warm tones, relaxed mood and leaves that form a colourful carpet over the grass.
With the city skyscrapers just over the road (literally!), you can enjoy the best of an energetic city and the calm respite of the gardens. We think you’ll want to return for more in Melbourne.
Here’s all 19 World Heritage sites in Australia. What’s your favourite?
- Australian Convict Sites – NSW, Norfolk Island, TAS, WA
- Australian Fossil Mammal Sites – QLD & SA
- Fraser Island QLD
- Gondwana Rainforests of Australia – QLD & NSW
- Great Barrier Reef QLD
- Greater Blue Mountains Area NSW
- Heard & McDonald Islands
- Kakadu National Park NT
- Lord Howe Island Group NSW
- Macquarie Island TAS
- Ningaloo Reef WA
- Purnululu National Park WA
- Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens VIC
- Shark Bay WA
- Sydney Opera House NSW
- Tasmanian Wilderness
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park NT
- Wet Tropics of Queensland
- Willandra Lakes Region NSW