It’s the world’s sixth largest country (by area), and absolutely crammed with some of the globe’s most breath-taking natural beauty. From the dusty plains of the Pinnacle desert to architectural marvels like the Sydney Opera House and it’s neighbouring Harbour Bridge, it’s difficult to really slim down a list of notable places in Australia to make any kind of ‘Best of’ list. That said, after lots of pondering and quite a bit of debate, we’ve compiled this bumper list of the Top 10 landmarks in Australia.
And, because ten just really isn’t enough, check out our bonus list at the bottom, for some other entries that just didn’t make it up the leader board.
Did you know: Did you know that Australia is almost the same size as mainland USA (United States of America)? Oh, and it is home to 21 of the world’s 25 most poisonous snakes (eek!).
What are the top landmarks in Australia?
- The Great Barrier Reef
- Sydney Opera House
- Purnululu National Park
- Twelve Apostles & The Great Ocean Road
- The Melbourne Cricket Ground
- Port Arthur Historic Site
- Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
- Pinnacles Desert
- Kings Canyon
Our Top 10 Landmarks in Australia
The Great Barrier Reef
So right at the top of our list of the top Australian landmarks has to be The Great Barrier Reef. Why is it number one for us? Well it is the largest coral reef system in the world and, as passionate divers, it is something that we hope to one day explore (even just a tiny bit of it). It houses a fascinating array of sea life, including whales, dolphins, 1500 different types of fish, turtles, sharks and rays.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world, but is actually nearly 3,000 individual reefs, along with 900 islands set within a nearly 350,000 sq. km area. The Great Barrier Reef is not surprisingly one of the biggest tourist attractions in Australia, attracting around 2 million visitors each year, hugely adding to Australian tourism.
Did you know? Unlike the Great Wall of China, which can’t be seen from space, The Great Barrier Reef can! It really is that massive. And what’s more is that it is the largest single structure made by living organisms on the planet. How cool is that?!
Top tours to The Great Barrier Reef
What better way to see The Great Barrier Reef than to head out on a snorkelling or diving trip? Check out our recommendation for your trip here.
Sydney Opera House
So second on our list of the top landmarks in Australia has to be the most iconic building in the country – actually the Sydney Opera House is up there with the most iconic buildings in the world. The Sydney Opera house became a UNESCO World Heritage listed site in 2007.
This famous Australian landmark was designed by Jorn Utzon, and is the must-see for any visitor traveling to Sydney. Alongside operas, the venue hosts many other concerts, ballets and exhibitions. If you’re in Sydney, you should try and get tickets to a performance.
Did you know? The Sydney Opera House was the winning entry in an international design competition that was created by the New South Wales Premier back in 1956. And the building took 9 years to complete, with works beginning in 1964 and the Sydney Opera House officially opening in 1973.
Tour the Sydney Opera House
If you’re in town, make sure that you look to go on a tour of the Sydney Opera House – it’s a really incredible structure and the best way to get to see this iconic landmark in Australia.
A place that has been hitting the headlines of late with the implementation of new rules that stop people from climbing, Uluru (or Ayers Rock) is another renowned landmark in Australia. Set in the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, Ayers Rock is a massive sandstone rock formation, located in the south of the Northern Territory.
This iconic natural landmark is a sacred place to the Aboriginal people in the region, and a listed UNESCO World Heritage site. If you’re visiting Uluru, you should also check out the Olgas in Kata Tjuta, these red domes are also absolutely spectacular.
Did you know? Uluru is taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris! On the relatively flat surrounding landscape, this massive 350m landmark is a sight to be seen.
The best Uluru tours
Looking for the best way to explore Uluru, check out the options with Get Your Guide.
Purnululu National Park
Until recently, we hadn’t even heard of the Purnululu National Park, but given how incredible this place is, it makes it pretty high up our top 10 list of landmarks in Australia! Purnululu National Park in Western Australia is most famous for the Bungle Bungles – a set of fascinating hills, creating one of Australia’s most unique landscapes.
The World Heritage area has strange sandstone rock formations that have been formed by weathering over the last few million years, creating amazing dome shaped towers.
Did you know? The area is one of the best in the world for stargazing! There is very little man-made light in the area, so if you’re keen to see the night’s sky, get this Australian landmark on your list.
12 Apostles & The Great Ocean Road
So we’ve sneakily crammed both of these into the same place, as they definitely deserve a mention. And let’s be honest, you can’t really see one without the other, so both the Twelve Apostles and The Great Ocean Road make it onto our list of famous landmarks of Australia.
The Great Ocean road is a winding 243 km (150 miles) stretch of road that snakes it way around the south-eastern coast of Australia between the cities of Torquay and Allansford, although most people state that it runs between the larger cities of Melbourne and Adelaide. What makes the Great Ocean Road special? It’s known as one of the best coastal roads in the world, as the scenery is absolutely incredible along this entire route.
It takes about 9-10 hours to drive it but the real fun is in stopping along the way at places like The Grotto, Gibson Steps and the Bay of Islands. However, one of the real highlights is definitely The Twelve Apostles. These craggy limestone structures tower 45 metres over the ocean, formed about 20 million years ago as the sea eroded the cliffs. There are only eight still standing today, but they are absolutely magnificent.
Did you know? You can usually see one of Australia’s cuddliest creatures, the koala, on the Great Ocean Road. You need to stop in at Kennett River and make your way along the Grey River Road to see these guys hanging in the trees.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground
Now we couldn’t have put together a list of the best landmarks in Australia without including the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG or The G), alongside Lord’s in England, the home of cricket, is THE place where cricket fans around the world want to go and watch test cricket.
Although originally a cricket venue, it now hosts a number of different sporting and music events throughout the year. It’s worth checking what’s on at The G if you are in town and seeing if you can get a ticket!
Did you know? The MCG is the largest cricket stadium in the world and has held over 93,000 fans at a match! It’s so big in terms of a sporting venue that it’s the largest in the southern hemisphere and makes it into the Top 10 largest stadiums in the world!
Port Arthur Historic Site
Tasmania has to feature on this list and definitely one of it’s leading landmarks is the Port Arthur Historic Site. This former settlement of convicts was were the most hardened criminals (mostly British and Irish) were sequestered from 1833 to 1853.
It’s an absolutely fascinating place: a peninsula entirely surrounded by (allegedly) shark-infested waters that was known as an ‘inescapable prison’ due to it’s location, as well as the strict guarding by soldiers, emaciated dogs and even booby traps! More than 12,000 convicts passed through the gates of Port Arthur into what was known as a ‘living hell’ at the time.
Nowadays you can take a guided tour through the site, which is over 40 hectares (400 square metres) of buildings including a defunct coalmine, a factory, ruins of homes and the Isle of the Dead, a tiny cemetery which holds the bodies of more than 1000 people laid to rest in mostly unmarked graves.
The best way to see Port Arthur is taking one of the Get your Guide tours to the region, where you visit Pirates Bay, Eaglehawk Neck and the key sights of the Tasman National Park, before seeing Port Arthur and the Isle of the Dead, via a short cruise.
Did you know? The prisoners built their own jail. While the initial settlement was made from wood from the surrounding forest, the actual prison walls were constructed out of stone by the inmates themselves.
Tasmanian Wilderness Heritage Area
The second entry for Tasmania on this catalogue and it’s a well-deserved one, the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area actually covers nearly 20 percent of Tasmania itself! The Area has seven national parks and this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to some of the most diverse fauna and flora in the world. The crowning jewel is probably the Tarkine Rainforest, one of the most incredible temperate rainforests in the world. Think soaring Myrtle Beech trees, Houn Pin and the famous Tasmanian waratah tree, with its soft red flowers.
Looking to see ‘Taz’, the cute little Tasmanian Devil featured in the old ‘Looney Tunes’ cartoons? This is the place. Tarkine Forest is the habitat to the last Tasmanian devils, the small marsupials that got their name from early settlers who equated their strange screams and growls with a devil (plus these little animals have red areas and sharp teeth, so have quite a resemblance to devils). Unfortunately these eclectic creatures are under threat since more than 80 percent of them have died from Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
Did you know? The Tasmanian Wilderness Heritage Area used to be part of Gondwanaland, the ancient supercontinent that also included parts of South America, and South Africa!
One of Western Australia’s most beautiful attractions, over 250,000 people make the pilgrimage each year to see the Pinnacles Dessert. Situated about 200 km north of Perth, Pinnacles is an area of about 190 hectares (nearly 2 square km) which boasts thousands of limestone ‘pinnacles’ – these are limestone pillars emerging from the sand below and reaching up to about 3.5 metres tall.
Called ‘pinnacles’ since they look like columns from a lost world. Actually, for many years, these were believed to be from a lost city!
The desert itself has been home to many Aboriginal local tribes for many years and actually part of the heritage or ‘dreamtime’, as it was believed that each pinnacle represented a dead enemy, defeated on the land.
Did you know? The Pinnacles is not the only sight to see in Nambung National Park. You can also visit the Hangover Bay beach break for surfing and swimming, or Kangaroo Point if you want to fish.
Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory is another natural wonder that has to be explored, with Kings Canyon it’s most fascinating sight. Best explored on a 7km ridge walk, the sandstone canyon walls are about 100 metres high, with Kings Creek laid below them. If you had to compare it to anything, it would be up there with the Grand Canyon in the USA.
While the top of the canyon boasts weathered rock domes that are similar to those in Purnululu, the experience at Kings Canyon is wholly different. You’ll find rock engravings that are hundreds of years old and sacred sites to behold.
Did you know? Kings Canyon is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon, reaching 8,200 feet (2,500 metres) in some places.
Australian landmarks map
Some other notable landmarks in Australia that nearly made our top 10
It really was difficult to select only ten top landmarks in Australia. So, we’ve decided to cheat! We’ve ended up listing a whole lot more below, to really pay homage to the natural and manmade splendour of this Southern hemisphere powerhouse. Here are a few that just didn’t nudge their way onto our famous Australian landmarks list:
It’s one of the most famous stretches of sand in all of Australia, if not known as one of the most beautiful beaches in all of the world. Sweeping white sand, joyful beachgoers and slightly hardcore surfers (the waves are reliable if sometimes a little tricky), make Bondi Beach a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. It’s also a great reprieve from the city centre of Sydney itself, offering a welcome respite from the high rises and bustle of Australia’s largest city.
White Haven Beach, Whitsundays Islands
While we’re on the subject of beaches, undoubtedly White Haven Beach in the Whitsundays Islands must come out on top. This 7 km stretch of beach is known for its turquoise blue waters but particularly it’s white sand. The sand, which is almost eyeblinding white, is 98% pure silica and it’s thought that the sand was brought to the beach by currents over millions of years, particularly since the local rocks don’t contain any silica.
This beach is only accessible by boat, helicopter or seaplane, either from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island.
Kakadu National Park
It’s the same size as European country, Slovenia, covering an area of almost 20,000 square km (nearly 8,000 square miles). Kakudu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a protected area in Australia’s Northern Territory (about 200km shy of Darwin), that has to be seen to be believed. You can go crocodile spotting, bird-watching, hiking, swimming or even boating in the absolutely enormous reserve. Actually it even boasts one of the globe’s most productive uranium mines, the Ranger Uranium Mine.
However, what Kakudu is most famous for is it’s plethora of Aboriginal cultural sites. There are more than 5,000 known sites of Aboriginal art within the park, some dating about 40,000 years old.
Just a few hours north of Adelaide are these soaring walls of red and white rock. The Flinders Range include towering mountains but also deep gorges that have been there for more than 800 million years; if you didn’t know it, you might think you are on Mars, such is the almost otherworldly beauty of this place. Flinders Range is the largest mountain range in South Australia and definitely best experienced in a four wheeler or, if you can afford it, by helicopter.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
A stone’s throw from the Sydney Opera House (which DOES make our Top 10 list), is the very iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. Nicknamed ‘The Coathanger’ by Sydney locals, the bridge is actually the largest steel arch bridge in the world and sixth longest-spanning arch bridge. You can walk across it, cycle or climb it, to see the gorgeous harbour laid out before you.
Did you know? The Sydney Harbour Bridge signalled the beginning of the development of ‘modern’ Sydney after the Great Depression. It holds a lot of significance for Australians and serves as a symbol of transformation over the years.
An Instagrammer’s dream, Australia is actually home to a number of candyfloss-coloured lakes, which get their pinky hues from the presence of algae in the water that mixes with salt. They’re actually not always pink – it depends on the time of the day and the amount of salt.
There are more than ten pink lakes throughout Australia, ranging from those on the East Coast in the Murray-Sunset National Park in Victoria or the famous Lake Hillier near Esperance on the west coast of Australia which – incidentally – is bright pink all year round.
Queen Victoria Building
We hate to give Sydney an unfair advantage here, but the Queen Victoria building has to make the bonus section. This late 19th century building in Sydney’s central business district is a heritage site, and was actually built when the city was in a terrible recession, as a monument to Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch at the time.
Known affectionately as the QVB, it occupies a whole block in Sydney and nowadays hosts some of the leading fashion houses, jewellery stores and hip eateries in the city. It’s a great place to visit for a spot of shopping, particularly in the festive season when the giant central dome is home to a massive twinkling Christmas Tree.
Our other major landmarks in Australia map
We hope you liked our list of big Australian landmarks. Have we missed any key places to visit in Australia? Let us know in the comments!
Looking for other Australia travel guides? For the ‘grammers out there, we have a wonderful Photo Guide for Sydney which includes some other famous landmarks in Sydney Australia.
What camera equipment and other gear do we use?
We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.
- Main Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
- Drone: DJI Mavic Air – Fly More Combo
- GoPro: Hero 7 Black
- GoPro Dive Case: Go Pro Housing
- GoPro Case: Smatree GoPro Carry Case – Small
- Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek Packing case
- Backpack: Osprey Farpoint 70
- Powerbank: Anker Powercore
- Phone: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Hard drive: Transcend Slim Storejet 2TB
- Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad 720s
- Headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort 35
- Wifi Hotspot: GlocalMe G4
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