Even though this is a waterfalls website, we recognize that there are many highlights from the land down under in Australia (both involving and not involving waterfalls).
So we’ve come up with this page to pay homage to some of the highlights that we think are worth mentioning as you try to figure out what to see and do in your own trip plans.
While I recognize that this list is by no means exhaustive and that it is highly subjective, at least you have an idea of what we loved about this country that’s equivalent in size to the United States.
So without further adieu, here are the highlights in no particular order…
Kakadu National Park (Northern Territory)
This reserve is full of Aboriginal history as well as the rugged beauty of the billabongs and escarpments within.
We got a taste of the wetland ecosystems here by going on a Yellow Water Cruise, where we encountered lots of saltwater crocodiles, lots of birds, and photo ops of the mirror-like reflections in the still water of the vegetation and blue skies.
Then, we visited archaeological sites containing some of the oldest preserved rock art in the world. These were the primary reasons why the park was given UNESCO World Heritage status.
Indeed, we visited Nourlangie Rock with pictures of Nabulwinjwinj and the Lightning Man. We also visited Ubirr where we witnessed the red stick figure of Mabuyu and the arching Rainbow Serpent.
Mindil Beach Night Market (Northern Territory)
This was perhaps one of the most unique and interesting events Julie and I had even been to during our time in Darwin, NT.
At the night market, which occurs only during a couple of evenings a week in the Dry Season, lots of vendors sell food that is an international mix of southeast Asian, Australian, and even French and Chinese.
Some of the food stands include a “Roadkill Cafe” serving up possums, crocodiles, emus, and kangaroos, among others. Also, there are many Indonesian stands selling a mix of satays and curries. There are also many smoothie stands mixing refreshing tropical fruits to help wash down some of the foods you’re bound to try out here.
While you’re chowing down some of the satays and smoothies, notice the several performers adding to the atmosphere of the bustling scene.
I remembered listening to a funky mix of didgeridoos with modern drum playing while eating the foods.
Put it all together you end up with a scene that has a very uniquely Australian and Aboriginal feel to it that seems appropriate yet hip.
The Red Centre (Northern Territory)
Sitting deep in the center of the Australian continent lies a set of giant monoliths that symbolize the Australian Outback.
The most prominent of these monoliths are Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) and Kata-Tjuta (also known as the Olgas). They are spectacular subjects during the soft glow of sunset or sunrise.
While these giant features are on nearly every tourists’ must-see list, most of them don’t realize that they require about 4-5 hours of flying from Sydney (or most other places in the country) to get here.
It truly is an Outback experience and it also gives you a chance to better appreciate the Aboriginal heritage, which is also on display here.
Ningaloo Reef (Western Australia)
While most of the attention goes to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland (QLD), the opposite coast has coral reefs of its down.
In addition to seeing marine life thriving in this quiet and relaxing coast, you also have the opportunity to swim with the giant yet docile Whale Sharks as well as with sting rays.
Some of our most memorable moments in Outback Australia came from our time spent at Coral Bay though the Ningaloo Reef is all over the northwest coast from Exmouth in the north all the way down to Monkey Mia to the south.
Kalbarri National Park (Western Australia)
This area contains an interesting mix of the dry and arid deserts of the Australian Outback combined with the rugged coasts nearby. The desert area features numerous gorges, oases, and natural arches such as the Nature’s Window.
Meanwhile along the coastal parts of Kalbarri, there is a charming coastal town as well as several interesting coastal stops including a sea arch set against a ruggedly beautiful backdrop of sea cliffs pounded on by the rough seas.
There are also lookout points as well as other formations in the area that are worth checking out.
The Pinnacles and Nambung National Park (Western Australia)
These pillars are clumped together in a sandy spot just south of Cervantes in Nambung National Park.
They are perhaps the iconic feature of Perth (even though it’s two hours away) and Western Australia, and thus is a very popular tourist destination.
The optimal times to see these pinnacles are during sunrise or sunset when soft lighting paints them orange.
Torndirrup National Park (Western Australia)
Near the town of Albany on the rugged and wild south coast of Western Australia, Torndirrup National Park encompasses the peninsula that is surrounded by restless seas and powerful winds.
Such turbulence results in some very interesting coastal formations and features such as blowholes, sea cliffs, and sea arches. The most famous of these features are The Gap and Natural Bridge.
When Julie and I were there, the winds were so powerful that sea spray caused by the crashing waves were picked up by the wind and blown up above the sea cliffs into the adjacent parking lot.
Needless to say, we also had to be careful not to get blown over the cliff edges into the rough seas.
Perth and Cottesloe Beach (Western Australia)
Perhaps one of the most lasting impressions of our time spent in Perth, WA was driving out to the suburb of Cottesloe and watching the sun set its beach.
The tea house is an intriguing building set in this serene backdrop of the calm Indian Ocean and a soothing golden sandy beach.
As for the city itself, it was kind of an urban outpost that could very well be farther away from Sydney than Jakarta, Indonesia is! Indeed, it’s quite a ways away from the rest of the populated centres of Australia.
Sydney (New South Wales)
This cosmopolitan city is perhaps Australia’s most known. And when you’ve got iconic sights like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge among other things in the happening Sydney Harbour, it’s understandable why this city is often equated with the whole country.
With its CBD within reasonable walking distance to all the main parks and pedestrian zones let alone the Sydney Harbour, it ticks off the boxes in terms of what makes a city world class.
We’re probably due for a return visit to experience more of this city with our daughter.
The Blue Mountains (New South Wales)
This World Heritage Area sits just a couple of hours west of Sydney.
In addition to impressive (though often short-lived) waterfalls, the region features sweeping panoramas atop cliffs, caves, natural arches, and hiking tracks.
Among the attractions scattered about the Blue Mountains include the famous Three Sisters, Kanangra Walls, Jenolan Caves, Govett’s Leap Lookout, Jamison Valley, etc.
Kiama Blowholes (New South Wales)
The seaside town of Kiama features a pair of blowholes that are worthwhile to visit.
The one nearest to the township is the larger blowhole. It shoots up an impressive amount of water whenever the swells are large.
Meanwhile, there is another blowhole (known as “Little Blowhole”) roughly 5km further south of the bigger blowhole. This blowhole performs more regularly and has a more geyser-like behavior.
Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles (Victoria)
This road passes through perhaps the most beautiful stretch of coastline in the country. Featured along the road that stretches from Geelong to Warrnambool are various lookouts and rest stops allowing visitors the chance to see where the Southern Ocean pounds away at the southeastern coast of Australia.
Such forces have created numerous sea arches and sea stacks that are highlighted in lookouts such as the Bay of Islands, the London Bridge (half of which has collapsed in the 90s), Loch Ard Gorge, the Grotto, and the Arch.
Of course the most famous stop is the Twelve Apostles, which features several sea stacks that stand alone away from the cliffs on the mainland.
Such stacks are constantly eroded (resulting in their collapse) while new stacks get formed and detached from the main land.
This attraction is also the most iconic natural attraction in this part of the country and shares similar must-see stature as Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.
This buzzing city was full of sights and experiences from Federation Square to the Shrine of Remembrance to the beach at St Kilda.
Our latest visit also happened to coincide with festivals, and we certainly took part in the Noodle Night Market, which was as atmospheric as it gets in terms of delicious street foods, buzzing youthful vibes, and it was all taking place beneath the city’s skyscrapers at twilight!
Cradle Mountain (Tasmania)
It is perhaps the most famous and iconic mountain in the state of Tasmania. Its unforgettable cradle shape provides a backdrop for numerous strolls and hikes around the area.
Such hikes can be as relaxing as a walk around the serene Dove Lake while others can be as adventurous as the multi-day Overland Track through the heart of the Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park.
Cradle Mountain also sports a variety of wildlife roaming about such as wallabies, wombats, numerous birds, and the occasional Tasmanian Devil.
And speaking of the Tassie Devils, there is a Devils at Cradle captive breeding refuge in the park where you can see (and maybe even pet) these creatures first hand.
Tasman Peninsula (Tasmania)
This strip of land a little over an hour east of Hobart contains impressive natural arches, gaps, and blowholes. It is here where you can see the Southern Ocean’s handiwork as it relentlessly pounds the southeastern coast of Tassie.
Many of the natural attractions (e.g. the Tasman Arch, the Blowhole, and the Devils Kitchen) are situated near the township of Dootown. Here in this very can doo town, they doo encourage you to enjoy yourself.
Further south on the peninsula is Tasmania’s most popular tourist attraction (even though it’s not natural). This attraction is the Port Arthur Convict Site.
Apparently, it was the site of an old prison colony where tourists can better appreicate what life was like as well as the historical implications of the events that took place here. Many Australians also come here to try to trace their family heritage.
Great Barrier Reef (Queensland)
If you wondered where the inspiration from the Disney movie “Finding Nemo” came from, look no further than the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s here that you’ll be snorkeling or diving amongst schools of fish with reefs of types each with different colors (especially when the sun is out). Of all the snorkeling excursions we’ve done, this was by far the best one.
Did you bring your underwater camera?
But with all the euphoria around this unique natural attraction (said to be the largest living organism on earth!), it’s also very endangered due to a combination of agricultural runoff, mass tourism, and Global Warming.
The authorities are trying to keep the ecosystem going, but they’re really up against the clock.
It’s conceivable that this reef system can be irreparably bleached completely as early as 2015 by some estimates (we made our visit in 2008). You may want to come see this attraction before it’s done!
The Whitsundays (Queensland)
With white, sandy beaches and lagoons, turquoise-blue water, and lacking overly-impactful development, this group of islands (highlighted by Whitsunday Island) is what graces many calendars and posters of tropical Australia.
Indeed, where else can you dip in warm, shallow sea water on a sandy lagoon?
In addition to frolicking on the blinding white sandy beaches, there’s also an overlook taking in the whole panorama.
Kangaroo Island (South Australia)
This island was surprisingly big (it takes a few hours to drive from Kingscote all the way to Admiral’s Arch). But it was as naturesque as Australia can get.
Indeed, we saw koalas in the wild, fur seals basking beneath the shade of Admiral’s Arch, the colors of the Remarkable Rocks, watching Australian sea lions at Seal Bay, and even the Kelly Hill Caves.
We spent a couple of nights here, but it might not be enough given the sheer size of this island!