Australia's Other Attractions

Island Rock and the rugged coast in Kalbarri National Park

In addition to its waterfalls, Australia has other attractions to keep you busy taking photos or admiring the scenery. I’ve singled out some of the features that you’re bound to see upon a visit to the land "down under." Read below to get a brief introduction to these features.

Termite Mounds in Litchfield National ParkTermite Mounds (NT): Something that you will see much of in the Australian Outback are large pillars interspersed between the tropical vegetation. These pillars are actually termite mounds and their sheer size reflect the number of termites it took to build these things. The largest and most notable of these mounds are found in Litchfield National Park where they are well signposted and worth checking out.

A saltwater (estuarine) crocodileYellow Water Cruise (NT): Deep in Kakadu National Park, you'll find many wetlands and billabongs created by the monsoonal rains of the Wet Season. Under such conditions, there is a plethora of wildlife that migrate inland to take advantage of the habitats. The result is good bird watching and especially crocodile viewing. A Yellow Water Cruise in Cooinda is one of many boat tours you can take in these wetlands to observe some of these denizens in action.

Sunset right next to the Night Market at Mindil BeachMindil Beach Night Market (NT): 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.

The busy scene at the Mindil Beach Night MarketWhile 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.

Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) glowing in the setting sunUluru and Kata-Tjuta (NT): 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.

Kata-Tjuta (formerly known as the Olgas) glowing in the setting sunWhile 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.

Nabulwinjwinj rock art at Nourlangie RockNourlangie Rock and Ubirr (NT): These archaeological sites in Kakadu National Park contain some of the oldest preserved rock art in the world. They are primarily the reason why the park was given UNESCO World Heritage Status even though it features other scenic assets.

The Lightning Man rock art at Nourlangie RockNourlangie Rock sits at the end of a spur road between Cooinda and Jabiru. Some of the more memorable rock art pieces are the pictures of Nabulwinjwinj and the Lightning Man.

The red stick figure of Mabuyu at Ubirr Another interesting rock art site is at Ubirr. It can be accessed along a spur road that leaves the main road a few minutes west of Jabiru beyond the road junction. In addition to viewing rock art, many people opt to climb to the top of one of the rocks to view the sunset.

The Rainbow Serpent at UbirrAmong some of the more prominent rock art works are the red stick figure of Mabuyu and the arching Rainbow Serpent.

Lighthouse at Cable BeachCable Beach (WA): Near the Western Australian output of Broome lies an intriguing beach that is perhaps most famous for camel rides during sunset. However, the beach includes interesting rock formations for touring the area at other times of the day.

Aerial view of the Bungle BunglesBungle Bungles (WA): A few hours away from the agricultural and mining town of Kununurra, these intriguing rock formations provide a feast for the eyes. Whether you hire a 4wd and rough it in the rugged arid expanse of this part of the Outback or you fly over the area in one of the popular aerial tours, these unique formations will probably getting you talking about them as we observed many other visitors do.

Coral BayNingaloo Reef (WA): 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.

The Quobba Blowhole near CarnarvonQuobba Blowhole (WA): The turbulent seas of Australia's west coast have pounded into the rugged cliffs and produced many blowholes. The most notable of these blowholes is the Quobba Blowhole, which is likely to perform with regularity as it did for us during our late June 2006 trip. But watch out for King Waves as people have died getting too close to the cliff edges and unsuspectingly getting washed into the sea by these giant rogue waves.

A dolphin at Monkey MiaMonkey Mia (WA): Situated at the end of a peninsula bordering Shark Bay is this resort that exists primarily because of dolphins that show up like clockwork every mornings. Although some of this display seems artificial (because they're fed by rangers watching over the area), it's really neat to see these amazing mammals up close.

A stroll along the beach at sunset in Monkey MiaIn addition to the dolphins, the resort was actually one of the better and more well-kept spots that we have been to in WA. In the afternoons, it's a great place to see the sun set during a romantic stroll along the beach.

Nature's Window in Kalbarri National ParkKalbarri National Park (WA): 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.

The sea arch along the Kalbarri CoastMeanwhile 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 at sunsetThe Pinnacles (WA): 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.

The Tree Top Walk near WalpoleThe Tree Top Walk (WA): This unique attraction sits in the temperate forests of the southern coast. While the foresets here feature giant karri trees as well as tingle trees, this walk allows you to experience them by walking on a suspended pathway amongst the tops of these trees.

The Natural Bridge in Torndirrup National ParkTorndirrup National Park (WA): 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.

The GapWhen 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.

Me pretending like I'm surfing at Wave Rock near HydenWave Rock (WA): This strange formation sits about 3 to 4 hours of driving east of Perth near the township of Hyden. There really isn't much out here, but the formation is so memorable and looks so much like a cresting wave that people still go out of their way (like we did) to see it.

The Indian Tea House and Cottesloe BeachCottesloe Beach (WA): 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.

The setting sun seen through the arches of the Indian Tea HouseEven though there's plenty of things to see and do in Perth, I highly recommend spending time out at Cottesloe for a change of pace.

The Three SistersBlue Mountains (NSW): 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.

The Kiama Blowhole and LighthouseKiama Blowholes (NSW): 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.

Little BlowholeMeanwhile, 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.

The Organ PipesOrgan Pipes (VIC): This is a series of exposed and eroded basalt lava cliffs that have hardened into hexagonal columns through fire and ice. There are numerous examples of these formations such as the Devils Postpile in California. But the Organ Pipes is very close to Melbourne and is nice place to experience a little nature near the city.

An impressive sea arch at the Loch Ard Gorge complexGreat Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles (VIC): 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.

Twelve ApostlesOf 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.

Cradle Mountain over Dove LakeCradle Mountain (TAS): 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.

A wallaby grazing in the Cradle Mountain Lodge complexCradle Mountain also sports a variety of wildlife roaming about such as wallabies, wombats, numerous birds, and the occassional 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.

The Tasman ArchTasman Peninsula(TAS): 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.

The Tasman ArchFurther 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.

Snorkeling in the Outer ReefGreat Barrer Reef (QLD): 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?

More underwater scenery at the Great Barrier ReefBut 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. You may want to come see this attraction before it's done!

Coral reefs surrounding Green IslandGreen Island (QLD): On the way out to the Outer Great Barrier Reef, some tours stop by this aptly-named island along the way (while others offer dedicated tours to the island). In addition to snorkeling opportunities and sun-bathing on the beach, there's also a nice little rainforest walk.

Whitsunday IslandThe Whitsundays (QLD): 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.

Hypipamee CraterHypipamee Crater (QLD): Don't leave Mt Hypipamee National Park without spending a moment to see this impressive 138m deep crater with a very concentrated green soda lake at its base. Better not drop anything down there from the viewing platform because you're sure not going to get it back! Given that it shares the same park as that of Dinner Falls, make sure you take the time to check out this eccentric attraction. Also watch out for cassowaries (an aggressive flightless bird).

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