Apart from the manmade Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia has a multitude of natural sights and landmarks. Some of the more well known are included here.
The 12 Apostles
Huge stacks of rock, the 12 Apostles have been formed by years of sea erosion on the cliffs along Port Campbell, on the south-east coast of Australia. This coast is well known for its nortorious seas, claiming over 50 vessels in the past. The 12 Apostles stand only metres from the edge of the cliffs, bringing people from all over the world to see their beauty.
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is
one of the natural wonders of the world. The largest reef in the world, measuring
2011 km in length and 72 km across at its widest point, it stretches along the Queensland
coast. The reef is clearly visible from space and is considered
to be the largest living 'thing' in the world. Populated by
myriads of coral, fish and other species it is one of the most
diverse ecosystems on the planet. The coral reef consists of
bays, lagoons, rocky islands, coral reefs and deep-water
channels. One of the best places for divers and snorkellers to
see the "coral gardens" of the Great Barrier Reef is
around Heron Island.
Of the many hundreds of varieties of coral growing on the reef,
the Staghorn (antler type) is one of the most common. Hinchinbrook Island is the
world's largest island National
Park The island is uninhabited apart from a luxury resort at Cape
Richards. Hinchinbrook offers a 30 Km trail linking Ramsay Bay
with George point, offering bush walkers the best of scenery on a
3-5 day hike, along with excellent camping and bushwalking tracks
at Macushla Point.
Photographs courtesy of the
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Uluru at sunset
Formerly known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is situated 280 miles (450km) southwest of Alice Springs in the Kata Tjuta National Park . The world's largest monolith and an Aboriginal sacred site, Uluru is Australia's most famous natural landmark.
Uluru rises 348 metres above the surrounding countryside, has an area of 3.33 sq. km and a circumference of 9.4 km. Visitors can either make the 1.6 km ascent to the top or take a walking tour around the base. Uluru experiences an average of 200-250 mm of rainfall per annum and a typical desert temperature range which can fall to -8°C at night-time in winter and rise to 47°C during the day in summer.
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
The Kata Tjuta National Park contains many Aboriginal sacred sites, spectacular scenery and famous rock formations. The Olgas, now known as Kata Tjuta, are a series of 36 dome-like rock monoliths which stand up to 1,701ft (546m) high and cover an area of 35km. The highest is Mount Olga which rises to 546 metres. The Olgas are spread across an area of some 3500 hectares and the distance around the group is approximately 22 km. It is thought that Kata Tjuta may have once been one gigantic monolith, many times the size of Uluru, with millions of years of erosion reducing the single monolith to a series of smaller monoliths. Like Uluru, Kata Tjuta produces an incredible light show at sunset with crimsons turning to rusts, and pinks to mauves.
Mountains and The Three Sisters
The Blue Mountains © Per Nilsson
The Blue Mountains is a
unique region within a National Park, less than an hour's drive
west of Sydney. The Blue Mountains is a natural wonderland of
untamed bush, spectacular rock formations and abundant wildlife
and birdlife. The eucalyptus oil evaporating from the many gum
trees creates a blue haze which gives the region its name. The
Blue Mountains experiences four distinct seasons presenting an
array of sky colours, mountain air texture and mountain mists.
The Scenic Railway was built in 1878 to service a coal mine in the Jamison Valley. Over the years the railway was also used to convey coal and shale from the Ruined Castle area and Megalong Valley. The Scenic Railway is the world's steepest incline railway and conveys more than 850,000 passengers a year. Riding through a tunnel in the side of the mountain, the railway then descends 415 metres to the Jamison Valley, passing through an ancient rainforest area. The Scenic Skyway, operating since 1958, is Australia's only horizontal passenger carrying cable car. The Skyway offers views of the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mount Solitary and Katoomba Falls during its seven minute trip 350 metres across a deep gorge.
The Three Sisters at sunset
The Legend of the Three Sisters
Once upon a time, there was an old witchdoctor with three beautiful daughters - Meenhi, Weemala, and Gunnedoo. One day, while their father was in the valley hunting for food, the daughters were playing on the edge of the cliff. One of the sisters threw a stone at a little lizard, which missed and went over the edge of the cliff. She had broken a cardinal law of the bush - NEVER throw a stone over a cliff. The falling stone woke up THE BUNYIP (a mythical creature of the bush) who, angry that his sleep had been disturbed, lumbered toward them making a terrible noise. The Witchdoctor, hearing all the fuss, ran toward his daughters to save them but he was too far away. So he pointed his magic bone at them and turned them into stone just as the Bunyip's face crashed into the rock where they had been a moment earlier. The Bunyip now turned on the Witch Doctor, who turned himself into a lyrebird and ran into a cave to escape the Bunyip - dropping and losing his magic bone during his escape. You can still see the Three Sisters trapped in the rock, and the Witch Doctor still searching for his bone scratching in the soil to this day.
Jenolan Caves are Australia's most impressive limestone caves and contain some of the world's best limestone stalagmites and stalactites. The caves were discovered in 1838 by a convict bushranger. There are nine show caves open to the public on guided tours. These are Lucas Cave (regarded as the best general cave), Imperial Cave, Chifley Cave (believed to have been the first in the world with electric illumination), Temple of Baal, River Cave, Jubilee Cave, Cerberus Cave, Ribbon Cave and Orient Cave. Jenolan Caves are surrounded by a wildlife reserve with bush walking tracks and tours.
Kakadu National Park is located 3 hours drive east of Darwin in the Northern Territory and is Australia's largest national park Kakadu is one of a few sites that is on the World Heritage List for both natural and cultural values. Creation of the 500 km escarpment began 2,000 million years ago, when layers of sandstone built up a plateau to later be carved into an escarpment and scoured by gorges. Over thousands of years, Aboriginal people have left behind galleries of Aboriginal art, with rock sites dating back 25,000 years. More than 1,000 sites have been recorded. One thousand species of flora, 30 mammals, 75 reptiles, 1500 butterflies and moths, 50 freshwater fish and 25 species of frog have been discovered in Kakadu.
Kosciuszko is one of the best known national parks in Australia. Named after Mount Kosciuszko, which at 2228 metres is Australia's highest mountain, the park is approximately 150 klm in length and is at 690,000 hectares it is the largest park in New South Wales and the Australian Alps. Kosciuszko contains the headwaters of some of Australia's major rivers including the Snowy, the Murrumbidgee and the Murray. The park also contains most of Australia's snow and all of NSW's alpine zone, glacial features and ski fields. Many of the park's plants above the treeline are found nowhere else in the world. Kosciuszko has a long history of land use, with Aboriginal occupation thought to date form 20,000 years ago. Since European occupation of Australia, exploration, grazing, mining, skiing, tourism and the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme have all had an impact on the landscape.