With 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, thousands of national parks, and countless architectural gems, the most beautiful places in Australia are as varied as the country’s landscape.
From the iconic sail-shaped roof of Sydney’s Opera House to the ancient Aboriginal stories of the world’s oldest rainforest, the landmarks of this continent-sized country span thousands of years.
Whether you prefer to admire premium vineyards while sipping on a glass of chilled Chardonnay, dive into the crystal-clear waters of a coral reef, or wander through lush tropical gardens spotting koalas, Australia will oblige with picturesque vistas at every turn.
Here are some of the prettiest places in Australia to discover on your next trip to the “Land Down Under”.
Great Barrier Reef
One of the most beautiful natural features of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is astonishing in its grandeur. Visible from space and larger than the Great Wall of China, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
While most of us can’t witness the awe-inspiring landscape from the international space station, a helicopter flight over the corals is the perfect opportunity to start to understand the scale of the reef.
Flying low over the aquamarine waters, sometimes with whales dancing in the deep blues, is a memory you’ll cherish forever.
To try and glimpse some of the countless marine life that inhabits the coral cays, take a boat tour from Cairns or Port Douglas. Opt to dive in with snorkel gear, head deeper on a scuba-dive experience, or view the reef from a glass-bottomed boat.
Home to a trio of the city’s most iconic sights: Sydney Opera House, The Harbour Bridge, and The Rocks, Sydney Harbour is the place to see and be seen.
Officially named Port Jackson Bay, the inlet has become famous worldwide in part due to the impressive New Year’s Eve fireworks display set against the backdrop of the world’s largest steel arch bridge.
If you have an affection for heights and architecture, then accepting the challenge of the Harbour Bridge climb will reward you with panoramic views of one of the best skylines in the world from a lofty 440 feet.
For some of the best views of this Sydney landmark, without strapping yourself into a harness, head to the rooftop bars of The Rocks, a historic neighborhood of markets, art galleries, boutique stores, and cobbled streets.
For many, the gem in the harbor’s crown though is Jørn Utzon’s sail-inspired design for the Sydney Opera House, one of the best theaters in the world, wowing visitors since its inauguration in 1973.
A boat ride in the bay will allow you to appreciate the architectural feat from all angles before enjoying a sunlit snack on the terrace of the Opera Bar.
The Great Ocean Road’s 12 Apostles
While there may only be eight of these notable limestone stacks still standing, don’t let that deter you from venturing along one of Australia’s most impressive drives, The Great Ocean Road.
Skip the direct route from Melbourne and opt for the slower, more famous coastal road. Pause on the way to refuel with coffee among the art-deco facades of Lorne. Detour onto Grey River Road to seek koalas in the wild, and make the most of a photo stop at picturesque bays whenever the whim takes you.
By the time you arrive at the 12 Apostles, one of the prettiest places in Australia, be sure to take the time to appreciate the millions of years of erosion that has crafted the pillars from the limestone cliff, their connection to the mainland long since lost to the ocean.
Australia’s Red Center is a treasure trove of natural wonders set deep in the desert of the country’s interior. Uluru, a giant sandstone monolith, is the most recognizable and impressive sight, especially when illuminated by mystical shades of reds at sunrise and sunset.
Uluru has been a sacred place to the local Anangu people and a central part of Tjukurpa philosophy and stories for tens of thousands of years. Start your visit at the Cultural Center and Tjukurpa Tunnel to learn about the creation stories of Uluru and the significance of this land.
With a better understanding of the ancient culture of the Red Center, you’ll have a more nuanced appreciation for Uluru, and the many other nearby natural wonders, such as Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta.
Mossman Gorge & the Daintree Rainforest
Believed to be 180 million years old, The Daintree Rainforest is not just one of the most beautiful places in Australia but also the oldest tropical rainforest in the world.
Mossman Gorge is the perfect gateway from which to start discovering 463 square miles of National Park. You can undertake a self-guided walk in the lush rainforest from the informative visitor center. But to understand more about the environment and cultural significance of the Kuku Yalanji people’s land, opt for one of the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks.
Led by an Aboriginal guide, you’ll start the trail with a traditional “smoking” ceremony to ward off bad spirits before entering the forest and learning the stories and traditions of the Indigenous owners of the land, from bush food to stones used for paint and soap.
Under an hour from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is one of the prettiest places in Australia in which to sip on award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay direct from the cellar doors.
Awash with vineyards and fine-dining restaurants, the Yarra Valley is where you can savor the chance to meet the vintners producing some of the finest wines that Australia is known for. Once you’re acquainted with the local grapes, feast on delicious tasting menus served against the backdrop of perfectly manicured rows of vines.
Far from just being one of the most celebrated wine regions in the country, the Yarra Valley is the perfect place to rejuvenate. In-the-know Melburnians retreat here at the weekend to relax in spas and among nature, with spots such as the fern-engulfed William Ricketts Sanctuary and the seasonal Warratina Lavender Farm popular yet peaceful.
What do you envision when you close your eyes and dream of the perfect tropical beach? If your answer is balmy waters of azures and cyans, swirled with dazzling white silica sand and flanked by verdant vegetation, you’re picturing Whitehaven Beach, one of the best beaches in Australia.
Set in the spectacular archipelago of The Whitsundays, Whitehaven is often touted as one of the most beautiful places in the world. This tranquil and, quite frankly, unbelievable inlet beach is flawless at all times of day, although the views from the Tongue Point Lookout are especially impressive at low tide.
For the best vantage point of Whitehaven Beach, a helicopter flight is recommended to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the impeccable white sand beach.
Most flights include a fly-over of the neighboring Great Barrier Reef, with the chance to spot a perfectly heart-shaped reef crafted naturally by the corals.
The Blue Mountains
Ancient limestone formations, eucalyptus forest, Aboriginal rock art, and impressive waterfalls make the Blue Mountains a terrific day trip from Sydney.
The range earns its title due to the optical illusion of essential oil droplets, water vapor, and sunlight converging to create the signature blue haze; a genuinely fascinating phenomenon.
From the gateway town of Katoomba, you can easily access the Echo Point Lookout to marvel at The Three Sisters. These towering sandstone pillars were shaped by erosion some 200 million years ago. Still, the Jenolan Cave, home to underground rivers and crystals, boasts an even more impressive age of 340 million years.
Alongside the many trails to explore the national park, those with a penchant for heights should admire the views from the glass-bottomed Scenic Skyway.
For an extra dose of adrenaline, the world’s steepest passenger railway, with an incline of 52 degrees, will transport you down to the Jamison Valley.
Kuranda Scenic Railway
Nestled among the pristine Wet Tropics of Queensland, colorful Kuranda encapsulates the magic of a mountain village. Aboriginal crafts and local art adorn market stalls and galleries alongside quirky cafes and panoramic viewpoints.
Surrounded by World Heritage Site rainforest, the numerous nature-based attractions are the main draw. Exotic birds, butterflies, and koalas call the ferns and towering trees home; however, in the case of Kuranda, the journey is just as extraordinary as the destination.
First, take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway into the park. As you float above the lush canopy of the rainforest, you’ll gain a special perspective drifting just above the ancient flora. The 90-minute experience includes stops at Red Peak and Barron Falls, with boardwalks and lookouts from which to admire the vistas.
For your return journey to Cairns, the vintage wooden-clad carriages of the Kuranda Scenic Railway await. The train meanders slowly along the historic railway track, in service since 1891. Admire the breathtaking views from the wide-open windows, the sounds and scents of the rainforest in the air.
Stockton Sand Dunes
Set in Port Stephens, just north of Newcastle, the Stockton Sand Dunes are not just one of the prettiest places in Australia but also a playground of adventure.
Shaped thousands of years ago, these 20 miles of astonishing dunes rise and fall from heights of 90 feet. Often with an impressive 60-degree incline, it’s no surprise that this Australian landmark has become a beloved landscape for exhilarating sand-boarding and quad biking experiences.
Even if “dune bashing” isn’t calling your name, the forest-meets-beach setting on the Worimi Conservation Lands is a sight to behold. The playful resident dolphins in the nearby bay, and Australia’s longest whale watching season, complete the allure of Port Stephens.
To the southeast of Melbourne, Phillip Island is one of the most beautiful places in Australia to spot penguins. A scenic two-hour drive, or 90-minute ferry journey will transport you from the laneways and urban sprawl of the nation’s second-biggest city to the craggy coastline and serene beaches of this island escape.
The show’s stars usually make their appearance at sunset on Summerland Beach, when little penguins rise from the lapping waves and shuffle back to their homes.
The daily “Penguin Parade” is undoubtedly the highlight of any visit, though the rest of the island’s wildlife will also be vying for your attention.
At the Phillip Island Wildlife Park, you’ll have the chance to try and spot free-roaming kangaroos and come face-to-face with koalas chilling in their tree-top homes on the raised boardwalk.
Later, before witnessing the parade, head to the Nobbies outcrop to spot Australia’s largest colony of fur seals.
Mount Field National Park
A little over an hour’s drive from Hobart, Mount Field National Park is an awe-inspiring destination in all seasons. Ancient glaciers have dramatically shaped the landscape, set in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, a conservation zone covering a quarter of the island state.
True to its name, the 30-minute Tall Trees Walk takes you on a journey through some of the tallest flowering plants on our planet. Imposing and unforgettable, the eucalyptus regnans (commonly known as swamp gum) rise over 300 feet towards the sky.
Elsewhere in the park, the three-tiered Russell Falls is the most mesmerizing of the many waterfalls, made even more enchanting thanks to the mossy and fern-framed vista and night-time appearance of glow worms.
The possibility of spotting wallabies and wombats in the wild is another reason animal lovers visit Mount Field National Park.
The closest mountain to the city of Brisbane, Mount Coot-tha is a spectacular and verdant forested reserve, ripe with bushwalking trails, botanical gardens, and panoramic views from the prime-positioned lookout point.
Begin your visit at the subtropical Brisbane Botanic Gardens, set at the foot of the mount. This is one of the best things to do in Brisbane, where you can delight your senses with the aroma of seasonal cherry blossoms, marvel at the water-lily coasted lagoon, and find serenity in the sanctuary of the Japanese Garden.
Climbing higher above the city, you’ll find plenty of chances to connect with nature on shaded trails for all abilities. Post-hike, a glass of local Shiraz, or a refueling flat white at The Summit Café promises the perfect reward.
Be sure to linger until sunset to enjoy some of the most magical golden-hued views over Brisbane and Moreton Bay as the city lights twinkle against the burning red sky.
No visit to Sydney is complete without sinking your feet into the soft powdery sands of the city’s famous crescent-shaped bay.
Sydneysiders, surfers, and sun-seekers alike are proud to call this relatively small beach one of the most beautiful places in Australia—so pack your sunscreen and make a beeline for Bondi.
It’s not, however, just surf and sun that awaits. On the beach’s southern end, the Bondi Icebergs—an open-air swimming pool perched above the ocean—offers a unique place to swim some laps, often with waves splashing over the sides.
Bondi also boasts ample dining choices, from chic cafés serving smashed avo toast to takeaway fish and chips wrapped in paper, making it a perfect spot if you’re spending summer in Australia.
Or do as the locals do and pack a picnic to enjoy on the sands, complete with a front-row view of surfers riding the waves.
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