Seven wonders? How about twelve – in Australia alone? It’s nearly impossible to narrow down this continent’s most beautiful, inspiring and astonishing natural sights, from the colorfully chaotic explosion of life in the Great Barrier Reef to the dramatic rippling red dunes of the Simpson desert. This sampling of Australia’s top natural attractions will have you daydreaming about a trip Down Under.
A striking red sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory, Uluru – also known as Ayers Rock – is one of Australia’s most popular landmarks. Sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area, Uluru is surrounded by springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Its designation as a World Heritage Site has been a mixed blessing, as it has increased visits dramatically. Not only is Uluru dangerous to climb, but it’s against the wishes of the Anangu people and can lead to damage and pollution.
The Great Barrier Reef
(images via: wikimedia commons, babasteve)
One of the seven wonders of the natural world, The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The world’s largest coral reef system and the single biggest structure made by living organisms, it is composed of more than 2,900 individual reefs. Much of the reef is protected, but it remains a major tourist destination and is a popular diving site. It’s home to thirty species of whales, dolphins and porpoises and many endangered species. The Great Barrier Reef is currently threatened by climate change, pollution and fishing as well as shipping accidents, oil spills and tropical cyclones.
(images via: spaceoddissey, thinboyfatter)
Katherine Gorge in Australia’s Northern Territory is actually made up of thirteen gorges navigable by over 62 miles of walking trails. Found in the heart of Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine Gorge runs along the Katherine River, which is calm and placid for much of the year, though filled with freshwater crocodiles.
(images via: mark i geo, robertpaulyoung)
Cutting into the westernmost tip of Australia, Shark Bay is a remote place of spectacular natural beauty. Edged with dramatic cliffs, the bay area is home to roughly 12.5% of the world’s population of sea cows as well as dolphins, birds, reptiles, fish and 26 threatened Australian mammal species. This World Heritage Site also features ‘stromatolites’, ancient structures in shallow sandy pools that represent some of the earliest signs of life on Earth.