1. Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia)
The Sydney Opera House is probably Australia?s most instantly recognizable landmark. With its soaring, sail-like arches that dominate its unique construction, the Sydney Opera House has come to represent Australia just as the Eiffel Tower represents France or the Roman Colosseum represents Italy. Queen Elizabeth II opened the structure to the public on October 20, 1973 and since that time the Opera House has become the busiest public venue in the world with some 3000 performances each year and a yearly audience of over 2 million. Guided tours are available, and over 200,000 people a year visit the architectural marvel each year just to tour it.
2. Sydney Harbor Bridge (Sydney, New South Wales)
The Sydney Harbor Bridge, affectionately known locally as ?The Coathanger?, is the world?s most massive steel arch bridge with the highest point soaring 134 meters above the harbor below. The bridge opened in 1932 and stands as an architectural marvel to this day. Images of the bridge are instantly recognizable around the world. Visitors to the area can take advantage of the Bridge Climb where, for a fee, they are escorted into the network of catwalks to the top of the span in the center. From here, the most spectacular view of Sydney Harbor can be experienced. The Bridge Climb can be taken during the day, twilight, or night for different panoramic perspectives.
3. Uluru/Ayers Rock (Uluru ? Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory)
Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, is the world?s largest monolith, or single piece of stone, on the planet. Uluru is the traditional name given to the monolith by the local Pitjantjatjara people of the region who greatly revere the structure and attach significant spiritual importance to it. Uluru stands in stark contrast to the desert scrub surrounding the huge sandstone formation. Much like an iceberg in the cold seas, much of Uluru?s mass is hidden underground, but above ground Uluru soars 348 meters high and has an elliptical shape with a circumference of 9.4 kilometers. Guided walking tours are available of this geological marvel and Uluru is particularly notable for its striking appearance at different times of the year as it appears to change colors with the different light angles.
4. Great Barrier Reef (coast of Queensland, Australia)
The whole continent of Australia is a land of unique natural wonders, but the Great Barrier Reef is the most famous. The Great Barrier Reef is, by far, the world?s largest coral reef system stretching 2600 kilometers in the aptly named Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland. With an area of over 300,000 square kilometers, the huge reef system can make the sole claim that it is the only visible living structure from outer space. The Reef is truly a natural wonder populated with unusual wildlife like the dugong, Loggerhead sea turtle, and many species of dolphins. The area is a major tourist destination with over 2 million visitors a year ? fueling the debate on the environmental impact of the numerous feet tramping on the fragile coral. While your in Queensland, journey further south from the the great barrier reef and tour Brisbane. Check our last minute guide to Brisbane.
5. Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney, Australia)
The Royal Botanic Gardens were first established in Sydney by Governor Bligh in 1816. Located near the center of downtown Sidney and the Sydney Opera House, the Gardens provide a stark contrast to the surrounding urban area and unparalleled views of Sydney Harbor from a natural setting. Covering 30 hectares and adjacent to the 35 hectares making up the Domain, there are over 7500 species of plants represented here. Throughout the year there are presentations in the Gardens including art instruction, guided walks, tours of the historic Government House, and Aboriginal heritage tours.
6. Port Arthur (Tasmania)
Port Arthur is a great tourist destination full of Australian history. Founded as a penal settlement in 1830, Port Arthur originally served the British Empire as a timber station. Industry in the area soon followed and by the 1840s Port Arthur had a convict population of over 1100. However, by the 1870s the convicts were gone and left the buildings of the period that stand to this day that weren?t destroyed by fires in the late 19th century. Tourists soon followed after the settlement closed with an interest in viewing the ?horrors? of a British penal colony. Preservation of Port Arthur as a historic site was established with the creation of the Scenery Preservation Board in 1916. Today, ongoing archeological studies continue to dig up the penal colony past.
7. Coober Pedy (South Australia)
Coober Pedy is most famous for the unusual lifestyle of a significant portion of it local residents who live underground all year. This practice came about when local resident sought escape from the oppressive heat before the days of modern air conditioning. Also known as the ?Opal Capital of the World,? Coober Pedy was first established as an opal mine in 1915. Today tourists can visit the old opal mines, visit underground churches, and lodge underground in a motel. The local golf course, with no grass, is played at night with glowing golf balls and a portable divot to tee from. The area is also devoid of trees and served as the backdrop for the post-nuclear apocalypse film titled Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome starring Australian son Mel Gibson. Find a Coober Pedy hotel and enjoy this must see landmark in Australia.
8. Kangaroo Island (South Australia)
Kangaroo Island is a pristine natural haven teeming with Australia?s unique wildlife. The wildlife here thrives in its natural state with koalas sleeping away their days in the trees, platypus occupying local streams, and wallabies and kangaroos hopping across the open spaces. Kangaroo Island is a must see for tourists to the area, there is no other spot on the Australian continent where wildlife viewing is so plentiful in a natural setting. This natural wonder is dotted with caves and striking rock formations. The area is also rich in history in locations such as Reeves Point on the island which was the first European settlement in South Australia.
9. The Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park, Western Australia)
The Bungle Bungles are unique, beehive-shaped sandstone formations located in Purnululu National Park that was created after the discovery of the structures. Long known to the local Aborigines, the Bungle Bungles were only discovered by outside civilization in the 1980s when a television crew came upon them. This fact can help the reader understand how remote the Bungle Bungles are in the heart of the Australian Outback some 250 kilometers south of Kununurra. It?s a tough trek getting there as one must first venture along 80 kilometers of dirt roads only navigable by four-wheel drive. The trip is well worth it as the area is a breathtaking natural environment with the Cathedral and Piccaninny Gorges, and the Echidna Chasm. If venturing here be sure to bring your hiking garb, as you will need it.
10. Castle Hill (Townsville, Queensland)
Uluru is the most famous, but not the only huge monolith in Australia. Another is Castle Hill, a huge pink granite rock. Paved roads go to the summit of Castle Hill, offering excellent views of the coastal city of Townsville below. Castle Hill served an important purpose for the area in WWII when military bases and defensive batteries were installed there. Rumors from the era indicate a network of underground tunnels were built under Castle Hill and even a bunker inside the Hill, lending some urban legend mystique to the site. Today there are several tunnels where the entrances are cordoned off by steel poles, giving credence to the legend.
Continue reading more about Australia and its landmarks in our follow up post Ten MORE Must See Landmarks in Australia.