Sunny beaches, fine wines, the searing Outback, offbeat wildlife. Think of Australia and all these images spring to mind. And then there are the experiences – Aboriginal traditions, surfer culture, urban sophistication.
Tourism Australia has combined all these sights and adventures with the country’s stunning scenery in the creation of National Landscapes, a collection of places of historic, scenic and cultural significance. Some of them include national parks and World Heritage-listed sites. Here’s a look.
Australia’s Red CentreThis is Australia’s physical and spiritual heart, encompassing the World Heritage-listed Uluru and Kata Tjuta, a maze of sandstone domes.
Make Alice Springs your base for exploration. The town offers aboriginal art, hot air ballooning and is the embarkation point for The Ghan rail journey to Darwin.
The major highlight is Uluru, about 445 kilometres from Alice Springs. View the sunrise and sunset, enjoy the Sounds of Silence outdoor dining experience, go star-gazing, take a Harley Davidson tour, visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre or walk the outback with an Aboriginal guide.
Other uniquely Aussie experiences include meeting colourful Outback characters, camel riding, or sleeping under the stars in a swag.
KakaduKakadu National Park is one of the great World Heritage areas. It is also a land that commands respect.
The peak travel period is April through August, when the skies are clear and there is less humidity, and Darwin is the starting point for most tours.
This is a great place to watch wildlife. Regional highlights include the Mamukala wetlands, Yellow Water wetlands, Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock. There are about 60 different species of mammals, 120 species of reptiles and 280 species of birds in the area. Oh, and this is crocodile country.
Kakadu is also renowned for its rock art sites. About 5,000 have been recorded here, with another 10,000 thought to exist. You can take several walks to view the sites.
Greater Blue MountainsFor more than a century the Blue Mountains have proved a sanctuary for Sydneysiders, offering a cool respite from the heat of the city with gorgeous gorges, gum trees and gourmet restaurants.
Find galleries, cafés and historic hotels at Katoomba. There are also the Katoomba Scenic Rails, one of the world’s steepest railways, and Six Foot Track, which leads to the Jenolan Caves, a visitor attraction since the 1800s.
Bell’s Line of Road winds through Blue Mountains National Park and Wollemi National Park, famous for its Glow Worm Tunnel.
Tour the wilderness via the Greater Blue Mountains Drive, a 1,200-kilometres network of tour routes.
The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s finest wine rowing regions, with more than 80 wineries offering tastings and tours.
Flinders RangesOnce considered a completely barren land, the Flinders Ranges stretch from Crystal Brook in southern South Australia north more than 400 kilometres to Arkaroola, housing abundant wildlife and a rich Aboriginal culture. Bushwalking, mountain bike riding, and 4-wheel-drives are some of the adventure activities on offer along with geological tours, Aboriginal art and bush tucker, star gazing and scenic flights.
Three hours’ drive from Adelaide, Mount Remarkable National Park in the Southern Flinders Ranges has bush-walking and cycling trails that range from a casual walk to long distance treks.
The Southern Flinders Ranges Heritage Trail connects the region’s museums, while the Southern Flinders Flavours Trail passes local food and wine producers.
Great Ocean RoadTo experience this landscape is to experience the power of nature. Stretching from Geelong to Portland in southwestern Victoria, the Great Ocean Road boasts magnificent coastal scenery, mountains, farmland, country towns, rainforests and historic relics.
The Road begins in the seaside town of Torquay, Australia’s surfing capital and home of Aussie surfing culture. The winding route, hacked out of rock by soldiers between 1919 and 1932, passes Lorne, known for stunning views of the ocean and onto Apollo Bay, gateway to Otway National Park. There are more than 100 kilometres of tracks in the park that follow old logging tramways. Wallabies, koalas and echnidnas live here. You can also spot rare Southern Right Whales during breeding season.
Australian AlpsThe Australian Alps stretch for nearly 400 kilometres from Canberra, through southern New South Wales and along the Great Divide in eastern Victoria.
One of the best ways to explore the area is to self-drive along the Great Alpine Road in Victoria or the Alpine Way in New South Wales. The Great Alpine Road passes Beechworth, Victoria’s best-preserved gold rush town; Milawa, renowned for vineyards and cheese manufacturers; Alpine National Park, which is Man From Snowy River country; and on to the alpine resorts of Mount Hotham.
The Alpine Way passes Australia’s highest mountain in Kosciusko National Park; thousands of years of Aboriginal history in Namadgi National Park and the ski resorts of Perisher Blue, Charlotte Pass, Thredbo and Mt. Selwyn.
Australia’s Green CauldronStretching from Byron Bay to the Gold Coast and west towards the Great Dividing Range, Australia’s Green Cauldron is centred on an extinct volcano that shelters a huge diversity of rare flora and fauna, and subtropical rainforests. Visitors can walk the rainforest trails or drive the Rainforest Way through six World Heritage-listed National Parks. Other highlights include sampling exotic fruits and organic vegetables picked fresh from local farms and visiting quirky and historic towns like Uki and Murwillumbah and beach towns including Pottsville, Hastings Point, Cabarita, Casuarina, Salt Village and Kingscliff. This National Landscape includes the World Heritage-listed Mount Warning – known as Wollumbin to the traditional owners, the Bundjalung people. It was used for initiation ceremonies and spiritual education, and retains its cultural significance for these reasons.
Australia’s Coastal WildernessAlthough Australia’s Coastal Wilderness may seem a world away, this land of warm temperate rainforests and rocky coastline is easily reached from the main highway between Sydney and Melbourne. The jewel of the area is Croajingolong National Park, A UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Within the Park, Point Hicks was the first landing spot of Captain Cook in 1770. You’ll also find 300 bird and animal species and more than 1,000 native plant species, as well as migrating humpback whales in season.
The coastal towns of Merimbula and Mallacoota are great places for clients to base their explorations, and Bega, 20 kilometres from Bournda National Park on the Sapphire Coast Drive, is world-renowned for its cheeses.
Water sports include fishing, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling and sailboarding.