Being the only country that’s also a continent, Australia itself is quite unique. And as you explore this huge island, you’ll get to see special things you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Check out my list of unique places in Australia!
If you’re particularly interested in wildlife, don’t miss this post about the best places to see wildlife in Australia.
The list below is ordered clockwise, starting from the top of Queensland (northeast of Australia). The numbers refer to the map at the end of the article.
1. Great Barrier Reef
Region: North Queensland
Do I need to introduce the Great Barrier Reef? It’s the largest coral reef system in the world and on all Australia bucket lists. Most visitors go to Cairns to visit the Great Barrier Reef, but there are actually many different options that may be better for you. I personally love the southern islands (Heron Island, Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot).
How to get there: The Great Barrier Reef is the size of Japan, so it all depends on the destination you pick to explore it. There are airports all along the East Coast of Australia, and then you can organise a transfer to your hotel and/or your boat.
Where to stay: If you choose to go to Cairns, I highly recommend staying on a liveaboard for a couple of nights to enjoy different reefs. If you stay on an island, you’ll love the resorts.
2. Broken River
Region: Mackay Region, North Queensland
Platypus are unique to Australia, and you have a high chance of seeing them at Broken River (Eungella National Park) near Mackay. The platform there is a lot closer to the water than the one at Bombala, known as the platypus capital. You’ll even get a chance to scuba dive in platypus waters (more to see where they live rather than seeing them) while in Broken River.
How to get there: The closest airport is Mackay. Then, it takes about one hour to drive to Eungella National Park.
Where to stay: The boardwalk to see platypus is just a short walk from Broken River Mountain Resort*.
Responsible travel tip: Like many native animals in Australia, platypuses face conservation threats. Drought, land clearing, polluted waterways, predators… They struggle in some places. But if you like spotting platypuses, you can help! Have you ever heard of citizen science? During your travels, you can help researchers by providing data. Check this out: platypusSPOT
Region: South East Queensland
Also known as Fraser Island, K’gari is the world’s largest sand island. It’s a big island (123 kilometres/76 miles long and 22 kilometres/14 miles wide) with a lot of things to explore. The rainforest growing on sand is one of the most impressive features of this unique place in Australia. The lakes on K’gari are stunning too.
How to get there: Fraser Island ferries go from the mainland (Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay) to K’gari. You will need a 4WD to explore the island. If your time is limited, it’s better to join a tour to maximise your stay on the island.
Where to stay: The most famous resort on K’gari is Kingfisher Resort*. But if you like camping, a trip to K’gari is a great opportunity to camp on the beach.
4. Gondwana Rainforest
Region: Southeast Queensland and Northeast New South Wales
The Gondwana Rainforest is the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world. Several protected areas make up this site listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its “outstanding geological features displayed around shield volcanic craters and the high number of rare and threatened rainforest species”.
The best way to visit Gondwana Rainforests is to go hiking in national parks. The most famous ones are Lamington, Springbrook, Mount Barney, Main Range and Dorrigo national parks.
How to get there: Brisbane and the Gold Coast aren’t too far from many of the Gondwana Rainforests in South East Queensland. They also make lovely detours while driving down the East Coast of Australia from Brisbane to Sydney. You’ll need a car to get to the national parks. If you don’t want to drive, you can find tours from Brisbane (click here to view*) and from the Gold Coast (click here to view*) that will take you to Springbrook National Park for the day, for example. I’ve also seen tours from Coffs Harbour* to Dorrigo National Park.
Where to stay: The best option is to stay very close to the national park to enjoy the rainforest at night too. If you go to Springbrook National Park, check availabilities at Lyrebird Retreat*. It’s a non-profit accommodation that redirects all its profit to rainforest restoration. Camping is also a good way to stay close to nature. We love the Wollomombi campground in Oxley Wild River National Park.
Region: Sydney, New South Wales
With its stunning harbour, Sydney is a unique city not only in Australia but in the world. The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are icons of the country. There are many ways to explore Sydney Harbour. You can admire the views from one of the many coastal walks. But hopping on a ferry or on a boat will give you some of the best views without effort. To see it from above, you can climb the Harbour Bridge or Pylon lookout or join a helicopter tour.
6. The Blue Mountains
Region: Blue Mountains, New South Wales
The Blue Mountains, another Heritage Listed Area in Australia, is mostly known for its stunning lookouts on cliffs standing over eucalyptus forests as far as you can see. But don’t just stop at the popular Three Sisters lookout when visiting the Blue Mountains.
If you’re up for an adrenaline kick, the Blue Mountains also has “the world’s greatest concentration of vegetated slot canyons”. Most canyons are difficult to access, but you’ll find tours from Katoomba* that will lead you to a few impressive ones. Some are suitable for beginners, but you’ll still need a sense of adventure and a good fitness level.
How to get there: The Blue Mountains aren’t far from Sydney. If you’re going canyoning, you can catch a train to Katoomba and walk to the canyoning shop. They should be able to drive you to the canyoning site.
7. Mt Kosciuszko
Region: Snowy Mountains, New South Wales
Have you heard of the Seven Summits? There are the highest mountain peaks on each of the continents, including, for example, the famous Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m/19,341 ft) in Africa, Mount Everest (8,849 m/29,032 ft) in Asia, Denali (6,194 m/20,322 ft) in North America and Mount Blanc (4,810 m/15,781 ft) in Europe. Well, the lists differ depending on the definition used for a continent. That’s how Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 m/7,310 ft) sometimes gets included on some lists of the Seven Summits.
While reaching the other summits on the list is a great expedition, it’s very easy to go to the top of Australia’s highest peak. A chairlift gets people close to the summit, and it is then a 13km return easy walk on a metallic boardwalk. I find it more fun to hike all the way up there and enjoy the rare alpine scenery in Australia.
How to get there: We climbed Mount Kosciuszko while doing a road trip from Queensland to New South Wales. It takes approximately 6 hours to drive there from Sydney or Melbourne, and 2.5 hours from Canberra – the biggest airport nearby. In winter, you may be able to find a flight to the small local airport, Cooma, about one hour away from Thredbo.
Where to stay: Before choosing where to stay, I recommend deciding how you’ll want to reach Mount Kosciuszko to avoid unnecessary driving. If you’re planning to take the chairlift, then you should stay in Thredbo*. But if you’re into hiking and want to reach Mount Kosciuszko via Charlotte Pass (see this article), then you may want to check out accommodations in Perisher Valley*. Otherwise, Jindabyne* – where the road splits to Charlotte Pass or Thredbo – has a great offer for accommodations too.
Region: Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
Whyalla is the only known place on Earth where thousands of giant cuttlefish aggregate to reproduce. You can snorkel and dive with them to watch their seduction show from close. They change colours and patterns; it’s mesmerizing. You’ll have to time your trip as they only come in winter, around May or June.
How to get there: You will need a vehicle to go to Whyalla. It’s a five-hour drive from Adelaide and a 2.5-hour drive from the closest airport, Port Lincoln.
Where to stay: Whyalla Caravan Park* was great to stay within our limited budget for that trip.
9. Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree
Region: South West, Western Australia
You’ll find the world’s highest tree climb on the south coast of Western Australia. It’s not for everyone and surely not for those who are scared of heights. It is a special forest with kari trees, and a few of them were used as fire towers.
How to get there: The closest major city is Perth, or it’s also closer to the Margaret River Region. You’ll need a car to get there. The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is a popular spot for travellers driving from Perth to Esperance.
10. Rottnest Island
Region: Perth, Western Australia
The cute small marsupial Quokkas can only be found in a few places in Western Australia. Rottnest Island is the best spot to see them. The island is a gem for nature lovers, with lots of stunning beaches and wildlife spotting opportunities.
How to get there: You can catch a ferry from Perth or Fremantle to go to Rottnest Island. Once on the island, you can travel by bus or hire a bicycle.
Where to stay: I highly recommend staying overnight on Rottnest Island if you can. You’ll need to book accommodation early as it’s often full during weekends and school holidays. Fremantle is another nice option if you have a vehicle and don’t wish to stay in Perth.
Region: Red Centre, Northern Territory
Uluru is one of Australia’s most famous landmarks and the world’s largest single-rock monolith. It’s actually not the largest monolith in the world: Mount Augustus in Western Australia is 2.5 times larger than Uluru – which makes it a rather unique place in Australia. But Mount Augustus is not a single rock monolith as it has a variety of rock types (and it is also a lot harder to access than Uluru).
Uluru monolith has significant importance for local Aboriginal people. You won’t forget your visit to this sacred place; it’s impressive for its beauty, its meaning and all its associated stories. It’s often featured on the first page of guidebooks for a good reason!
How to get there: There are direct flights to Uluru or alternatively to Alice Springs, where many tours leave from.
Where to stay: You’ll find hotels very close to Uluru. If your budget allows, Longitude 131°* is very reputed for its views and service, especially if you get a room in the first row. Some rooms from Desert Gardens Hotel* have views of the majestic rock. As I was on a tight budget when I visited Uluru, I joined a three-day tour from Airlie Beach, and we camped in the desert in a swag*.
12. Arnhem Land
Region: Northern Territory
Stretching over 97,000 square kilometres, Arnhem Land has a rich Aboriginal culture and stunning landscapes. It’s one of the largest Aboriginal-owned reserves in the country and arguably the most reputed place for an immersive cultural experience with the oldest known civilization on Earth.
How to get there: You can drive to Arnhem Land from Darwin or join a tour like this one* (from May to October).
13. Christmas Island
Region: offshore, south of Indonesia
Every year, millions of red crabs migrate on Christmas Island. I haven’t experienced it as Christmas Island is rather isolated, but just the photos and videos are enough to see it’s a spectacular natural event.
How to get there: You can fly to Christmas Island from Perth.
What unique places in Australia have you visited? Share your tips in the comments below!
Map to locate these unique places in Australia
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Sounds amazing, thanks for sharing:)