One of Australia’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a sacred place for the Anangu Aboriginal people, Uluru is one of the more famous natural formations on this list. Rising up out of the flat Outback Desert, Uluru is a large outcropping of red sandstone that is visible very far around it. It’s also part of a national park, where you can also find things like caves, springs, and ancient paintings. At 450 kilometers (280 miles) away from the nearest town, Alice Springs, Uluru is quite the trip – but an entirely worthwhile one.
Bay of Fires
At first glance, The Bay of Fires (or Iarapuna in the language of the indigenous people) in Tasmania is a pristine beach with blue water, white sand, and green surroundings – until you look more closely and realize that the rocks on the beaches are glowing orange like fire. It’s not actually a specific variety, it’s just that the lichen living in this particular area has an orange color that makes the rocks shine. The bay got its name in 1773, when Captain Tobias Furneaux saw the rocks and the fires that Aboriginal people had made.
Even Australia’s cities have impressive natural wonders. One of Sydney’s is Bondi Beach, a popular beach and suburb, where people come to surf, play beach volleyball, swim, or just relax and take it all in. Just the expanse of it and the gorgeous colors of the land and the water will immediately make you see what made it so popular. It’s appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, and it was also the location of the beach volleyball tournament in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.
Moving to Western Australia, The Pinnacles are a collection of natural limestone formations popping up out of the desert sand to form what almost looks like a group of old tree trunks. While it’s agreed that their composition is limestone, it has yet to be fully determined how they actually formed. What’s sure is that they’re a totally unique destination, and if you come in the morning or evening, you might even get to see the emus and kangaroos that live in the area.
The Twelve Apostles is another limestone formation, this time on the coast. Although there are only eight now out of an original nine, the Twelve Apostles are a series of limestone stacks that were created over the millennia as the water eroded away the soft stone, leaving first number of arches and now only the chimney-shaped remnants. The ninth Apostle collapsed in 2005, but the landscape as a whole is just as amazing as ever. It’s right at the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, so it’s also quite accessible.
Another piece of proof that Australia has some of the coolest rock formations in the world is Wave Rock, located in the southwestern corner of the country. This one is made of granite, and is thought to have been formed by chemical processes that happened when the groundwater interacted with the stone, leaving a stone shaped like a breaking wave. It’s about 14 meters tall and 110 meters long, making for quite the impressive spectacle.
It’s very difficult to reach Lake Hillier, as it’s located on Middle Island, one of the islands in the Recherche Archipelago off the southern coast of the country. There aren’t that many places where you can see a bright pink lake, though, so it’s well worth it. The lake is extremely salty (comparable in salinity to the Dead Sea), and the color most likely comes from the Dunaliella salina microorganisms that live in lake and create a red dye when combined with the salt.
Bungle Bungle Ranges
Created by an amazing combination of geological processes, the Bungle Bungle Range in the Purnululu National Park in Western Australia is a great place to go to really get in touch with the true capabilities of nature. The towers started out as sandstone and conglomerates (rocks made out of smaller, still-visible pieces), and then over the approximately 375 since they first formed, water and wind have shaped them into beehive shapes that rise up out of the desert. People have been living in the area for at least 20,000 years, and it’s very important to them.
Just 70 kilometers away from Melbourne, Hanging Rock is a volcanic rock formation in Victoria, Australia. It was formed just over 6 million years ago, when magma flowing out of a volcano stiffened and then froze – this type of formation is a mamelon, and this particular one is made out of a special type of rock that can only be found in a few other places in the world. The surreal quality of the area makes it a popular place for rock concerts, and in the last decade Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles, among others, have made their way through here.
Whitehaven is the quintessential beautiful beach, the one you can easily imagine but don’t actually believe exists in real life. The water has an amazing array of blue hues depending on the depth, and the sand is bright white and reflective. It’s almost entirely made out of silica, so it’s very fine and does not retain any heat. Be careful not to let it get near your electronic devices, but then again, the best way to enjoy a place like Whitehaven is to check out of reality and just jump in with both feet.
Just outside of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are ideally placed for a day trip if you’re visiting the city. You might want to stay longer, though, because of how stunningly gorgeous they are. Perhaps most impressive is the Three Sisters formation, a group of three sandstone columns that were slowly eroded over the millennia. There’s a legend that also describes their formation, however. Three sisters fell in love with three men from another tribe, which was outlawed, and fighting ensued. An elder turned the girls into stone, but when he was killed in the fighting, no one could turn them back.