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11 Historical Sites to See in Australia

Picture of Monique La Terra
Updated: 16 September 2017
In comparison to other nations, Australia seems quite young, having only been colonised by European settlers in the late 18th century. However, Indigenous Australian’s have occupied the land for at least 65,000 years. From ancient rock art in Kakadu, to Cook’s Landing Place, these are some of most significant historical locations in Australia.
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Kakadu National Park

The UNESCO World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park is recognised “for both cultural and natural outstanding universal values.” Kakadu in Australia’s Northern Territory has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years and has an extensive collection of rock art sites including Ubirr, Burrunguy, and Nanguluwur, dating back up to 20,000 years. These paintings provide insight into the lives of the Bininj/Mungguy people.

Kakadu National Park, Kakadu Hwy, Jabiru NT, Australia, +61 8 8938 1120

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Eureka Stockade at Ballarat

On the 3rd of December 1854, in the midst of the Victorian Gold Rush, Ballarat became the sight of a 20-minute battle prompted by the digger’s opposition of miners’ licenses. Known as the Eureka Stockade, the event is regarded as significant in the formation of Australian democracy. Sovereign Hill outdoor museum commemorates the uprising in their nightly multi-million-dollar sound-and-light show ‘Blood on the Southern Cross.’ You can also see the original Eureka Flag at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat.

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, 102 Stawell St S, Ballarat Central VIC, Australia, +61 3 1800 287 113

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Port Arthur Historic Site

Established in 1830, the World Heritage Listed town of Port Arthur in Tasmania is one of Australia’s most important convict sites. Between 1833 and 1877, the revolutionary penal colony, which operated under the idea that prisoners could be reformed, was home to re-offenders and juvenile offenders. Port Arthur Historic Site features 30 historic buildings, including the Penitentiary, Convict Church and Guard Tower. In 1996, Port Arthur was the scene of a tragic massacre, prompting strict gun control laws. Today, the former convict settlement is Tasmania’s most popular tourist attraction.

Port Arthur Historic Site, 6973 Arthur Hwy, Port Arthur TAS, Australia, +61 3 6251 2310

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Captain Cook’s Landing Place

On the 29th of April 1770, Lieutenant James Cook and the HMS Endeavour landed at Kurnell in Botany Bay. He and his crew spent eight days in the now heritage-listed area known as Kamay Botany Bay National Park. Less than an hour south of Sydney, the landing place is marked with a commemorative obelisk and plaque.

Obelisk of 1870 to mark Captain Cook’s Landing Place Monument Track, Kurnell NSW, Australia

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Mungo National Park

In 1968, the cremated remains of Mungo Lady were unearthed. Using carbon dating, scientists estimated the remains were 40,000 years old, which makes it the oldest known cremation in the world. In 1974, remains of the Mungo Man were discovered in Lake Mungo, dating back between 40,000-68,000 years. Carbon dating of the skeleton rewrote Australia’s historical timeline, as it was previously believed that the continent had been inhabited for approximately 20,000 years. You can explore the geological site at your own pace or with a guided tour.

Mungo National Park, Mailbox Rd, Mungo NSW, Australia, +61 3 5021 8900

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Wiebbe Hayes Stone Fort

Built by the survivors of the Batavia shipwreck and mutiny, Wiebbe Hayes Stone Fort is the oldest European building in Australia. The Batavia set sail on her maiden voyage from Holland in 1629 with 322 people on board, but after striking Morning Reef and sinking in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands off Western Australia, mutineers massacred many stranded men, women and children. The Wiebbe Hayes Stone Fort was built on West Wallabi Island by Wiebbe Hayes and his soldiers who fought against the mutineers. Artefacts can be found at the Western Australian Museum in Fremantle.

West Wallabi Island, Houtman Abrolhos WA, Australia

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On Sunday, 27th of June 1880, the notorious Kelly Gang descended on Glenrowan, 236 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. The four outlaws held 60 townsfolk hostage at Anne Jones’s Glenrowan Inn, where they had their last stand. The following day, Joe Byrne was shot by police, and Dan Kelly and Steve Hart died in the fire police set in an attempt to drive the gang out of the hotel. An injured Ned Kelly surrendered nearby, falling to his knees at approximately 7:45am on Monday, 28th of June.

Site of the Glenn Rowan Inn, 1 Siege St, Glenrowan VIC, Australia

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Park, Natural Feature
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Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

With two UNESCO World Heritage Site listings, Uluru is recognised for its unique geology and cultural significance held by local Indigenous Australians known as the Anangu. Located in the Northern Territory, the rock formation is estimated to be 1,750 million years old and features several rock art sites, including the Mala Walk and the Kuniya Walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole. Uluru is a highly spiritual place, and it is considered disrespectful to climb the landmark, so only observe from the ground.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Lasseter Highway, Uluru NT, Australia

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Touristy, Photo Opportunity
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Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal Exhibition Building was built in 1880 to host the Melbourne International Exhibition and the Centennial Exhibition in 1888, which attracted approximately 2 million visitors. The building also held the first Australian Federal Parliament on the 9th of May 1901 in the western annex, served as a hospital during the 1919 influenza pandemic and later as a wrestling venue during the 1956 Olympics. In 2004, it became the first building in Australia to receive UNESCO World Heritage status.

Royal Exhibition Building, 9 Nicholson St, Carlton VIC, Australia, +61 3 9270 5000

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Elizabeth Farm

Elizabeth Farm is the historic estate of prominent military couple John and Elizabeth Macarthur. Built in 1793, the farmhouse is one of the oldest homes in Australia and is Heritage Listed. The estate also has significant importance to Australian wool, as pastoralist John Macarthur was a pioneer of this industry, which flourished in the 19th century. Today, the farmhouse is an access-all-areas museum and is managed by Sydney Living Museums.

Elizabeth Farm, 70 Alice St, Rosehill NSW, Australia, +61 2 9635 9488

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Fremantle Prison

Sitting atop a hill, Fremantle Prison in Western Australia was built by convicts between 1852 and 1859. The Convict Establishment, as it was known until 1867, played a part in the European Settlement of Western Australia and in 2010 was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1991, the prison was decommissioned. Today, it is a major tourist attraction with guided prison tours, touring exhibitions, a prison gallery and a visitors’ centre that includes artefacts, footage of prison life and an interactive Convict Database.

Fremantle Prison, 1 The Terrace, Fremantle WA, Australia, +61 8 9336 9200