This list of my top famous landmarks in Australia marks my second anniversary of being here. Despite the travel setbacks of 2020, I am grateful to have explored so much during the pandemic. This thoughtful list shares my unique perspective as a foreigner who lives and works in Australia. Also because I enjoy the best of both travel worlds: in and outdoor activities. Shopping, bars, and restaurants or adventures in the great outdoors check out these top insider’s sights.
1. Rottnest Island
One of the most famous landmarks in Australia is Rottnest Island. Just west of Perth is Rottnest Island, home to the Instagram famous Quokka. That’s ‘Kwa-ka,’ so a local doesn’t laugh at you because you pronounced it wrong. But seriously, these tiny marsupials are adorable. Surely you have seen Chris Hemsworth’s selfie with one who hasn’t!
Ferries depart from multiple locations around Perth. To get the most out of your trip, plan to stay at least one night. There is plenty of adventuring to be had. Choose your preference of accommodation from budget-friendly camping up to some seriously premium resorts—enough about sleeping. Let’s talk about fun, then. Head out for some surf at Strickland Bay, snorkel the shallow Basin and spot spectacular wildlife all over the island. Serving as a nature reserve, you’ll find not just cute Quokkas but Osprey, Whales, and even Bottlenose Dolphins. Book this desirable getaway in advance. Spots go fast.
2. The Great Ocean Road
One of the best ways to see famous landmarks in Australia is, of course, by car. Rent something with four wheels and enough space for your gear. Grab your Eskie and hit the road. The Great Ocean Road is a 243 km road on the Southern coast of Victoria designed to showcase Australia’s natural landscape.
Boasting around twenty light-houses, all seven of the 12 apostles, and plenty of campsites. Camping is best because let’s be honest. You came to enjoy the outdoors and you can also travel at your leisure, fast or slow. Scan your way along the QR trail to learn more about each location. The Great Ocean Road is a condensed experience of all that Australia has to offer. The only real question is whether you rent a cozy camper van or a rugged four-wheel drive or not.
3. Kangaroo Island
You’ve probably heard of one of the famous landmarks in Australia, Kangaroo Island during the devastating bushfires of 2020. Burning almost half the island and 50,000 heads of sheep. But as the global pandemic slows and locals can rebuild, tourism returns. The Kangaroo Island Tourism Office recommends going all-in on a seven-day trip to get the most out of your stay. Bring your vehicle over on the ferry and explore Australia’s second-largest island.
Due to conservation efforts, the island is a wildlife lover’s playground. Get up close to sea lions at Seal Bay Conservation Park. Then, See Australia’s largest bird of prey at the Raptor Domain’s Flight Show. Did you know there are penguins in Australia? See the world’s smallest penguins at Penneshaw Penguin Centre. These Little Blue Penguins come in just over a foot tall. Or try something unique like the scents of Emu Ridge Eucalyptus essential oil distillery. Or sip Kangaroo Island Spirits gin at the Kangaroo Island Cup horse race.
Set on the North-West edge of Western Australia in the Coral Coast lies Exmouth. Known for the Ningaloo Reef World Heritage site. A 300km area home to Western Australia’s largest humpback whale nursery. Together the Ningaloo Reef with Exmouth Gulf makes a Hope Spot. Signifying the areas of global importance and why Exmouth made this list over the Great Barrier Reef which is in repairs.
Waters abundant with the life you can dive at the Exmouth Navy Pier and see more marine species in one dive than your whole lifetime. Keep up with the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, a once-in-a-lifetime swimming experience. Visit the stunning rock gorges and hike around Cape Range National Park.
To get the most out of this trip grab a rental and make the drive north from Perth. That way you can stop at numerous amazing sights on your way up the coast. Pinnacles desert at Cervantes, dolphins at Monkey Mia, and snap a classic Western Australia selfie at Hutt Lagoon. The pinkest pink lake around.
When you’re ready for a little city vibe, head to one of the largest and most famous landmarks in Australia. First of all, get an Opal card to pay for any public transportation in and around Sydney. The card is free and easy to use, top-up straight on your phone. This card will cover trains, busses, and ferries.
Use your Opal card to catch the ferry for a self-guided tour of Sydney Harbour. The first stop is Cockatoo Island, showcasing penal colony history and take a dive into the unique origins of Sydney Harbour. Next up, soak in some amusement at Luna Park. Keep going to pass under the Sydney Harbour Bridge for views of the Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay. Hope off for some dinner or drinks with 360-degree views of Sydney’s Central Business District at O Bar. Upgrade your style at the 19th century Queen Victoria Building shops or back onto the ferries for a sunset view of the Harbour.
Staying central can cost you a fine penny, but just a short train ride away is Crowe’s Nest. In this North Sydney neighborhood, you’ll find budget-friendly accommodations, shopping, and dining. Plan your trip around any number of great events like the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi-gras beginning around February. An inclusive and truly spectacular event. Here in Sydney, it is easy to find something for every traveler.
6. Wine Country
Australia has recently stepped into the ‘wine light. Showing up big with Shiraz and SSB (Semillon Sauvignon Blanc). Australian wine country is world-renowned and welcoming to travelers on any budget. Wine tastings are often free or for a small fee that can sometimes be used against a bottle after. The Barossa and Eden Valleys have warm and cool climate wines, but the area is known for its luscious Shiraz. Located just outside Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, you’ll find these and the popular McLaren Vale.
Offering a more sophisticated scene with art galleries and walking trails, you may find yourself viewing Dali at the D’Arenberg Cube. Catch the sweeping valley views from a hot air balloon. Later settle into the afternoon at the Lyndoch Lavender Farm & Cafe. Wine trail must-stops include Barossa Valley Cheese Co. or the Barossa Valley Chocolate Co. tasting boards. Yes, they even have a choco-fall. Insiders tip, for budget happy travels, look around for free campsites nearby.
On the west coast, you’ll find Margaret River. With over 90 cellar doors, four spectacular caves, and the Cape to Cape walk, this wine country takes the cake. Walkers enjoy the 125km trail while ultra-runners soak in the views of 80km in early May. You might think they’re crazy, but if they’re lucky, they can catch a glimpse of a humpback whale on their northern migration. If spectating is more your sport, swing through during a world-class surf or skate tournament before heading to Busselton Jetty. This is the longest Jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. Plenty to eat and even more to drink. You’ll have a hard time deciding which SSB is your favorite.
7. Kakadu National Park/Arnhem Land
No trip to Australia is complete without seeing one of the best and most famous landmarks in Australia, the Top End. The Northern Territory is home to Kakadu National Park, the beginning of the outback. As Australia’s largest national park, it is home to many flora and fauna, most notably crocodiles. Over 10,000 crocs are, meaning they outnumber the human population. Accommodations can be found in Kakadu’s only small town of Jabiru. For the most enjoyable weather, visit during the dry season between April to August.
This park is wild, look forward to seeing crocodiles at Cahills Crossing, and keep your eyes out for some bird sightings. The Azure Kingfisher, Comb-crested Jacana, and Little Corellas gabbing and grazing by the hundreds. Spend an evening watching the sunset on a Yellow Waters Cruise or take a bushwalk through neighboring Arnhem Land to discover Aboriginal history and culture. Visiting paintings of creation stories and Dutch settlers with some rock art as old as 20,000 years. This place is truly magical.
8. The Outback/Stuart Highway
If Kakadu and Arnhem Land are the beginning of the outback then the Stuart Highway is quintessential. Otherwise known as ‘The Track’ this 2800km+ drive goes from Darwin, NT to Port Augusta, SA. With some worthwhile stops along the way let’s explore some of my favorites.
The Stuart Highway was paved along a Telegraph route during World War II for a supply train. Many of these telegraph stations still exist and make for a nice place to stretch your legs between drives. Once you’ve made it out of Kakadu stop at Katherine Gorge. Get up early for the sunrise, it’s one for the photo books. Explore around the large rock formations at Devil’s Marbles near Tennant Creek. Once you hit Alice Springs you’ve made it about halfway.
Into South Australia, you’ll come to Coober Pedy, one of the more unique stops. In the local aboriginal language, it means ‘white man in a hole’ because this strange place is an opal mine. Over 80% of the world’s opals come from this small town. if you don’t watch your step you could stumble into any one of the mining wells dotted around. Over 50% of the township lives underground in “dugouts” originally built to protect from the extreme heat and flies. Here you’ll feel like you’ve landed on another planet. Hollywood thought so too, so they used this location for multiple films like Mad Max and Pitch Black. They still have the space-ship to prove it.
9. Uluru-Kata Tjuta/Ayer’s Rock
Along the same highway, just a short stop-over away, Ayers Rock or Uluru is a true monolith. Nestled as the heart of the outback pictures do not do its size justice. Uluru is the largest single-stone rock formation in the world. The local Anangu people believe the area to be sacred, home to creation spirits. A sense is of power easy to feel standing in the shadow of this natural wonder. Taller than the Eiffel Tower and weighing over 1 million tones, Uluru is breathtaking. An experience available on any budget with campsites or if you’re feeling for something more luxurious stay a while. Go to the spa or dine against the Uluru backdrop outdoors for sunset. If you’re lucky enough to be here during a full moon, you can capture some enviable photos.
10. Australia’s Best Kept Secret, Bremer Bay
Because of its beauty, so many locals are going to be annoyed for outing their secret. After living and working in this destination for almost a year, I am sure this is my favorite place in Australia. Bremer Bay is around a five-hour drive South-East of Perth. As a heads up, you will want a four-wheel drive to access all of the best things to see in Bremer. Here you’ll find an idyllic balance between land and sea. Right next to the Fitzgerald River National Park and the Stirling Range National Park. Together they are packed with outdoor activities and some of Australia’s most botanically significant flora species. Flower lovers rejoice. You’ll be able to hike and explore to your heart’s content.
Snorkel, swim, dive, spearfish, or sun worship, whatever your water sport, Bremer will not disappoint. Local favorites are to surf or chill in one of the dreamy rock pools at Native Dog Beach. Not far, the Bremer Bay Canyons are home to the largest known gathering of Orca’s this side of the equator. Tour boats will take you for sightings all season. Soon after seeing Southern Right whales as they welcome new young closer to shore. Often seen close by from Point Anne or Dillon Bay. A sight I was lucky enough to catch a few times a week during the season.
You’ll find this location family-friendly and affordable. Stay at Bremer Bay Beaches caravan park or more intimate settings at the Bremer Bay Bed & Breakfast. Enjoy tasty bites at the Wellstead Museum Cafe before browsing the history and nostalgia of Western Australia around the museum. Closer to town is the newly renovated Telegraph cafe. Stop by Bremer Bay Brewing Company to take home some tinnies of award-winning Red Ale.
Why these Famous Landmarks in Australia?
Travel plans change quicker than a boomerang in a dust storm and I am still checking off a few of these sights myself. I look forward to seeing them all before I leave. Plus given the pandemic and travel restrictions, I am lucky to have seen so much already. These insiders’ famous landmarks in Australia were chosen based on their overall value suitable for any traveler. In the end, each of these destinations has something unique to offer. Some have deep historical value and others are more current. Australia has a generally low population compared to other countries around the world. This fact makes for wide-open spaces to be explored. Also, you won’t find yourself surprised to see a familiar face on the other side of the country. In some ways, Australia is one big small town. Where people still wave to each other on the road.
It’s been my pleasure to call Australia home on this unexpected stop-over because of the pandemic. When restrictions lift, and you can make the journey consider these sights. I promise you’ll find breathe taking views and a unique experience unlike anything else in the world. I hope I can give you enough information about the famous landmarks in Australia!