Australia is home to some of the most unique landscapes and natural wonders in the world. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best ones, Tourism Australia has rounded up the country’s top ten intriguing natural wonders that are guaranteed to have you dreaming about your next Aussie adventure.
1. Aurora Australis, Tasmania
Like its Northern Hemisphere counterpart (Aurora Borealis), the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) illuminate the night sky with flickering shades of green, blue, purple and red. The Southern Lights can be viewed all year round – although most commonly during winter, May to August, and during the spring equinox in September. Aurora Australis is visible from several spots across the country, but your best chance of witnessing this phenomenon is from Australia’s southernmost state – Tasmania. Head to Bruny Island, Satellite Island, Bathurst Harbour and Cradle Mountain for the beautiful low-light conditions you need to spot the glimmering light show.
2. Morning Glory Clouds, Burketown, Queensland
During the months of September and October, the rare meteorological phenomenon referred to as the ‘Morning Glory Clouds’ roll across the Gulf and can be observed above the skies in Burketown. Gangalidda traditional owner Murrandoo Yanner said his people believe the morning glory was created by Walalu, the Rainbow Serpent, and is of great cultural significance. The cloud bank can be up to 1,000km long, 1-2km wide and can travel at speeds of up to 60km/hour. Although these clouds can be found in other parts of the world, Burketown is the only place where they appear frequently at set times of the year.
3. Australia’s Pink Lakes, South Australia and Western Australia
Australia’s extraordinary pink lakes have got to be seen to be believed. From the outback of South Australia to the coast of Western Australia, there are few things that are as beautiful and baffling as Australia’s pink lakes.
- Located on Middle Island in Esperance, Western Australia’s Lake Hillier is known for its bubble-gum pink hue. It’s a surreal sight; the pink lake neighbours the dark blue waters of the Indian Ocean, with a strip of lush green forest acting as a barrier.
- Famous for some of the most vividly-hued nature found anywhere in Australia, Western Australia’s Hutt Lagoon changes from red to pink and even to lilac purple. Located on the Coral Coast, visit during mid-morning or sundown to catch the best of its colourful spectrum.
- The pale pinks, oranges and yellows of Lake Eyre, located a six-hour drive from Adelaide, epitomise the vast landscapes of outback South Australia. The salt pan lake is a stunning sight, but becomes a different kind of beautiful every few years as the lake floods with water.
- Contrasting colours of pink, blue and green create the striking scene that is Lake MacDonnell. Located in South Australia’s breathtaking Eyre Peninsula, Lake MacDonnell is one of the country’s most intensely pink lakes, owing to its high salt concentration. Take the ultra-Instagrammable road between the bubblegum-hued Lake MacDonnell and its neighbouring blue-green waters to discover Cactus Beach at the end of the path.
4. Cuttlefish Annual Aggregation, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
The annual migration of giant Australian cuttlefish ‘Sepia apama’ to the waters of the upper Spencer Gulf to breed is one of the most spectacular natural events in the Australian marine environment. Unique to South Australia’s waters, it is the only place in the world where the cuttlefish aggregate annually in mass and with such great predictability. Every winter, thousands of cuttlefish merge and as expert colour-changers, these masters of camouflage can change their shape and texture to look like rocks, sand or seaweed. Travellers can snorkel with the amazing giant cuttlefish at Stony Point between June and July, located on the coastline of the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park in the Eyre Peninsula.
5. Bioluminescent Plankton, Jervis Bay, New South Wales
Jervis Bay, located three hours south of Sydney, is renowned for its white sandy beaches, however, the beaches in the area are even more wondrous at night. Due to a natural chemical reaction within plankton, the plankton become luminescent and emanate a blue glow. This unusual natural phenomenon, which can only be seen at night, can happen at any time of the year, but is more common in spring and summer months when the water is warmer. While the magical display is difficult to predict, the presence of red algae during the day may indicate a higher chance of bioluminescence in the evening.
6. The World’s Largest Dinosaur Footprints, Broome, Western Australia
The world’s largest dinosaur footprints can be found on the north coast of Broome in Western Australia. At 1.7-metres long, these fossilised dinosaur footprints are 130 million years old and extend in patches for 80km along the coast. At the southern end of Cable Beach is Gantheaume Point, a scenic area of red sandstone cliffs where visitors can observe footprints of dinosaurs located on the flat rocks 30 metres out to sea, and are only visible at low tide. Once travellers have finished visiting Australia’s very own ‘Jurassic Park’, if the timing is right they can also catch a glimpse of the ‘Staircase to the Moon‘ at Cable Beach in Broome. The ‘Staircase to the Moon’ happens 2 to 3 days a month between March and October, as the full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay. Currently, this spectacular site is being shared live over their Facebook page and website.
7. Coral Spawning, The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
In simple terms, coral spawning is the reef reproducing. Coral polyps simultaneously release egg and sperm bundles that they’ve spent months growing into the ocean for external fertilisation. This happens in a mass event annually often affectionately named the world’s largest orgasm by locals. This rare phenomenon lasts only a few nights, but travellers can take a nighttime coral spawning dive trip or join an overnight vessel during the coral spawning dates for another chance to view this weird and wonderful sight.
8. Min Min Lights, Outback Australia, Northern Territory
The Min Min Lights are a mysterious phenomenon that have spooked many people in the Outback of Australia from Mataranka (south of Katherine) to Uluru and everywhere in between. The lights have been described by witnesses as floating, fast-moving balls of colour that glow in the night sky and stalk people, leaving some feeling confused and frightened. There is debate as to whether the Min Min Lights exist, or if they are simply an Aboriginal folktale that has been passed down for generations. Daydream about heading to the Northern Territory, a place steeped in Aboriginal culture, from its rugged sandstone escarpments and tranquil waterholes in the north, to the mesmerising beauty of the Red Centre. Join a Maruku Arts exclusive tour and be guided by an Anangu who will tell you the stories of this unique landscape and explain the connection between the art, culture and land, or head to Kakadu National Park for Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours where Graham Kenyon, a knowledgeable former Northern Territory park ranger will take visitors through dreaming stories as they explore the wetlands.
9. Horizontal Falls, Western Australia
Described by David Attenborough as “Australia’s most unusual natural wonder”, Horizontal Falls in the Kimberley region of Western Australia is a natural phenomenon that is as intriguing as it is beautiful. There are two horizontal waterfalls in and both can be found in Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago. These incredible natural wonders are the work of some of the largest tidal movements in the world, the first and most seaward is about 20-metres wide, while the second is about 10-metres wide. The powerful tides in the Kimberley can reach more than 10-metres and the direction of the flow reverses ensuring the water flows two different ways each day, and a unique waterfall effect. You can join a scenic flight or sea safari to the Horizontal Waterfalls.
10. Red Crab migration, Christmas Island
Walk the red crab carpet in Christmas Island, off the far north-west coast of Australia. The island is home to an estimated 40-50 million bright red land crabs. Each year, at the start of the wet season (November – January), a spectacular awakening occurs. Mother Nature literally rolls out the red carpet as hordes of crabs emerge from the island’s forests and march their way down to the ocean to breed. Before planning a trip, check here for possible spawning dates, and time visits accordingly. Remember, it’s a natural event, so dates are predictions only.
Top image: Lake Hillier, Middle Island near Esperance. Image: Instagram/@firstname.lastname@example.org