Home Blog 7 World Heritage Sites in Australia and New Zealand

7 World Heritage Sites in Australia and New Zealand

Wednesday, 23rd November 2022

Destination Specialist

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Unique landmarks which are geographically and historically identifiable and having a special cultural or physical significance. That’s the broad criteria for sites to become UNESCO World Heritage listed. For travellers, the world heritage label instantly piques our interest and establishes a place as somewhere we might want to add to our wishlist. With 20 World Heritage sites in Australia and a further three in New Zealand, there are plenty of possibilities for exploring Down Under. From timeless rock formations standing proud against a cloudless sky to vast wilderness areas sculpted by geological forces, we’ve picked seven site we think you shouldn’t miss on an epic holiday to Australia and New Zealand.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

The heart and soul of Australia’s Red Centre, the mystical monolith of Uluru and the nearby cluster of 36 rocky domes known as Kata Tjuta are deeply entwined in the spiritual beliefs of traditional Aboriginal owners, the Anangu. Hike around the base of Uluru (an easy 10km loop) learning about the Dreamtime stories of snakes Kuniya and Liru; join a dot-painting workshop with local artists, watch Uluru smoulder in the sunset and then stay up late for some unforgettable star-gazing. The Red Centre features on self-drive and escorted journeys with us.

We recommend: Highlights of the Red Centre

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Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Dabble your toes on a day-trip or take the plunge on a four- or five-night cruise – either way, the Great Barrier Reef will take your breath away (divers take note). This big daddy of World Heritage Sites covers over 20,000 sq km, with over 2,900 reefs conspiring to paint the Coral Sea turquoise and create what is possibly the richest area of faunal diversity in the world. Grab a mask and snorkel and see how many of the 1,500 species of fish, 360 hard corals and 5,000 molluscs you can spot. Turtles nest on many of the 300-odd coral cays scattered along the reef; huge seabird colonies stake out the sands, humpback whales breed in sheltered lagoons, while endangered dugongs find sanctuary in seagrass meadows.

We recommend: Tropical North Queensland Self Drive

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Te Wahipounamu, New Zealand

A majestic chunk of wilderness, carved by glaciers and cloaked in ancient forests, Te Wahipounamu includes four of South Island’s most enigmatic national parks: Westland, Mt Aspiring, Fiordland and Aoraki/Mt Cook. Get footloose-like-Frodo and hike one of the many world-class trails; go horse riding, sea kayaking and jet-boating; meet the world’s only alpine parrot, then snuggle up for the night in a wilderness lodge. This is South Island at its majestic best.

We recommend: 4×4 Hike and Drive

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Sydney Opera House, Australia

There’s a compulsion to rush to the waterfront on arrival in Sydney, to catch your first look at the iconic white sails of the Opera House. A true 20th century architectural masterpiece, Australia’s famous landmark is a great urban sculpture set in a remarkable waterscape. Part of a eye-catching double act with Sydney Harbour Bridge, get up close to this iconic attraction on a relaxing harbour cruise, a guided bike tour or take a leisurely stroll and soak up the city’s chilled out atmosphere.

We recommend: Coastal Highlights

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Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

The first ‘cultural landscape’ to be awarded World Heritage status, the mountains have a cultural and religious significance for the Maori people. The volcanic heart of North Island, Tongariro sits to the south of Lake Taupo and boasts the most active volcano in the country in Mt Ruapehu. Hailed as one of the greatest one-day walks in the world, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing grapples with a stunning landscape of red-rust craters, black deserts and emerald lakes.

We recommend: 4×4 Hike and Drive

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Tasmanian Wilderness, Australia

This vast area in Australia’s island state, covers over one million hectares of temperate rainforest and incorporates several national parks including Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. The area is full of endemic wildlife, such as endearing wombats and feisty Tasmanian Devils. Evidence of human inhabitants dates back over 40,000 years with ancient Aboriginal rock markings that can still be seen.

We recommend: Tasmanian Discovery

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Shark Bay, Western Australia

This marine paradise is less showy than some of the other sites featured, but it is remarkable nevertheless. The stromatolites at Hamelin Pool are some of the oldest life-forms on planet earth, while the vast off-shore sea-grass beds attract a wealth of marine life including a healthy population of around 11,000 dugongs – the cow of the sea – as well as turtles, migrating humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, sharks and rays. For those touring Western Australia, Shark Bay can be perfectly paired with another of Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ningaloo Coast, where annual migration of whale sharks provide the greatest draw.

We recommend: Ningaloo and Shark Bay Discovery

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Discover more UNESCO World Heritage Sites around our destinations in the following guides, or view the full World Heritage List.

Feeling inspired?

For help and advice on planning your perfect Antipodean escape to either Australia or New Zealand or combining both, send an online enquiry or speak to one of our Travel Specialists today on 01737 214 250.