Travel

Australia's amazing natural wonders that must be seen to be believed

The pink lakes are a sight to behold - but there are more quirky natural wonders that need to be seen to be believed all over Australia.

Australia's beauty and magic can come alive in ways you've never imagined. Read this article to discover new places in Australia that awaken your sense of wonder.

By Alex Brooks

Pink Lake Hutt Lagoon, Port Gregory, Western Australia

You can fly over the pink lake in Western Australia to see the weirdly wonderful waters.

Australia is well known for its sparkling blue images of beaches and harbours, but not as well known for its candy-pink lakes.

In South, and particularly Western Australia, you can find famous lakes that take their distinctive hue from high salinity and blooming algae. 

Drive 6 hours from Perth along the Coral Coast Highway, and you’ll reach the ultra-Instagrammable Hutt Lagoon. Its colours can change from striking pink to red and even purple — often all in one day.

Fringed by forest and dunes on remote Middle Island, Lake Hillier also blushes with rosy hues. You can only see the lake from the air or by sea, but a flight over the island promises spectacular views and vibrant photos.

More info: Western Australia tourism

Glow in the dark fungi, Far North and Southern Queensland

A short drive from Cairns lies Australia's stunning Daintree Rainforest, a UNESCO World-heritage site which is also the oldest surviving tropical rainforest in the world.

What makes this stunning place so wonderful is its biodiversity, which includes fungus that glows-in-the-dark (a phenomenon also known as bioluminescence).

Queensland's rainforests host boluminescent fungi - also known to many as ghost mushrooms due to the soft ghostly glow they emit through the darkness. The light seeping through the cell walls of these mushrooms is often green.

Professor Celeste Linde from ANU Research School of Biology says there are about 110 known species of mushroom that are bioluminescent, and quite a few are found in Australia.

They create their own light through a chemical reaction, in a similar way to fireflies.

“It's a compound that the organism has, called luciferin, and that interacts with an enzyme called luciferase,” Professor Linde explains.

These amazing rainforest plants that glow in the dark are said to have inspired James Cameron's Avatar movies.

Lamington National Park, further south in Queensland, also offers glowing fungi experiences.

Aurora Australis, Tasmania

You don’t need to go to Iceland or Scandinavia to fulfil your aurora-chasing northern lights dreams.

Every year, the Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights, electrifies the skies above southern Australia.

Charged solar particles collide with different gases in the atmosphere to create aurora’s dazzling greens, yellows, purples and blues. Good news: As the sun approaches its solar maximum over the next 2 years, scientists forecast that this display will appear even stronger and more frequently.

The Spring equinox and Winter is the best time to see the Aurora Australis, according to Tourism Australia, but it’s possible to catch a glimpse on any clear night during the year. The best vantage points have low light pollution and a broad view of the southern horizon, like Bruny Island and Cradle Mountain in Tasmania or the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

Rocky geological wonders worth a visit

Go beyond Uluru-Ayers Rock and explore other earthly delights and rock formations in Australia. This country has an abundance of rocky delights to entertain geologically curious travellers. Most of us know the gorgeous colours of Uluru are inspiring at sunrise and sunset but take a look at these other jaw dropping rock formations to see if they are worth putting on your bucket list.

Wave Rock, Western Australia

It looks like a surf wave, captured at a moment in time and is around 14m high and 110m long.

This granite inselberg (which means isolated hill that rises above a flat plain) is 2.63 billion years old with coloured stripes created by the rain washing chemical deposits, carbonates, and iron hydroxide, down the face of the rock.  

The wave-like shape was formed by the gradual erosion of the softer rock beneath the upper edge over many millions of years.

Visitors to Wave Rock can wander along the barrel of the wave or follow a walking trail that leads to the crest. To the Noongar people, the traditional custodians of the region, this was a dancing ground.

Around 300km from Perth, the rocky stunner of Wave Rock is not far from Hippo's Yawn, another quirky rock feature that looks like a hippopotamus is opening his large jaws.

Hippo's Yawn is not far from Wave Rock.

If you visit in springtime, you'll be rewarded with vistas of native wildflowers.

More info: Tourism Western Australia

Hippo's Yarn trail

Termite mounds, Northern Territory and Queensland

OK, so these aren't your average rock formation. These are more like dirt mounds held together with termite spit and dung to create rocky formations that jut to more than 5m in height.

Littered across Australia's Top End, these mounds are carefully crafted on a north-south axis for maximum solar absorption, warmth and humidity to keep the critters moist in the hot, dry climate. That's why these mounds are sometimes called "magnetic termite mounds" (though it's unlikely you can stick a fridge magnet to them).

To create the mounds, the termites chew grass stalks and store them around the outer chambers of the mound, foraging from underground and displacing the sediment on the ground. As the mound begins to grow, the termites fill the outer chambers with soil.

Litchfield National Park has other beautiful formations to take in if you want to see the magnetic compass termite mounds.

The Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory has some of the best examples, where you can also take in ancient waterfalls and impressive rock ruins called The Lost City.

More info: Northern Territory Litchfield National Park

Cape York termite mound facts

Calcified Forest, King Island, Tasmania

You can hear the roaring forties winds in this video, adding to the stark and desolate beauty of these weirdly shaped limestone features. Photo by Andrew Bain.

What happens when land that was once forest faces rising sea levels? You get a calcified forest revealing stony remnants of trees long made extinct.

Found on Tasmania's King Island, these formations happened after calcium carbonate formed around the roots of trees which had later all died, with the surrounding sand eroded by wind around 7,000 years ago to reveal the root casts.

Stop to ponder the geological history and the strangely desolate shapes on this half-hour walk, which is one of Tasmania's 60 great short walks.

More info: Parks Tasmania

Pinnacles, Turquoise Coast, Western Australia

A 3-hour drive from Perth is this lunar landscape that's reminiscent of the calcified forest on King Island in Tasmania.

The Pinnacles formed from limestone-rich sand, ancient sea shells crushed into powder by the ocean and swept inland by wind and waves. Every time it rained, the water would cause some of the calcium carbonate to seep into the ground, hardening and slowly forming the Pinnacles. Bushfires and erosion caused the surrounding loose sand to blow away.

The Pinnacle Desert is located in the Nambung National Park in Western Australia, near the coastal town of Cervantes, around 2 hours drive from Perth.

More info: Visit Pinnacles Country

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

The bright lichen-covered granite boulders on Tasmania's east coast (and nearby islands) is dazzling when you see it at sunrise or sunset.

It's the vast sandy beaches and crystal blue waters that set off the fiery sight, which can be taken in across the Bay of Fires coastline for 50 kms from Binalong Bay in the south to Eddystone Point in the north.

Lichens are a combination of algae and fungus that live together in a symbiotic relationship. The algae provides food by photosynthesis, while the fungus provides a protected environment for the algae.

The area has a rich Indigenous history, too.

More info: East Coast Tasmania

Discover Tasmania

Admirals Arch, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

With a New Zealand fur seal colony below Admirals Arch, tourists can catch a dose of cute wildlife to add extra awe to seeing this sea cave rock formation.

The dark brown seals rest and breed on land (and tend to smell very fishy!). Summer is the primary breeding season, and the rock pools underneath  the arch are a popular place for seal pups to play.

Another unique thing about the arch is the stalactites which dangle from the rocky ceiling of this former cave.

The more famous Remarkable Rocks are also nearby, where you can witness stark granite boulders shaped by centuries of wild winds.

Remarkable Rocks is one of 27 geological monuments throughout Kangaroo Island.

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