Lake Hillier, Esperance, Western Australia
In Australia you'll find some otherworldly places that truly look like they don't belong on Earth.
By Sheriden Rhodes
Australia is home to many beautiful places so astonishing they look like they should be on another planet. From our famous enormous monolith, Uluru, looming out of the desert, to eerie, lunar landscapes, to a perfectly formed reef in the shape of a heart, here are 10 surreal places that call Australia home.
PINK LAKE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
The bewildering Lake Hillier, off the coast of Western Australia, looks remarkably like a sea of pink nail polish. Almost as salty as the Dead Sea, this bizarrely coloured lake, a two hour flight from Perth, is best seen from the air (with Luxury Outback Tours), so you can take in the contrast with lush eucalypt forest and the aquamarine of the Pacific Ocean. Alternatively, visit the lake, which is on an island, by boat, with Esperance Island Cruises.
REMARKABLE ROCKS, KANGAROO ISLAND, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
These weathered granite boulders - worn by wind, sea spray and rain over millions of years – are an icon of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island (a short flight from Adelaide, or a 90 minute drive from Adelaide followed by a ferry ride from Cape Jervis). Suspended high above the crashing sea, the rocks of varying shape and colour look like the remnants of a giant’s game of marbles, strewn across a huge lava dome.
WAVE ROCK, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Reminiscent of an enormous breaking wave, this 110 metre long (361 feet), multi-hued granite cliff rises 15 metres (49 feet) above the ground, in an outback plain roughly three hours' drive inland from Perth. Believed to be millions of years old, the prehistoric Wave Rock is found in Australia’s Central Wheat Belt region, also home to country towns and miles of golden wheat fields.
HEART REEF, QUEENSLAND
On the Great Barrier Reef at the Whitsunday Islands, Queensland, lies a coral reef perfectly formed in the shape of a heart. Surrounded by impossibly blue water and a mosaic of jewel-like reefs, Heart Reef is one of the world’s most photographed romantic icons, best seen from air. Take a helicopter flight from Hamilton Island, One&Only Hayman Island or Airlie Beach, or land on the water in a seaplane and jump in for a snorkel safari followed by champagne.
THE TWELVE APOSTLES, VICTORIA
Along Victoria's magnificent Great Ocean Road lie the famous Twelve Apostles - limestone spires that rise up from the wild Southern Ocean. These golden rock stacks and crumbling pillars, four hours' drive south-west of Melbourne, rise up to 45 metres (148 feet) above sea level, shaped by the powerful waves that constantly pound the dramatic coastline.
THE PINNACLES, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
The weathered spires of the Pinnacles stand to attention like eerie watchmen on a wind-swept plain of yellow sand dunes. Formed over hundreds of thousands of years, these tall limestone spires in Nambung National Park, 200 kilometres (124 miles) north of Perth, have formed a lunar-like landscape that's perfect for photos.
LAKE EYRE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Lake Eyre, in the heart of South Australia’s outback, is the world’s largest ephemeral lake. Containing water or not, it's a phenomenal sight best admired from the air. You can catch a scenic flight from Wilpena Pound or William Creek (both in the breathtaking Flinders Ranges, five hours' drive north from Adelaide). Depending which flight you take, you may go over vast cattle stations, astonishing salt flats stretching to the horizon, and the outline of a 4.2 kilometre (2.1 mile) geoglyph (a large design visible from the air) known as the Marree Man. It's the world’s largest geoglyph, a mysterious and incredible desert artwork discovered almost two decades ago, that appears to depict an Aboriginal man hunting with a boomerang or stick. When you get to the lake you might see camels on the shoreline, along with thousands of birds, particularly when the lake is in flood.
THE NULLARBOR, SOUTH AUSTRALIA AND WESTERN AUSTRALIA
The Nullarbor Plain is a vast, parched and largely treeless landscape that is home to the world’s longest stretch of straight road. It has endless skies overhead and desert plains stretching on forever. The 1675 kilometre (1040 mile) stretch of road, connecting Norseman in Western Australia with Port Augusta in South Australia, is undoubtedly remote, yet out here you'll discover friendly roadhouses where you can refuel and chat to the locals, memorials to Australia's early pioneering explorers, and resilient outback towns with a strong sense of community. There’s plenty to see: mobs of kangaroos, camels, wedgetail eagles, quirky road signs and even southern right whales frolicking off the craggy Bunda Cliffs.
KATA TJUTA, NORTHERN TERRITORY
You never forget your first sight of the awe-inspiring Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), in the heart of Australia's red centre, but just 35 kilometres (22 miles) west of Uluru is a lesser known but equally impressive sight, Kata Tjuta (formerly the Olgas). This cluster of red boulders is even bigger, wider and taller than Uluru (and some say more impressive), but Kata Tjuta is less famous, in part because it's so sacred to the local Aboriginal people that almost all forms of publicity photography and video are banned. Stay at exclusive glampsite Longitude 131 and each morning you'll wake to views of both Kata Tjuta and Uluru.
MUNGO NATIONAL PARK, NEW SOUTH WALES
The remote World Heritage-listed Mungo National Park is a stark and beautiful landscape of ancient lake beds and sand dunes, near the pretty, regional hub of Mildura, a two hour flight from Sydney. It’s home to the longest continual record of Aboriginal life. The famous Mungo Lady and Mungo Man were discovered here. They're Australia's oldest human skeletons and were found at the world's oldest recorded cremation site. You can learn about Australia's ancient culture on a guided tour, go for a walk under wide desert skies and explore prehistoric landscapes including the Walls of China, 33 kilometres (21 miles) of spectacularly shaped sand and clay dunes, carved over thousands of years. The site is especially incredible at sunset.
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