9 Incredible UNESCO Sites in Australia & New Zealand Essential to Your Bucket List | The Invisible Tourist

“As travel becomes accessible to more people by the day, it’s important to stop for a moment and remember exactly WHY we travel.” ~ Alyse.

Most of us have bucket lists with items that are just calling to be ticked off. If your list is anything like mine, it can seem never ending as you come to the ironic realisation that the more you see in this world, the more you actually don’t know. The constant craving to further your knowledge just means that no sooner you check something off your list you’re adding more to it!

Invisible Tourists don’t just visit a destination so they can say “I’ve been there”. There’s so much more to travel than the satisfaction of checking something off a list. For us, it’s a thrill travelling to an exciting new place to gain a better understanding of its people, history, culture and their natural environment. A huge part of that is learning about attractions that have significance to that culture, and why.

Thankfully, in 1946 the United Nations created the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO) with the aim of securing and preserving the world’s cultural and natural heritage. To further question why we travel, I’ve reached out to travel bloggers around the globe to ask them what their favourite UNESCO World Heritage site is, and the reasons behind their decision. Let’s find out!

Map: UNESCO SItes in Australia & New Zealand

9 Incredible UNESCO Sites in Australia & New Zealand Essential to Your Bucket List | The Invisible Tourist
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Here are 9 UNESCO Sites in Australia & New Zealand to Add to Your Bucket List

This six-part bucket list series explores why adding UNESCO World Heritage listings to any Australia itinerary will make it more meaningful and fulfilling (here’s the entire UNESCO series if you missed it). Let’s get into Part Two that focuses on alluring UNESCO sites in Oceania with locations from around Australia and New Zealand (listed alphabetically by country):


Fraser Island

Fraser Island UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia

Contributed by: Kell, Happy Go Travel

With over 250 kilometres of stunning sandy beaches, World Heritage listed Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island. It offers locals and tourists a remarkable tapestry of natural wonders.

Crystal clear beaches with silica sand and blues, greens and turquoise waters. Rainforest that grows on sand, along with more than 100 freshwater lakes, numerous freshwater streams and rivers. In addition to spectacular blowouts and coloured sand cliffs.

Fraser Island is a must-see Australian travel destination that also hosts the most purebred dingoes. Social media often boasts perfectly posed images of Fraser Island highlighting the natural beauty of this UNESCO listed site.

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia

Contributed by: Nina, West Australian Explorer

The Fremantle Prison in Western Australia is one of 11 convict sites across Australia listed by UNESCO as world heritage sites. The prison was built in the 1850’s using convict labour during the earliest days of European settlement in Western Australia.

The prison was built using local limestone from the cliffs on the coast and has changed little in the intervening years. The prison was used for nearly 140 years and officially closed-down in 1991.

While the thought of a prison as a tourist attraction and a UNESCO listed heritage site, is a gloomy one, the Fremantle Prison has huge cultural significance for Western Australia. The prison is a stark reminder of the contribution that convicts made to building a new nation and establishing Western Australia into what it has become today. The prison is open daily for tours including a tunnel tour to view the labyrinth of underground tunnels 20 metres under the prison.

Greater Blue Mountains Area

Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia

9 Incredible UNESCO Sites in Australia & New Zealand Essential to Your Bucket List | The Invisible Tourist

Contributed by: Maire, Temples and Treehouses

I didn’t have huge expectations before visiting Australia’s Blue Mountains, and was totally unprepared for just how dramatic and beautiful the scenery really is. The UNESCO site is a vast region of mountains and eucalyptus trees, covering over a million hectares.

I would highly recommend visiting Scenic World when you’re in the area. Sounds cheesy, but it’s an incredible place. You can take a 500m cable car ride, with views of the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock, Mt Solitary and Katoomba Falls, that’s the steepest in the Southern Hemisphere.

And another even longer ride, this time in a cable car with a transparent glass strip in the floor that you can walk over, so you can look down at the valleys swooping past under your feet. There’s also the Scenic Railway, which sounds mundane, but is actually the steepest railway in the world. I was basically terrified the entire time I was on it. In a good way.

TIP: The Blue Mountains are an easy train ride from Sydney. The journey takes under two hours, depending on the area you’re travelling to.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia

Contributed by: Jane, Wicked Walkabout

Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1981, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest site in the world. It is one of my favourite UNESCO sites because of the sheer scale and diversity of the Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living organism. The reef covers approximately 348,000 square kilometres and can be seen from outer space.

The coral reefs are the result of many thousands of years of growth by tiny coral animals called Polyps. Living together in colonies, the Polyps secrete a calcium carbonate skeleton which makes up the base of the reef. Single cell algae that live in the tissues of the Polyps, along with 6000-8000 years of growth have created the Great Barrier Reef. 

Stretching along the coastline of Queensland on the East Coast of Australia for over 2,000 km’s, the reef offers some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world and has some of the most incredible beaches and islands to explore too.

With over 2,000 km’s to explore, the Great Barrier Reef can be a confusing trip to plan. Read our Ultimate Guide on Touring the East Coast of Australia to find what the best diving and snorkelling spots are. Some snorkelling can be done straight from the beach and others are accessible via boat trips.

Lord Howe Island UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia

Contributed by: Cindy, Free Two Roam

Lord Howe Island is an amazing UNESCO World Heritage site, situated on the east coast of Australia, less than two hours from Sydney by plane. This remote island is a little gem that surprisingly few people know about.

Lord Howe is a true paradise. When we first glimpsed its stunning turquoise lagoon and its rolling green hills from the plane, we knew we were in for a treat.

As keen snorkelers, Lord Howe’s incredible snorkelling first brought the island to our attention. Its surrounding waters are home to five hundred species of fish and ninety species of coral!

But there is so much more to the island than just it’s fabulous marine life. You can rent a bike and tour the island’s thirteen kilometres of scenic roads or hike to the summit of the iconic Mount Gower; at 875 metres it’s the highest point on the island.

TIP: Don’t forget to visit Ned’s Beach for lots of fun hand-feeding the fish close to shore!

Shark Bay, Western Australia

Shark Bay UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia

Shark Bay UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia
Top: Stromatolites in Shark Bay ~ Bottom: Shells on the beach in Shark Bay

Contributed by: Kylie, Between England and Iowa

The Shark Bay area of Western Australia received UNESCO World Heritage status for it’s amazing natural aspects. Hamelin Pool is made up of stromatolites which are said to be one of the oldest life forms on earth. It has the largest sea-grass meadow in the world and is home to 5 species of mammal which are on the endangered species list!

Shell Beach is well worth a stop while in the area. From afar it just looks like a regular (huge) white sandy beach, but up close, it’s actually made up of millions of tiny little shells! Monkey Mia also has a ‘resident’ pod of wild dolphins that can often be seen up close from right on the beach!

Sydney Opera House

Opera House UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia

Contributed by: Cat, Walk My World

The Sydney Opera House is definitely one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites that most people will immediately recognise. It is not just an icon for Sydney, but for Australia.

When it was opened in 1973, it was architecturally ahead of its time. The design was the result of a competition in 1956, but it took a further three years to figure out how to actually build it! The structure was inspired by nature as the architect was influenced by the peeling of an orange and all the shells of the Opera House can form a single sphere if combined.

It is hard not to be blown away when you see it for the first time. Sitting on an outstretched arm in the beautiful Sydney Harbour, it commands attention. After four years living in Sydney, we’re still in awe every time we see it.

Tasmanian Wilderness

Tasmanian Wilderness UNESCO World Heritage Site in Australia

Contributed by: LC, Birdgehls

In 1989, almost a fifth (1.4 million hectares, to be precise) of the state of Tasmania was placed on the World Heritage List. Thank goodness for this, because Australia’s most southern state is a special place. It’s green, it’s wild and has some of the freshest produce and THE cleanest air on the planet.

As both a traveller and mainland Australian, I find myself drawn to Tassie for its beauty, its quirk and its peace and quiet. Each trip is a delight, as I explore new territory and visit old favourites. I think it’ll be a long time before Tasmania runs out of ways to delight and surprise me.

The best way to enjoy the best of the state is embarking upon a Tasmanian road trip.

I like the kind where you hop in the car with only the slightest idea of where you’re going and simply see where the road takes you. You never know what you’ll run into in Tassie – cute small towns, heritage sites, wild Australian animals and the most glorious landscapes. At least one of these – probably all, to be honest – is guaranteed.


Te Wahipounamu

Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site in New Zealand

Contributed by: Margarita, The Wildlife Diaries

One of the most dramatically beautiful landscapes on earth, Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island is the best-preserved corner of the ancient super continent Gondwana.

The area encompasses four National Parks and covers 10% of New Zealand’s land mass. This epic region is made up of large tracts of temperate rainforest, snow-capped mountain peaks, fjords, glaciers and tiffany-blue lakes.

The otherworldly beauty of Te Wahipounamu inspired Peter Jackson to film many scenes from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films here. 

So, visiting Te Wahipounamu is like exploring three worlds at once: modern New Zealand, ancient Gondwana and fairy tale Middle-Earth.

The best way to explore Te Wahipounamu is on a road trip through its spectacular wilderness. You can base yourself in Queenstown and visit Milford Sound, Fox Glacier, Mt. Cook and Mt. Aspiring National Parks.

What UNESCO sites in Australia & New Zealand will you add to your list?

So that’s a wrap for some of the most alluring UNESCO sites in Australia & New Zealand! After finding out why each world heritage site holds significant meaning and are our bloggers’ favourites, are you planning on adding any to your Australia bucket list or New Zealand bucket list you hadn’t thought about before? Let me know!

If you enjoyed this article, here’s my entire UNESCO series if you’d like some further inspiration. I’d also love if you’d come and join me on Facebook, follow me on Instagram or don’t forget to pin it to Pinterest!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist

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  1. Another great post! I am adding some of these to my Australia list. Thank you for sharing

  2. Hi Alyse, Te Wahipounamu looks absolutely dreamy! I’ve flipped it to my Travel Inspiration magazine!

  3. What a great list of places to see and experience. Thank you for the inclusion, Alyse. It really does remind me of just how many stunning places we have in Australia and New Zealand.

  4. I had no idea some of these were UNESCO, although all very worthy! A few I haven’t made it to yet which I will definitely be adding to my list! 🙂

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