Ask most people to name the top landmarks in Australia and the answer is likely to include the Sydney Opera House, Uluru and Great Barrier Reef. But there are so many more. Australia is a land of unique and distinctive natural Australian landmarks that are as spectacular as the continent itself when viewed from space.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a landmark is “a building or place that is easily recognised, especially one that you can use to judge where you are”.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary takes a broader approach to defining the meaning of “landmark” and describes a landmark as “an object (such as a stone or tree) that marks the boundary of land”.
Well, Australia has plenty of really impressive stones and lots of trees!
So, choosing 20 landmarks wasn’t an easy task and the criteria I’ve used to compile this Australian landmarks list:
- A distinctive feature of a landscape easily seen and recognised from a distance, especially if it helps identify the location.
- A recognisable natural or human-made feature used for navigation
- Some landmarks may not necessarily be classified as famous Australian landmarks or be on the UNESCO world heritage but may qualify as a landmark on the points above.
- Famous Australian Landmarks
- Historic Australian Landmarks
- Australian Landmarks within a city
- Natural Australian Landmarks
Famous Australian Landmarks
1- Sydney Opera House
In Australia, one of the most iconic Australian landmarks would have to be the Sydney Opera House.
As soon as you see it you know exactly where you are.
Not only is the famous opera house one of the most architecturally stunning Australian landmarks in a city, but it’s also one of the most well-known buildings in the world.
Experts recognise the Sydney Opera House as one of the great architectural works of the 20th century.
Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, this Australian landmark is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its creativity, innovation and structural design.
Visiting Sydney soon? Put aside at least an entire day to thoroughly explore the Sydney Opera House by taking a backstage tour, seeing a show and having a drink at the Opera House bar.
The craggy sweeping mountain ranges and sweeping plains around Uluru hides a treasure trove of spectacular gorges, canyons, craters and waterholes.
Although Central Australia’s hidden gems are a lost world of amazing natural treasures, the one that stands out as an iconic Australian landmark as Uluru.
As soon as you set eyes on Uluru, you’ll understand why it’s often referred to as the heart of Australia.
Previously known as Ayers Rock, this World Heritage site rises 348m from the desert floor and is an impressive Australian landmark that dominates the landscape.
Uluru is more than 550 million years old and is a sacred site to the Anangu people.
For its location in the centre of Australia, Uluru is often called the heart of Australia.
Even though the nearest town, Alice Springs, is 450 km away, thousands of tourists visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site each year.
Visiting Australia soon? Take your time to explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the nearest town Alice Springs.
Anyone in the world can tell you that the term Great Barrier Reef identifies with Australia, but the most apparent indication you’re looking at the Australian Great Barrier Reef is that eye-catching heart-shaped reef.
If you’re looking for one of those Australian landmarks to help with navigation (or a romantic spot to propose), Heart Reef stands out as the spot.
The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef stretches 2300 km along the Queensland coast and has a remarkable assortment of marine life.
From whales, dugongs, dolphins and sharks to millions of fish, coral and turtles call this national treasure home.
Historic Australian Landmarks
4- Port Arthur
Between 1788 and 1868, around 164,000 convicts were shipped to the Australian colonies on board 806 ships.
It was an episode in history that steered the direction of two nations – Australia and Great Britain.
In 2010, the Australian Convict Sites became Australia’s 18th World Heritage listed property.
Eleven places scattered around the country made this list, including Cockatoo Island, Norfolk Island and Hyde Park Barracks, but the historic penal settlement that stands out from the rest is Port Arthur in Tasmania.
From a small timber station in 1830, Port Arthur has emerged as the most famous convict site and one of the historic Australian landmarks of note.
5- Australian War Memorial
A blend of shrine and museum, the Australian War Memorial in Canberra pays homage to the sacrifice of Australians who died at war.
Voted as the number one Australian landmark on TripAdvisor, the Byzantine architecture of the monument has a grandeur that puts it high on the list of the world’s great national monuments.
6- Captain Cook Statue
Anyone who has visited Cooktown only needs to see the statue of Captain James Cook to know that it marks a spot on the Esplanade in Bicentennial Park in Cooktown.
Although Cooktown was named after the British explorer who charted Australia’s east coast while sailing aboard HMB Endeavour, Cooktown was not where he first set foot on land (it was where he got stranded).
These days, you can travel to Cooktown by land and the trip from Cairns to Cooktown is quite an adventure.
Lt (he wasn’t a captain back then) Cook landed in Botany Bay in Sydney on April 29 1770, paving the way for colonisation.
There’s a modest Captain Cook statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park, a monument on Norfolk Island and a substantial Captain Cook monument to commemorate the 250th anniversary of this historic landing is expected to be built by 2020.
Meanwhile, the little-known statue in Cooktown does dominate the small town with its presence, making it our pick of Australian landmarks to remember this period in Australia’s history.
Australian Landmarks within a city
7- Melbourne Cricket Ground
The home of Australian football since 1859 was the birthplace of Test cricket in 1877 and one-day international cricket in 1971.
However, the MCG is more than just a sports venue – it’s the sporting hear of Melbourne.
8- Eureka Skydeck
Towering above the Melbourne city landscape, 285 metres above ground, the Eureka Skydeck is a Melbourne landmark you can’t miss.
As far as Australian landmarks go, it epitomises the character of a fast-growing city, and a has one of the best 360-degree views of Melbourne through floor-to-ceiling glass.
It’s not just a landmark or a viewing platform or a place to face your fear of heights but an entertainment and dining hub as well.
9- Queen Victoria Building
Any Sydneysider dropped in front of the Queen Victoria statue at the Queen Victoria Building (or QVB) will instantly know where they are.
If you’re wondering why a shopping centre is on our list of Australian landmarks, it’s because the QVB’s elaborate Romanesque architecture was planned so that the Government could employ out-of-work stonemasons, plasterers and stained window artists to construct a building that would stand the test of time.
Designed by George McRae and completed in 1898, the QVB has been a concert hall, city library and offices for the Sydney City Council in the past.
Fun fact: A letter from Queen Elizabeth II to the Citizens of Sydney is sealed in a time capsule to be opened and read by the Lord Mayor of Sydney in 2085. How old will you be when it’s opened?
Look at a photo of the Gold Coast and you’ll see that the Q1 building soars above the Surfers Paradise skyline.
Although the Gold Coast has some of Australia’s best surf beaches, Q1 is an Australian landmark that identifies Surfers Paradise from the numerous other beach communities along this stretch of Queensland paradise.
What to do? Head to the SkyPoint Deck for twinkling views or sign up for the SkyPoint Climb 270m high and Australia’s highest external building climb.
11- Bondi Beach
How do you distinguish Bondi Beach from the plethora of amazing Australian beaches across the country? Is it the bronze bodies tanning in the sun? Or is it the wave of surfer dudes riding the crests?
Perhaps it’s the Bondi Icebergs swimming pool on the edge of the ocean?
All of these things could describe any of Australia’s beautiful beaches, but the one thing that separates Bondi Beach from the others and places it on the list of one of the prominent Australian landmarks is its name.
Yes, it’s famous.
12- Story Bridge
Most people outside of Brisbane have probably never heard of the Story Bridge but if you kidnap a Brisbanite, blindfold them and dump them within view of the Story Bridge they’ll instantly know where they are.
Yes, you can climb the Story Bridge!
The Story Bridge was conceived in 1925, but it wasn’t completed until 1940.
13- Sydney Harbour Bridge
The engineer who built the Story Bridge also constructed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is featured every New Year’s Eve in a fireworks display that gets more spectacular each year.
Opened in 1932, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the most recognisable Australian landmarks, not just because it’s positioned across Australia’s most stunning harbour.
Sydney Harbour Bridge is a popular tourist attraction for its bridge climbs and a spot to take souvenir photographs of Sydney.
14- Sydney Tower Eye
Ask any Australian where to find the tallest tower in the country, and the answer is most likely to be Sydney Tower.
A contemporary Australian landmark that attracts visitors from around the globe, the Sydney Tower Eye (often referred to by Sydneysiders as Sydney Tower, Centrepoint Tower, AMP Tower, Westfield Centrepoint Tower or Sydney Skytower) is one of those iconic Australian landmarks that has been part of the Sydney skyline for 30 years.
Natural Australian Landmarks
15- 12 Apostles
As it’s one of the most scenic drives in the world, the Great Ocean Road most certainly deserves its place on everyone’s top Australian landmarks list.
The road hugs the Victorian coastline and is a stunning drive past coastal villages, beaches, waterfalls and rainforests.
The highlight of the drive is the 12 Apostles, which are twelve limestone monuments that jut out from the Southern Ocean.
These rock formations are 15 to 20 million years old
16- The Three Sisters
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains is one of the natural wonders in Australia, with 1.03 million ha of amazing sandstone plateaux, plunging gorges and temperate eucalypt forest.
It’s not surprising this breathtakingly beautiful area attracts droves of day trippers from Sydney.
The rugged 50-million-year-old range is home to one of the most famous Australian landmarks, the Three Sisters.
17- Bungle Bungles
From the sky, the Bungle Bungle Range is a truly unique and eye-catching Australian landmark, with distinctive “beehive” formations that are considered the most outstanding example of cone karst in sandstone anywhere in the world.
The “beehives” are striking orange and black striped karst sandstone domes that look like giant beehives from the sky.
They form a jaw-dropping landscape of sculptured rocks that rise 250 metres (820 feet) above savanna grasslands.
Although its Aboriginal custodians have revered the Bungle Bungles for over 40,000 years, it was only known to the rest of the world in 1983.
18- The Burke and Wills Dig Tree
Durham Downs, Maranoa AreaIt’s fitting that one of Australia’s landmarks represents the pioneering spirit of the Outback.
Burke and Wills were explorers who led a Royal Society of Victoria expedition to cross Australia from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860.
The Burke and Wills Dig Tree remains as Burke and Wills would have seen it in the 19th century beside Cooper Creek.
The Burke and Wills Dig Tree is a Coolibah (Eucalyptus microtha) tree managed by Nappa Merrie Station for the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.
19- Lake Hillier
Although there are a few pink lakes spread about the country, including pink lakes in Victoria’s Murray-Sunset National Park, the most well-known is Lake Hillier in Western Australia.
Lake Hillier is on Middle Island, the largest island on the Recherche Archipelago. Although the vibrant pink colour may not look natural, it’s caused by algae in the water.
20- Wilpena Pound
One of Australia’s natural landmarks is 429km to the north of Adelaide in South Australia.
Wilpena Pound is enormous: the 8000ha natural amphitheatre in the Flinders Ranges is eight times the size of Uluru.
According to the Yura Muda Aboriginal people, Wilpena Pound was formed by the bodies of two giant serpents that were unable to move after eating the people who had gathered at that spot for a ceremony.
It’s a popular destination for bushwalking, with several walks of varying difficulty.
A hike to St Mary’s Peak, the highest peak (almost 1200 metres) offers the most rewarding views of Wilpena Pound.