Australia's biggest attractions: 10 truly enormous landmarks

Australia is a big country and it's filled with big things – though maybe not the big things you're picturing.

We're not talking about roadside bananas or pineapples or merinos here. We're talking about Australia's genuinely enormous things, its record setters, natural and manmade phenomena that are among the most gigantic in the world.

We're talking about rocks and reefs, about islands and beaches. We're talking about skyscrapers and fences that stretch on to eternity. We're talking about Australia itself, the world's sixth largest country, and by some definitions its largest island.

This is a big country, and it's about time we celebrated its sheer enormity, its incredible size, not through a few touristy attractions but by exploring those landmarks that are truly colossal. These are some of our favourites.

LAKE EYRE

HOW BIG With a surface area of 9500 square kilometres, if Lake Eyre was filled with water it would be one of the largest lakes in the world.

WHAT TO DO Even without water, this shimmering salt pan is an incredible sight, best appreciated with a light-plane flight over the top. It's also great fun to drive the Oodnadatta Track, calling past iconic spots such as the Marree Hotel and the William Creek Hotel, as well as Coober Pedy.

DON'T MISS About every three years, desert rains coat Lake Eyre with a thin sheen of water – there are few more spectacular sights in Australia.

ESSENTIALS Summer is very hot in Lake Eyre; it's best to visit autumn to spring, with flooding typically occurring in winter. See southaustralia.com

DINGO FENCE

H7P2WX Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) standing beside dingo fence, Sturt National Park, Australia tra31cover-big

Photo: Alamy

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HOW BIG A phenomenal 5614km long – one of the longest structures in the world.

WHAT TO DO Australia's colossal Dingo Fence stretches from Darling Downs in Queensland to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, with plenty of kinks and bends along the way. There are few traditional tourist attractions along the way, though in Dalby, Queensland there is a 176km "Dingo Tourist Drive" along the fence line.

DON'T MISS To learn more about the fence, call into the Jandowae Community and Cultural Centre near Dalby.

ESSENTIALS Most parts of the Dingo Fence are publicly accessible year-round. See australia.com

Q1 GOLD COAST

 
AUstralia Queensland SUrfers Paradise cold coast landmark skyscrapers growing from the sea shore reflecting in the beach send after tide wave at sunrise tra31cover-big

Photo: iStock

HOW BIG At 322.5m, this is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere (and about 60m shorter than New York's Empire State Building).

WHAT TO DO Visitors in the Gold Coast can stay at the Q1 Resort & Spa, they can eat at one of the building's many on-site restaurants, do the SkyPoint Climb – Australia's highest external building climb – or simply take in the views from the level 77 observation deck.

DON'T MISS Got cash to splash? Spend a night in the Presidential Penthouse, a 1020 square metre space on the building's 74th floor, complete with private outdoor swimming pool.

ESSENTIALS Q1 is on the Gold Coast, and is open year-round. See q1.com.au

NULLARBOR PLAIN

Red and orange colours of Australian wilderness tra31cover-big

Photo: iStock

 

HOW BIG At its widest point, 1100km from east to west – longer than Great Britain in its entirety. (As a side note, if Western Australia was a country, it would be the 10th largest in the world.)

WHAT TO DO This huge, arid plain has plenty of points of interest for drivers to call past, including the Nullarbor Links golf course in Ceduna – the world's longest course – plus the old telegraph station near Eucla, and whale watching in Fowlers Bay.

DON'T MISS A beer at the Nullarbor Roadhouse with fellow adventurers is always worthy of a stop.

ESSENTIALS It's possible to drive the 1256km across the Nullarbor, from Ceduna, SA, to Norseman, WA, any time of year, though summer can be scorching. See australia.com

ULURU

JCR1PP Uluru (Ayers Rock), Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Northern Territory, Australia SatSep12covermycountry

Photo: Alamy

HOW BIG The rock is 348 metres high (higher than the Eiffel Tower), with a circumference of 9.4km (longer than Sydney's Bay Run).

WHAT TO DO Climbing is now thankfully banned, which means visitors can concentrate on sunrise and sunset viewing, cultural walks around the base, camel rides, visiting the Cultural Centre, experiencing the Field of Light exhibition, and so much more.

DON'T MISS Though Uluru is spectacular, you have to see nearby Kata Tjuta as well.

ESSENTIALS Avoid the stinking hot summer months, and check border restrictions before you travel. See northernterritory.com

GREAT BARRIER REEF

Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia tra31cover-big

Photo: Alamy

HOW BIG With more than 2900 individual reefs stretching over 2300km, this is the world's single largest structure made by living organisms.

WHAT TO DO Get on-water, get underwater, get over-water. Take boating trips from Cairns or Port Douglas; go snorkelling or scuba-diving off Heron Island or Lady Elliot; check out the bird life, wander the beaches and hike the hills on any island across the reef's length.

DON'T MISS Enjoy a little luxury at Orpheus Island Lodge, an all-inclusive private island resort near Townsville (orpheus.com.au).

ESSENTIALS The reef are accessible year-round, though visibility in the water is best from June to October, when outside temperatures are still comfortable. See queensland.com

FRASER ISLAND

2C8K6E6 Aerial view on Fraser Island's famous Indian Head. tra31cover-big

Photo: Alamy

HOW BIG The world's largest sand island has an area of 1655 square kilometres – that's four times the size of Malta.

WHAT TO DO This is any 4WD fan's idea of heaven, with plenty of beach driving and off-roading to tackle. There are also excellent hikes through the island, with freshwater lakes to swim in along the way, and wildlife, including dingos, to spot.

DON'T MISS Spend a few nights camping in the rainforest, and then indulge in a little luxury at Eliza Fraser Lodge on Orchid Beach (elizafraserlodge.com.au).

ESSENTIALS Autumn and spring offer the best mix of warm temperatures and low rainfall on Fraser. Vehicle access is via Hervey Bay, or go by air from Brisbane. See queensland.com

EIGHTY MILE BEACH

C8GY5N Eighty Mile Beach near the city of Broome in Western Australia. tra31cover-big

Photo: Alamy

HOW BIG This beach's name is somewhat misleading: at 220km, it's actually a tick over 130 miles in length, making it Australia's longest (and up there with the world's longest).

WHAT TO DO Situated in Australia's far north-west, about halfway between Broome and Port Hedland, this is one huge beach that is often all but deserted. It's an amazing place for birdwatching, with more than half a million migratory shore birds, such as the great knot, calling by, and is an important turtle nesting site.

DON'T MISS Pitch a tent at Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park (eightymilebeach.com.au), grab a drink and watch one of the world's best sunsets.

ESSENTIALS The beach is accessible year-round, though summer is peak season for bird-watching. See westernaustralia.com

KAKADU NATIONAL PARK

Scenic flight over Jim Jim Falls during the wet season
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory. 
Credit: Tourism NT

Photo: Tourism NT

HOW BIG With an area of almost 20,000 square kilometres, this is Australia's largest national park, about the same size as Slovenia.

WHAT TO DO Take a walk around the Indigenous rock art sites at Nourlangie and Ubirr, go for a swim at Gunlom pool or Maguk, go for a hike, take a 4WD ride to Jim Jim Falls, or cruise the Yellow Water Billabong.

DON'T MISS For a truly memorable experience, take a scenic helicopter flight over Kakadu, calling past Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls (kakaduair.com.au). This is particularly impressive during wet season.

ESSENTIALS Winter is the most popular time to visit, though in autumn waterfalls are still flowing as road access from Darwin becomes more reliable. See northernterritory.com

MOUNT KOSCIUSZKO

Couple watching the sun set at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko in Kosciuszko National Park. Kosciuszko National Park, KosciuszkoMandatory credit: Tourism Snowy MountainsDescription: Couple watching the sun set at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko in Kosciuszko National Park.

Photo: Tourism Snowy Mountains

HOW BIG At 2228m, the highest mountain in Australia – though still only a quarter the size of Mt Everest.

WHAT TO DO For inexperienced climbers, this is probably your only chance to scale any continent's highest peak. The Kosciusko summit walk is a 13km loop from Thredbo, which should take about four to five hours. The track is well graded and takes in some spectacular alpine scenery, including Australia's highest lake.

DON'T MISS Take time out for a photo op at Dead Horse Gap, a pass at 1580 metres that marks the crossing of the Great Dividing Range.

ESSENTIALS Though it's often possible to do this walk in winter, it's far more comfortable in the months from October to April. See visitnsw.com

FIVE 'BIG' THINGS THAT AREN'T THAT BIG

Australia's classic roadside attractions can be a little underwhelming

THE BIG BOGAN

At just a tick under six metres tall, Nyngan's Big Bogan is barely three times the size of a real bogan. So, not that big. Though when your town is situated on the banks of the Bogan River in the heart of Bogan Shire, what choice do you have but to erect one? bogan.nsw.gov.au

THE BIG BANANA

One of Australia's more famous "big things" is, again, not actually that big. The Coff's Harbour attraction is 13m long, which makes it about 65 times the size of its inspiration (in contrast, Jamberoo's "Big Funnel Web Spider" is 394 times as large as a real one). bigbanana.com

THE BIG GOLDEN GUITAR

Tamworth's famous "Big Golden Guitar" is 12m high, which only makes it a paltry 12 times larger than a real axe. Plenty of people – millions, in fact – flock to the guitar for photos, though we're not entirely sure why. destinationtamworth.com.au

THE BIG ULURU

Here's an interesting one. Though it no longer exists after burning down in 2018, NSW's Central Coast was once home to the Rock Roadhouse, which featured a "Big Uluru". Only thing was the "Big" Uluru was about 1/40th the size of the real one. There's still a campsite there. bushcamp.com.au

THE BIG COW

Recently rehomed from Queensland's Sunshine Coast to a paddock near Toowoomba, the Big Cow is a mere seven times the size of the Ayrshire cow it was modelled on. Still, the owners at Highfields Pioneer Village hope to give the faded bovine a spruce-up and make it an attraction once again. highfieldspioneervillage.com.au

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