Exploring the farthest reaches of the globe is an enticing prospect, but just as much joy and wonder can be found in our own backyard. It’s not every day — or everywhere — you come across a naturally pink lake or real dinosaur footprints. In Australia, they’re just some of the mind-blowing natural wonders you must see at least once in your life.
Aurora Australis, Tasmania
Like its Northern Hemisphere counterpart (Aurora Borealis), the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) illuminate the night sky with flickering shades of green, blue, purple, and red. The Southern Lights can be viewed all year round, though it’s most common during winter (May to August) and during the spring equinox in September. Aurora Australis is visible from several spots across the country, but your best chance of witnessing this phenomenon is from Australia’s southernmost state, Tasmania. Head to Bruny Island, Satellite Island, Bathurst Harbour, and Cradle Mountain for the beautiful low-light conditions you need to spot the glimmering light show.
Australia’s Pink Lakes, South Australia and Western Australia
This could very well be the prettiest natural wonder of them all. Australia is home to many mesmerising natural attractions, but its extraordinary pink lakes have got to be seen to be believed. From the outback of South Australia to the coast of Western Australia, there are few things that are as beautiful and baffling as Australia’s pink lakes.
Located on Middle Island in Esperance, Western Australia’s Lake Hillier is known for its bubble-gum pink hue. It’s a surreal sight; the pink lake neighbours the dark blue waters of the Great Southern Ocean, with a strip of lush green forest acting as a barrier. The other famous Western Australia pink lake, Hutt Lagoon, changes from red to pink and even to lilac purple depending on the light conditions and time of year. Located on the Coral Coast, visit during mid-morning or sundown to catch the best of its colourful spectrum.
The pale pinks, oranges, and yellows of Lake Eyre, located a six-hour drive from Adelaide, epitomise the vast desert landscapes of outback South Australia. The salt pan lake is a magical sight but becomes a different kind of beautiful every few years as the lake floods with water. Contrasting colours of pink, blue, and green create the striking scene that is Lake MacDonnell. Located in South Australia’s incredible Eyre Peninsula, Lake MacDonnell is one of the country’s most intensely pink lakes, owing to its high salt concentration. Take the picture-perfect road between the bright pink-hued Lake MacDonnell and its neighbouring blue-green waters to discover Cactus Beach at the end of the path.
Cuttlefish Annual Aggregation, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
The annual migration of giant Australian cuttlefish to the waters of the upper Spencer Gulf to breed is one of the most spectacular natural events in the Australian marine environment. Unique to South Australia’s waters, it is the only place in the world where the cuttlefish aggregate annually en mass and with such great predictability. Every winter, thousands of cuttlefish merge and as expert colour-changers, these masters of camouflage can change their shape and texture to look like rocks, sand or seaweed. Travellers can snorkel with the amazing giant cuttlefish at Stony Point between June and July, located on the coastline of the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park in the Eyre Peninsula.
Min Min Lights, Outback Australia, Northern Territory
The Min Min Lights are a mysterious phenomenon that has spooked many people in the Outback from Mataranka (south of Katherine) to Uluru and everywhere in between. The lights have been described by witnesses as floating, fast-moving balls of colour. They glow in the night sky and stalk people, leaving some confused and frightened.
There is debate as to whether the Min Min Lights exist, or if they are simply an Aboriginal folktale that has been passed down for generations.
Daydream about heading to the Northern Territory, a place steeped in Aboriginal culture, from its rugged sandstone escarpments and tranquil waterholes in the north to the mesmerising beauty of the Red Centre. Join a Maruku Arts exclusive tour guided by an Anangu who will tell you the stories of this unique landscape and explain the connection between art, culture, and land. Head to Kakadu National Park for Pudakul Aboriginal Cultural Tours where Graham Kenyon — a knowledgeable former Northern Territory park ranger — will take visitors through dream time stories as they explore the wetlands.
Morning Glory Clouds, Burketown, Queensland
During the months of September and October, the rare meteorological phenomenon referred to as the ‘Morning Glory Clouds’ roll across the Gulf and can be observed above the skies in Burketown. Gangalidda traditional owner, Murrandoo Yanner, said his people believe the morning glory was created by Walalu, the Rainbow Serpent, and is of great cultural significance. The cloud bank can be up to 1,000km long, 1-2km wide, and can travel at speeds of up to 60km/hour. Although these clouds can be found in other parts of the world, Burketown is the only place where they frequently appear at set times of the year.
The World’s Largest Dinosaur Footprints, Broome, Western Australia
The world’s largest dinosaur footprints can be found on the north coast of Broome in Western Australia. At 1.7 meters long, these fossilised dinosaur footprints are 130 million years old and extend in patches for 80km along the coast.
At the southern end of Cable Beach is Gantheaume Point, a scenic area of red sandstone cliffs where visitors can observe footprints of dinosaurs located on the flat rocks 30 metres out to sea, and are only visible at low tide.
Once travellers have finished visiting Australia’s very own ‘Jurassic Park’, if the timing is right, they can also catch a glimpse of the ‘Staircase to the Moon’ at Cable Beach in Broome. The ‘Staircase to the Moon’ happens two to three days a month between March and October, as the full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay.
Bioluminescent Plankton, Jervis Bay, New South Wales
Jervis Bay, located three hours south of Sydney, is renowned for its white sandy beaches; however, the beaches in the area are even more wondrous at night. Due to a natural chemical reaction within plankton, they become luminescent and emanate a blue glow. This unusual natural phenomenon, which can only be seen at night, can happen at any time of the year but is more common in spring and summer months when the water is warmer. While the magical display is difficult to predict, the presence of red algae during the day may indicate a higher chance of bioluminescence in the evening.
Horizontal Falls, Western Australia
Described by David Attenborough as ‘Australia’s most unusual natural wonder’, Horizontal Falls in the Kimberley region of Western Australia is a natural phenomenon that is as intriguing as it is beautiful. There are two horizontal waterfalls and both can be found in Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago. These incredible natural wonders are the work of some of the largest tidal movements in the world. The first and most seaward is about 20 metres wide, while the second is about ten metres wide. Powerful tides in the Kimberley can reach more than ten metres and the direction of the flow reverses ensuring the water flows two different ways each day, resulting in a unique waterfall effect. You can join a scenic flight or sea safari to the Horizontal Waterfalls.
Red Crab Migration, Christmas Island
Could this be Australia’s most bizarre natural wonder? Walk the red crab carpet on Christmas Island, off the far north-west coast of Australia. The island is home to an estimated 40-50 million bright red land crabs. Each year, at the start of the wet season (November – January), a spectacular awakening occurs. Mother Nature literally rolls out the red carpet as hordes of crabs emerge from the island’s forests and march their way down to the ocean to breed. Before planning a trip, check here for possible spawning dates, and time visits accordingly.
Remember, it’s a natural event, so dates are predictions only.
Coral spawning, Great Barrier Reef
In simple terms, coral spawning is the reef reproducing. Coral polyps simultaneously release egg and sperm bundles that they’ve spent months growing into the ocean for external fertilisation. This happens annually in a mass event, often affectionately named by locals as the world’s largest orgasm. This rare phenomenon lasts only a few nights, but travellers can take a nighttime coral spawning dive trip or join an overnight vessel during the coral spawning dates for another chance to view this weird and wonderful sight.
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Lead image: Tourism Australia