Almost more famous as a symbol of Australia than kangaroos or koalas, the 'magic mountain' of Uluru (formerly known by its western name of Ayers Rock, which is now reserved for the town that has sprung up to service tourism in the area) is an instantly recognised image the world over. More or less in the dead centre of the continent, this shimmering, seemingly shifting red-coloured mass rises from the earth higher than most people imagine Ã¢ÂÂ almost 350 metres, higher than for example the Eiffel Tower. It appears to change colour through the day as the sun moves on it, glowing like embers at sunrise and sunset. The traditional landowners of the area are the Anangu, for whom the rock has magical and mythical properties. Today, these beliefs are respected and access to the rock itself is regulated. Unmissable, although it's a long way from anywhere!
The coast of Western Australia is vast and varied, and almost always empty. The Shark Bay World Heritage Area, roughly half way up this nature paradise, covers more than 2.2 million hectares (that's bigger than many countries but the population is less than one thousand people). It is one of the worldÃ¢ÂÂs greatest wilderness treasures with a unique combination of flora and fauna found nowhere else. As of that, and the scenery both on the coast and inland, were not enough, Shark Bay features perhaps the oldest life form known to science Ã¢ÂÂ stromatolites. These weird living fossils emit tiny bubbles of oxygen as part of a chemical reaction to sunlight, and are believed to have made our existence on Earth possible. They owe their continuing presence in Shark Bay to a unique set of seawater, light and tide conditions.
Go further north along the Western Australian coastline and you'll eventually come to Cape Leveque at the top of the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberly. This is REAL wilderness territory, yet perfectly safe if you take care. Almost completely cut off from the rest of the world, it can be reached only by a 250km 4WD track from Broome, although there are occasional flights at some times of the year. The Cape is closely associated with Aboriginal peoples and today local guides can take you trekking and teach you how to live in such a remote landscape.
As if confirming the sheer size of Australia, Daintree would be around a four-hour jet flight from the Kimberly Ã¢ÂÂ if there were airports at either end! At the northern tip of Queensland, the Daintree is a pristine rainforest environment (thought by many to be the world's oldest surviving example) in the Cape Tribulation region of one of the world's largest World Heritage Areas. Plants grow in lush profusion, especially primitive angiosperms (flowering plant families). A night-time trek is especially recommended.
This 1,550-metre mountain is one of the highlights of the fascinating southern island of Tasmania and its huge National Park. It's an iconic wilderness adventure, yet just a couple of hours from the island's capital Hobart. Cradle Mountain is an outdoor centre of activities with walking trails from just ten minutes to six days!