List of World Heritage Sites in Australia

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Location of World Heritage Sites in Australia. Red dots are cultural sites, blue dots are natural, and orange dots are mixed sites. Four convict sites are in the Sydney area and five are in Tasmania. The convict site at Norfolk Island, as well as the Lord Howe Island, Macquarie Island, and Heard and McDonald Islands are not shown on the map. The Gondwana Rainforests comprise 41 sites in eastern Australia and are also not shown individually.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites are places of importance to cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972.[1] Cultural heritage consists of monuments (such as architectural works, monumental sculptures, or inscriptions), groups of buildings, and sites (including archaeological sites). Natural features (consisting of physical and biological formations), geological and physiographical formations (including habitats of threatened species of animals and plants), and natural sites which are important from the point of view of science, conservation, or natural beauty, are defined as natural heritage.[2] Australia accepted the convention on 22 August 1974.[3] There are 20 World Heritage Sites in Australia, with a further six on the tentative list.[3]

The first sites in Australia added to the list were the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, and Willandra Lakes Region, at the fifth session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Sydney, in 1981.[4] The most recent site listed was the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, in 2019.[3] Of these 20 sites, four are cultural, 12 are natural, and four are mixed, listed for both cultural and natural properties.[3] Australia has served as a member of the World Heritage Committee five times, in 1976–1983, 1983–1989, 1995–2001, 2007–2011, and 2017–2021.[3]

World Heritage Sites[edit]

UNESCO lists sites under ten criteria; each entry must meet at least one of the criteria. Criteria i through vi are cultural, and vii through x are natural.[5]

World Heritage Sites
Site Image Location (state or territory) Year listed UNESCO data Description
Kakadu National Park Waterfall falling over rocky escarpment Northern Territory 1981 147quater; i, vi, vii, ix, x (mixed) Aboriginal Australians have lived in Kakadu for more than 50,000 years. The rock carvings and cave paintings dating back thousands of years provide insight into the life of prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, with traditions having survived until the present day. Rock art depicts humans and animals, including some species that have long been extinct. From the natural perspective, the park comprises a wide variety of ecosystems, including savanna woodlands, open forest, floodplains, mangroves, tidal mudflats, coasts, and monsoon forests. The wetland areas are protected as Ramsar sites. The park is home to numerous bird, reptile, and fish species. Boundary modifications of the site took place in 1987, 1992, and 2011. Jim Jim Falls is pictured.[6]
Great Barrier Reef Different types of corals, underwater photo Queensland 1981 154; vii, viii, ix, x (natural) The Great Barrier Reef, extending 2,000 km (1,200 mi) along the Queensland coast, is the world's most extensive coral reef system, consisting of about 2,500 individual reefs and hundreds of islands and sandy cays. The reef is rich in marine life, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, and 4,000 types of molluscs. It is also home to the endangered dugong and green sea turtle. The reef has been changing through millennia. The changes of the sea level during the Quaternary glaciation can be seen in old corals. Today, the reef is being shaped by erosion and climate change.[7]
Willandra Lakes Region Sandy dunes with rocky outcrops New South Wales 1981 167; iii, viii (mixed) The lakes existed during the Pleistocene epoch and dried out about 18,500 years ago; since then, the area has been relatively undisturbed. Archaeologists evidence of human occupation, including a cremation dating to around 40,000 years BP, early stone tools, as well as fossils of giant marsupials. The sediments of the lakes provide insight into the changing climate and environment during the last 100,000 years, with cycles of glacial and interglacial periods. The dried up lake bed of Lake Mungo is pictured.[8]
Tasmanian Wilderness Landscape with mountains and shrubs Tasmania 1982 181quin; iii, iv, vi, vii, viii, ix, x (mixed) Originally listed as the Western Tasmanian Wilderness National Parks and having seen four boundary modifications, the latest in 2013, the site covers a sizeable part of the island of Tasmania. The landscape has been shaped by the Quaternary glaciation and the land is now covered with temperate rainforest. There are numerous karst landforms. High rainfall results in wild river systems carving through the land, creating gorges and waterfalls. Aboriginal Australians already lived in the area at least 40,000 years ago and they formed the southernmost group of people during the Pleistocene.[9][10]
Lord Howe Island Group A pyramidal-shaped islet New South Wales 1982 186; vii, x (natural) The group of volcanic islands and islets about 570 km (350 mi) off the mainland is rich in biodiversity and home to several endemic species, such as the Lord Howe woodhen. The Lord Howe Island phasmid, the largest stick insect, was thought to be extinct but was recently rediscovered in 2001 on the islet of Ball's Pyramid (pictured).[11] The islands are important nesting sites for sea birds, including the providence petrel and red-tailed tropicbird. The waters around the island support the southernmost true coral reefs and represent a meeting point between tropical and temperate species.[12]
Gondwana Rainforests of Australia A waterfall in a rainforest New South Wales, Queensland 1986 368bis; viii, ix, x (natural) The site comprises 41 protected areas (the Lamington National Park is pictured), mainly along the Great Escarpment. From the geological perspective, the area illustrates processes such as the creation of new continental margins following the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent. Its subtropical rainforests are home to plant species, such as ferns that were prominent in the Carboniferous, or Araucarias, which originated in the Jurassic. As the rainforests are fragmented, the distance between them is contributing to ongoing speciation of animal and plant species. A significant boundary modification took place in 1994.[13]
Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park Aerial photo of Uluru and Kata Tjuta rock formations Northern Territory 1987 447rev; v, vi, vii, viii (mixed) The cultural landscape is dominated by the sandstone monolith Uluru (pictured in front) and the rock formation Kata Tjuta (pictured in the background) that are spiritually significant to the Aṉangu people, and form part of the tjukurpa belief system. Both formations are also known for their scenic beauty. From the geological perspective, both formations illustrate slow processes, such as the honeycomb weathering. Originally listed as Uluru National Park, the site was modified in 1994 to account for cultural criteria.[14]
Wet Tropics of Queensland Dense rainforest scene, with a small pool surrounded by ferns and moss-laden rocks Queensland 1987 486; vii, viii, ix, x (natural) The site covers about 450 km (280 mi) of tropical rainforest that spread along the Great Dividing Range. The forests, that have persisted since the Gondwana times, host an exceptional level of biodiversity, with over 500 endemic species and the highest concentration of primitive plant taxa in the world, such as ferns and cycads. Even if the area covers a tiny part of Australia, it contains 30% of marsupial, 60% of bat, and 40% of bird species. Through mangrove forests, they from a terrestrial continuum with the Great Barrier Reef. The Daintree National Park is pictured.[15]
Shark Bay, Western Australia Scattered small black mounds growing in an area of shallows by the sea Western Australia 1991 578; vii, viii, ix, x (natural) The seabed of Shark Bay features the largest and richest area of seagrass meadows in the world, home to the endangered dugongs. The hypersaline Hamelin Pool (pictured) contains the world's most diverse and abundant colony of living stromatolites. They provide insight into how some of the earliest microbial communities must have looked like. On land, the area represents the meeting point between the arid Eremaean vegetation, dominated by Acacia species, and the temperature South West, dominated by Eucalyptus. The area is home to threatened species such as the boodie, rufous hare-wallaby, banded hare-wallaby, Gould's mouse, and the Western barred bandicoot.[16]
K’gari (Fraser Island) A grassy hilltop overlooking a shallow sand beach, with thick forests in the backgroun Queensland 1992 630; vii, viii, ix (natural) At a length of 122 km (76 mi), Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island. It contains numerous freshwater lakes and dunes reaching up to 240 m (790 ft) above sea level. It the only place in the world where tall rainforest grows on sand. The process of formation of the podzol soils, in places forming layers 25 m (82 ft) thick, is also unique.[17]
Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh / Naracoorte) Upright reconstruction of a Thylacoleo skeleton inside Naracoorte Caves, its shadow cast against the cave wall South Australia, Queensland 1994 698; viii, ix (natural) The two sites provide some of the best fossil assemblages illustrating the unique evolution of mammals in Australia, resulting from almost complete isolation for 35 million years. The older site, at Riversleigh, has fossils from 30 to 10 million years ago (middle Cenozoic), documenting changes from humid tropical forests to dry forests and woodlands. The site at Naracoorte has fossils of Pleistocene megafauna, including Thylacoleo (pictured) and thylacine, declared extinct in the 20th century.[18] The fossil record overlaps with the arrival of humans to Australia.[19]
Heard and McDonald Islands Satellite image of a snow-covered volcanic peak, with a glacier running straight into the ocean Heard Island and McDonald Islands 1997 577rev; viii, ix (natural) These two islands are the only two active volcanoes in the subantarctic, and were inscribed for their value to research in glaciology and geomorphic processes, in particular plume volcanism and formation of oceanic and continental crust. Heard Island is mainly covered by glaciers (satellite image pictured). Because of their remoteness, the ecosystem is undisturbed, with no history of significant human impact or any introduced species.[20]
Macquarie Island Large rookery of king penguins, both adult and young, on a pebbled beach, with grassy hills in background Tasmania 1997 629rev; vii, viii (natural) Located roughly halfway between Australia and Antarctica on the Macquarie Fault Zone, the island is the only place on earth where rocks from the Earth's mantle are being actively exposed above sea level in an ongoing tectonic process. This allows researchers to study the sequence of crustal levels that otherwise go all the way down to about 6 km (3.7 mi) below the ocean floor. The island is an important breeding ground for king penguins, royal penguins (pictured), four species of albatross, and elephant seals.[21]
Greater Blue Mountains Area Rugged sandstone cliff face with three large pinnacles, surrounded by a forested valley New South Wales 2000 917; ix, x (natural) The sandstone plateau is covered by Eucalyptus forests and demonstrates the evolutionary adaptation of the genus to different habitats, with wet and dry sclerophyll forests, swamps, wetlands, grasslands, and mallee growths. The area is home to a substantial part of Australian biodiversity, both in animal and plant species. It also includes the only growing sites of the ancient relict species Pherosphaera fitzgeraldii and Wollemia nobilis. The Three Sisters rock formation is pictured.[22]
Purnululu National Park Large red sandstone rock formation surrounded by shrubbery and open plains Western Australia 2003 1094; viii, ix (natural) The remote national park, managed as wilderness, includes the Bungle Bungle Range (pictured), a Devonian plateau that has been heavily eroded into a dramatic landscape of conical sandstone towers. It is one of the largest network of sandstone karst formations in the world. It is important for understanding the weathering processes and the formation of cone karst. The plateau is reaching 250 m (820 ft) above the surrounding savanna grassland.[23]
Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens Large cream-coloured building with central dome and grand arched entrance, fronted by flowered gardens and a tiered fountain Victoria 2004 1131bis; ii (cultural) Constructed to host a world's fair, the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880, the Royal Exhibition Building (pictured) and the surrounding gardens represent the international exhibition movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, showcasing technological innovations and development of all nations. The complex was designed by Joseph Reed and also hosted the 1888 Melbourne Centennial Exhibition. These were the two largest international events held in colonial Australia. A minor boundary modification took place in 2010.[24]
Sydney Opera House Beige and white building with seven peaked roofs, sitting on a promontory surrounded by water New South Wales 2007 166rev; i (cultural) The Opera House, located at the tip of a peninsula projecting into Sydney Harbour, is a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Designed by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon and inaugurated in 1973, the building is significant both because of its unparalleled design and technological innovation during construction. The complex comprises three groups of interlocking shell structures, covering two performance halls and a restaurant.[25]
Australian Convict Sites A large white prison building with many windows New South Wales, Norfolk Island, Tasmania, Western Australia 2010 1306; iv, vi (cultural) In the 18th and 19th centuries, the British Empire transported around 166,000 men, women, and children to penal colonies in Australia. In addition to punishment and rehabilitation, the convicts were subjected to forced labour to build colonial infrastructure. They also represented a significant source of population of European origin. Simultaneously, this led to the Aboriginal population being pushed into the hinterland. Eleven convict sites across Australia are listed, the Fremantle Prison in Perth is pictured.[26]
Ningaloo Coast Side-on view of a spotted whale shark in cloudy blue water Western Australia 2011 1369; vii, x (natural) The coastal waters are home to one of the longest coral reefs that are near the shore. In addition to more than 300 species of corals, there are numerous fish, mollusc, and crustacean species. Every year, hundreds of whale sharks (a specimen pictured) congregate in the area to feed during the periods of increased productivity. The terrestrial component of the site is marked by limestone karst features, in particular caves that support diverse subterranean animal species.[27]
Budj Bim Cultural Landscape Lake with trees growing on the shore Victoria 2019 1577; iii, v (cultural) The cultural landscape at the Budj Bim volcano has been shaped by the Gunditjmara over more than six millennia. The lava flows, produced by an eruption, formed basis for one of the oldest examples of aquaculture in the world. People constructed a series of weirs, dams, and channels, to direct the water from the lakes to trap and harvest the short-finned eels (or kooyang) that migrate through the river system annually.[28]

Tentative list[edit]

In addition to sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, member states can maintain a list of tentative sites that they may consider for nomination. Nominations for the World Heritage List are only accepted if the site was previously listed on the tentative list.[29] Australia maintains six properties on its tentative list.[3]

* Transnational site
Tentative sites
Site Image Location (state or territory) Year listed UNESCO criteria Description
Great Sandy World Heritage Area Coast with a sandy beech and trees Queensland 2010 vii, viii, ix (natural) This is a proposed extension to the K’gari or Fraser Island (pictured) World Heritage Site, to include sites on the mainland, including the Wide Bay Military Reserve, Great Sandy Strait, Platypus Bay, and the Breaksea Spit. The area features a succession of sandy dunes, with a history spanning over 700,000 years, and is rich in biodiversity. The vegetation includes tropical rainforests, mangroves, and dry shrublands, and there are more than 350 species of birds.[30]
The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area A path through a rainforest with a bench New South Wales, Queensland 2010 viii, ix, x (natural) This is a proposed extension to the Gondwana Rainforest World Heritage Site, comprising numerous protected areas with temperate rainforests. The proposed additions include parts of the Dorrigo National Park (pictured), sites along the Manning River and sites in the Tweed Range.[31]
Murujuga Cultural Landscape Landscape with a stream and piles of rocks Western Australia 2020 i, iii (cultural) The cultural landscape in the Pilbara has been inhabited for around 50,000 years. Through millennia, Aboriginal communities have created one of the densest concentrations of petroglyphs in the world, with more than one million images. They represent human figures, either static or in moving poses, as well as terrestrial and marine fauna, including some of the species now long extinct, such as a fat-tailed kangaroo species.[32]
Flinders Ranges Rocks with a bronze marker for the Ediacaran period South Australia 2021 viii (natural) This site comprises seven properties that illustrate the geological succession of major early stages in the development of animal life. Fossil and geological record spans 350 million years, from the Neoproterozoic (850 Mya) to the Cambrian (500 Mya). The events documented in the rocks include the episodes of the worldwide glaciations (the Snowball Earth), the emergence of barrier reefs created by microorganisms (650 Mya), the Ediacaran period (635-542 Mya, the golden spike pictured) with the Ediacaran biota, the earliest known complex multicellular organisms present in the last 20 million years of this period. The last period documented is the Cambrian with the rapid diversification of animal life, known as the Cambrian explosion.[33]
Parramatta Female Factory and Institutions Precinct A brick building in a park New South Wales 2023 iv, v (cultural) This nomination highlights the evolution of ideas related to the forced institutionalisation of women. The Parramatta Female Factory was founded in 1821 as possibly the first female prison in the world, to house the convicts sent to Australia. It housed at the time the only female hospital in the country. Following the cessation of the convict transport in 1840, the institution closed in 1848 and was repurposed as a mental hospital (asylum). Other buildings on site are the Female Orphan School (pictured) and the Norma Parker Centre, the first low security women’s prison in New South Wales.[34]
Workers’ Assembly Halls (Australia)* A large building with words TRADES HALL above entrance New South Wales, Victoria 2023 iii, iv, vi (cultural) This transnational nomination comprises buildings in Australia, Argentina, and Denmark related to the international democratic labour movement and mass organisation of workers from 1850 onward. They were purpose-built to serve as meeting places and contained several meeting rooms for assemblies, political, and communal events, offices, often kitchens, printing presses, and businesses. Two buildings are nominated in Australia. The Victorian Trades Hall (pictured) in Melbourne was first erected in 1859 and then rebuilt, expanded, and renovated several times. The Broken Hill Trades Hall was completed in 1905.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The World Heritage Convention". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 27 August 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  2. ^ "Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Australia". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 29 August 2023. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  4. ^ "Report of Rapporteur". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on December 2, 2017. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  5. ^ "UNESCO World Heritage Centre The Criteria for Selection". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Kakadu National Park". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 22 January 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  7. ^ "Great Barrier Reef". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 10 February 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  8. ^ "Willandra Lakes Region". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 18 December 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  9. ^ "Tasmanian Wilderness". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 9 March 2021. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  10. ^ "Tasmanian Wilderness, WHC Nomination Documentation" (PDF). UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 August 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  11. ^ Priddel, D.; Carlile, N.; Humphrey, M.; Fellenberg, S.; Hiscox, D. (July 2003). "Rediscovery of the 'extinct' Lord Howe Island stick-insect (Dryococelus australis (Montrouzier)) (Phasmatodea) and recommendations for its conservation". Biodiversity and Conservation. 12 (7): 1391–1403. doi:10.1023/A:1023625710011. S2CID 20545768.
  12. ^ "Lord Howe Island Group". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 6 December 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  13. ^ "Gondwana Rainforests of Australia". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  14. ^ "Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 22 January 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  15. ^ "Wet Tropics of Queensland". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 28 December 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  16. ^ "Shark Bay, Western Australia". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 22 January 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  17. ^ "K'gari (Fraser Island)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 22 January 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  18. ^ Burbidge, A. A.; Woinarski, J. (2016). "Thylacinus cynocephalus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T21866A21949291. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T21866A21949291.en. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  19. ^ "Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh / Naracoorte)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  20. ^ "Heard and McDonald Islands". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 27 December 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  21. ^ "Macquarie Island". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 21 June 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  22. ^ "Greater Blue Mountains Area". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 19 August 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  23. ^ "Purnululu National Park". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 5 April 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  24. ^ "Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  25. ^ "Sydney Opera House". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  26. ^ "Australian Convict Sites". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  27. ^ "Ningaloo Coast". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  28. ^ "Budj Bim Cultural Landscape". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  29. ^ "Tentative Lists". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 24 September 2005. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
  30. ^ "Great Sandy World Heritage Area". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 20 December 2022. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  31. ^ "The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area (extension to existing property)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 20 December 2022. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  32. ^ "Murujuga Cultural Landscape". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 26 December 2022. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  33. ^ "Flinders Ranges". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 20 December 2022. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  34. ^ "Parramatta Female Factory and Institutions Precinct". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 30 October 2023. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  35. ^ "Workers' Assembly Halls (Australia)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 14 January 2024. Retrieved 26 January 2024.