As awe-inspiring as Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef may be, Australia is home to hundreds more natural wonders, often eclipsed by their more famous counterparts.
From a bubblegum pink lake to a desert of honeycomb-like, sandstone spires, here are five lesser-known manifestations of this country’s absurd natural beauty.
Shell Beach, Western Australia
Millions of tiny cockle shells cover the coastline to form this rare natural phenomenon
From a distance, this 70-mile arc of Western Australian coastline may just look like another of the region’s characteristically snow-white sandy beaches. But it’s actually a rare (one of only two in the world) natural phenomenon where millions of tiny cockle shells cover the coastline, at points reaching 10 metres deep. The area’s arid climate means the water is so saline that the cockle clam has proliferated here, with shells washing ashore over thousands of years. On a still day, the super salty water tends to glisten an intense blue-green, and – not dissimilar to the Dead Sea – allows swimmers to float on the surface. Stay just a half-hour drive from the beach in Denham, at On the Deck @ Shark Bay, with panoramic views of the Outback and the coast.
Lake Hillier, Western Australia
Bubblegum pink Lake Hillier contrasts with the royal blue Pacific Ocean
Lake Hillier’s absurdly-bright hue of bubblegum pink remains a mystery to scientists, although most speculate that it’s a result of unusual algae species and bacteria in the water. That being said, it would be totally safe to swim in but unfortunately, this is prohibited since the lake is located on a small island off Western Australia’s southern coastline that is used only for research purposes. By far the best way to admire the lake is from a bird’s eye perspective, via helicopter rides that operate daily from October through till April each year. From overhead, the pink water is only separated from the royal blue Pacific ocean by a thin strip of eucalyptus forest-covered land, creating a surreal natural colour palette. Stay at Esperance Chalet Village and borrow one of the property’s kayaks to paddle down nearby Bandy Creek.
Wineglass Bay, Tasmania
The captivating Wineglass Bay is framed by bushland thick with wattle, honeysuckle and Oyster Bay pine
This phenomenally bright-white, perfectly-curved sandy beach can be found on the Freycinet Peninsula, part of a national park of the same name. The beach is flanked by three pink and grey granite peaks known as the Hazards, and bushland thick with wattle, honeysuckle and Oyster Bay pine. The wild, mountainous landscape is devoid of human development, so you’ll have to strap on a pair of hiking boots to see the bay for yourself. Early birds and enthusiasts should set off early to reach the Lookout for sunrise (a steady, uphill 45-minute walk), while the rest can opt for an equally beautiful sunset. And the beach itself is only 20 minutes further on foot from there. Wake up to a cacophony of birdsong outside your baby blue bungalow at Eagle Peaks at Freycinet, just 9km from Wineglass Bay.
The Pinnacles Desert, Western Australia
Jagged, honeycomb-like spires of sandstone stand amid the desert in Western Australia
Sprouting from ridges of rippled sand just up the west coast from Perth, this collection of spiked sandstone formations forms a landscape that looks like another planet. While it’s known that it formed from the remnants of seashells, a definitive explanation for how continues to elude scientists. Walk among the native shrubs and inspect the honeycomb-like surface of these strange spires, casting slivers of shadows across the baked desert floor. The best way to see them is to take the Pinnacles Drive, a 4-kilometre road through the Nambung National Park. And the best time to see them is sunset, when the sky glows lilac and contrasts with the orange-yellow rocks – there are plenty of organized tours that run from Perth including sunset barbecues and stargazing. Check into the RAC Cervantes Holiday Park, just a short drive from the Pinnacles spectacle.
March of the crabs, Christmas Island
Millions of vermillion-coloured crabs create a scuttling carpet in this annual Christmas Island ritual
Christmas Island’s annual crab migration is far more exciting than it might sound. Each year at the beginning of the wet season (usually October or November), tens of millions of vermillion-coloured crabs create a scuttling carpet that necessitates road closings and designated crab tunnels. The crabs (a species found nowhere else in the world) are marching to the coast to spawn in the sea after mating inland; a ritual, week-long journey that has been drawing tourists to this remote, Indian Ocean isle for decades. Though the red crab population has declined considerably since humans accidentally introduced the yellow crazy ant to the ecosystem, the sight of waves of small, red crabs, sweeping over roads, beaches, and even coastal cliffs is still a wonder worth travelling for. Stay at VQ3 Lodge in Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island, featuring ocean views from the palm-fringed balcony.