It’s hard to imagine living in a world without so many wonders. Whether natural or man-made, the history of our species and planet is embedded into the world around us. The goal of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage listing is to preserve these locations, in an effort to promote peace built on a foundation of science, morality and culture.

The goal of UNESCO World Heritage listing is to preserve important locations, in an effort to promote peace built on a foundation of science, morality and culture.

Places with this special status include effervescent structures such as Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat and the  Taj Mahal, as well as natural establishments including Yellowstone National Park and the Galapagos Islands. However, while visiting these destinations requires a plane ticket and a long flight in a stuffy cabin, you can visit Australia’s very own World Heritage sites when you traverse the east coast this summer.

Great Barrier Reef

Perhaps Australia’s most famous holiday spot, this coral reef is the largest one in the world. Sandy beaches, clear skies and clearer waters make the Great Barrier Reef an ideal vacation destination. According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, a whopping 2.19 million flocked to its shores in 2014 alone.

Home to an enormous array of wildlife, including over 1,500 species of fish, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks, coral and more, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most intricate and diverse ecosystems in the world. Sadly, the reef is suffering from the devastating effects of pollution and fishing industries. Although not currently listed as an in-danger site by UNESCO, WWF warns that it likely soon will be, if nothing changes.

This said, you can help by conserving water as much as possible and supporting reef-friendly businesses. If you choose to go snorkelling or diving on your visit abide by the age old adage: leave only footprints (or fin-prints) and take only pictures.

Gondwana Rainforest

One of the most ancient rainforests on earth, a trip to this bush is like stepping through a time machine into a prehistoric age. The super-continent Gondwana, a giant mass that, according to Live Science, at one time consisted of Africa, Australia, India, South America, Antarctica and parts of the Middle East, was entirely covered in rainforest. Millions of years later and Gondwana Rainforest is the closest thing we have to understanding the natural world as it once was.

The rainforest is the habitat for over 200 species of endangered vegetation and wildlife. The Australian government’s Department of the Environment emphasises that this rainforest is one of the few places on earth where living flora and fauna echo their ancestors, with many plants and animals nearly identical to fossils found in the same region. As you can imagine, this gives scientists access to a wealth of unique information.

Located in the southeast of Queensland, hire a car from the Gold Coast and hit the road – it only takes an hour to get there!

Australian Convict Sites

These 11 sites represent the most significant point in Australian history: the forced migration of convicts from the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not only were these prisons the first homes of most European migrants, they also signalled the beginnings of the marginalisation of the indigenous people of Australia.

These eleven sites represent the most significant point in Australian history: The forced migration of convicts from the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries.

A trip to one of these sites will highlight the harsh living conditions and the back-breaking physical labour all prisoners were forced to do. The majority of inmates were there for petty crimes, ripped from their homelands for offences as simple as cutting down the wrong tree or stealing something worth more than a shilling. It even happened to children – the minimum age for transportation was nine!

While locations for these sites are scattered all over Australia, a large handful is in New South Whales. Cockatoo Island Convict Precinct is an island in the Sydney Harbour. Leave your rental in the Marina and hop aboard the quick ferry for a guided day tour of the site.

Sydney Opera House

Within throwing distance of Cockatoo Island is Australia’s emblematic Sydney Opera House. A stunning architectural feat, this building exudes beauty and artistry inside and out. UNESCO describes it as “a great urban sculpture set in a remarkable waterscape, at the tip of a peninsula projecting into Sydney Harbour.” The theatre’s designer, Danish architect Jon Ultzon, wanted to create a building that utilised its surroundings, so this is hardly surprising.

Past performances include camp and flashy musicals, contemporary ballet and various dramatic productions such as Shakespeare.