World heritage and history
World Heritage Areas
The UNESCO World Heritage List spotlights the planet's most fascinating - and sometimes most threatened - places and customs. NSW has six World Heritage-listed areas that protect forever an extraordinary variety of landscapes, animals and plants found nowhere else on earth.
Key places to go
New South Wales features six World Heritage-listed sites, covering all sorts of amazing areas and reserves. All but two, the Sydney Opera House and four convict sites, are natural attractions. The remainder include parks and reserves managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The world's most extensive area of subtropical rainforest forms part the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia which encompass the major rainforest parks and reserves of northeast NSW and southeast Queensland. These include Mount Warning, the Border Ranges National Park, Washpool National Park and the adjacent Gibraltar Range National Park. Blue Mountains National Park, a scenically dramatic region of forested ravines and pristine bushland about 120 kilometres west of Sydney by road, is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. It is listed for its extensive eucalypt forests and natural biodiversity.
For an island paradise only a two-hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane is World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island. It lies on the southernmost coral reef in the world, home to 500 species of fish and over 90 species of coral. Finally, the vast and starkly beautiful Willandra Lakes Region, encompassing Mungo National Park, centres on a system of ancient lakes formed over the past 2 million years. Aboriginal people lived on the shores here for at least 50,000 years. The remains of a 40,000-year-old woman found in the dunes of Lake Mungo mark the oldest ritual cremation site in the world.
Key places to go
Nothing could be more romantic than staying in a remote lighthouse cottage. The Sugarloaf Point lighthouse keeper cottages at Seal Rocks, in northern NSW, is just one of the historic residences that have been converted into guest accommodation, allowing you to delve into the past in unique style and comfort. Other lighthouse cottage accommodation is available at Byron Bay, Hat Head near Port Macquarie, Montague Island and Green Cape Lighthouse near Eden
Separate from NSW but officially part of it, the jewel-like Lord Howe Island emerged from a volcanic eruption seven million years ago. Today the island, which was discovered by the commander of the First Fleet ship Supply, is a World Heritage-listed natural playground that boasts the southern-most coral reef on earth and the 875m-high Mount Gower.
Fort Denison, on Sydney Harbour, has been used as an isolation cell for hardened convicts, a defence structure, a weather station and a time marker. Today it houses a museum and restaurant. Explore the island's colourful history on a self-guided tour.
The fortifications on Sydney's Middle Head are a fascinating key to NSW's military history. The National Parks and Wildlife Service conducts guided tours every Sunday that take you into areas not otherwise accessible to the public.
The Abercrombie Caves, four hours from Sydney, boast The Archway, the largest natural arch in the southern hemisphere, along with many fascinating cave structures. Take a tour, camp the night or hike to Mount Gray or Grove Creek Falls.
Book a Huts, Heritage and Homesteads Tour to discover the secrets of the past and bask in the scenery of high country NSW in Kosciusko National Park. Rangers will explain what was faced by European settlers in the Snowy Mountains and why it's now a gift that should be enjoyed by all.