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Visit Queensland's 5 World Heritage Sites

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by Tim Falk (subscribe)
A freelance writer with an interest in just about everything.
Published November 21st 2013
Explore Queensland's natural and cultural heritage
UNESCO's globally recognised list of World Heritage sites contains places of special cultural or physical significance. Everything from the Pyramids of Giza to Yellowstone National Park feature on the list, and Italy is the country home to the most World Heritage listed sites with 49.

Nineteen World Heritage sites are found in Australia, and five of them are located in Queensland. Here's a guide to the most important examples of natural and cultural heritage Queensland has to offer.

Fraser Island
The world's largest sand island, Fraser Island is eternally popular with tourists for several reasons. There's the 250-odd km of sandy beaches, the pristine waters, the beautifully coloured sand cliffs, the marine life, the dune lakes, and even the tall rainforests on sand.

Fraser Island, Queensland's World Heritage sites
Image copyright Darren Jew / Tourism and Events Queensland.

It's the perfect place for a relaxing getaway or an adventure holiday, but all that natural beauty isn't the only reason why Fraser Island achieved heritage listing. The island's coastal dune formations and dune lakes continue to evolve, allowing you to see the actual processes of environmental change that have occurred over time.

Then there's the wildlife - dingoes, migrating humpack whales, more than 300 bird species and an abundance of marine life can all be seen on and around the island. No matter which way you look at it, Fraser Island really is a pretty special place.

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
Located in southeast Queensland and shared with NSW, the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia include the world's most extensive areas of subtropical rainforest. Taking up 60,000 hectares in Queensland, this World Heritage area includes Lamington, Springbrook, Mt Barney and Main Range National Parks.

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Queensland's World Heritage sites
Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

These rainforests are home to more frog, snake, bird and marsupial species than anywhere else in this wide brown land. From the rare Albert's lyrebird to the endangered Coxen's fig parrot, the amount of native wildlife these parks protect is quite astounding.

They're also impressively beautiful areas, boasting soaring waterfalls, ancient volcanoes and rugged mountain peaks. It's not hard to see why these national parks are considered to be of such significant value.

The Great Barrier Reef
The best-known attraction on this list, the Great Barrier Reef is something everyone should see in their lifetime. The world's largest coral reef system, this iconic Australian attraction stretches some 2600 kilometres, comprising nearly 3000 individual reefs and 900 islands.

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland's World Heritage sites
Image copyright Darren Jew / Tourism and Events Queensland

Scuba diving and snorkelling are the best ways to get uop and personal with the reef and the abundance of underwater life, from clown fish and giant clams to manta rays and six of the world's seven turtle species. It's hard not to be amazed by the statistics the Great Barrier Reef churns out, like the fact that over 300 types of coral and some 1500 species of fish call it home.

Add in migrating Humpback and Minke whales each year, and this sun-drenched Australian landmark has all the ingredients for an aquatic paradise.

Riversleigh Fossil Site
When a site represents a major stage of the earth's evolutionary history, it's worthy of World Heritage listing, and the Riversleigh fossil site is a truly significant place.

Riversleigh fossil site, Queensland's World Heritage sites
Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

Found in the southern section of Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park in the state's northwest, Riversleigh is home to an exceptional collection of fossils of Australian mammals, all preserved in limestone. These fossils clearly show the evolution of Australian mammals, with some dating back to the Oligo-Miocene time, 15-25 million yeas ago.

A visit to the Riversleigh Fossil Centre gives a fascinating insight into Australia's distant past, and it's well worth the journey if you can make it out there.

Wet Tropics
The Wet Tropics World Heritage area stretches from Cooktown to Townsville, and it's a bit of a rarity even for the UNESCO list. The Wet Tropics are one of only a handful of areas anywhere in the world which satisfy all four natural criteria for World Heritage listing.

Wet Tropics, Mossman Gorge, Queensland's World Heritage Areas
Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

Covering roughly 900,000 hectares, this site includes Daintree, Barron Gorge and Wooroonooran national parks. The Wet Tropics comprise the most varied rainforests in Australia, which, according to the Queensland Government, contain an almost complete record of the evolution of plant life on earth, and have the highest concentration of primitive flowering plant families in the world.

The Wet Tropics are serene, inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful. Visiting this magnificent part of the tropical far north should be on the bucket list of every Australian.
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