A freelance writer with an interest in just about everything.
Published November 22nd 2013
Explore our natural and cultural heritage
UNESCO's globally recognised list of World Heritage sites contains places of special cultural or physical significance. From the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef, a huge variety of significant sites 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 four of them are located in Western Australia. Here's a guide to the most important examples of natural and cultural heritage WA has to offer.
The Great Barrier Reef might get all the headlines, but Ningaloo Reef on the Coral Coast is just as spectacular. Australia's largest and most accessible fringing reef, Ningaloo Reef stretches for more than 260km.
Step off the white sandy beach and into the pristine waters, and straight away you're immersed in an underwater paradise. Snorkel and scuba dive to get up close and personal with magically colourful coral, more than 500 species of fish, and majestic creatures like whale sharks, turtles and dugongs.
The World Heritage area also includes a portion of dry land as well, featuring an extensive network of underground caves and water courses. It really is a special place to visit.
Purnululu National Park A visit to the legendary Kimberley region is said to be a magical and life-changing experience, and Purnululu National Park has achieved recognition for the unique scenery it offers with a World Heritage listing. Purnululu, which means 'sandstone' is of course home to one of the world's most remarkable geological landmarks, the Bungle Bungles.
These unique orange and black sandstone domes are a fascinating sight, and best experienced with a view from above on a scenic flight. The eroded sandstone towers have been produced by some 20 million years of weathering, with the park also home to soaring cliffs and hidden gorges.
Roughly 130 bird species also call the area home, as do native animals like the nailtail wallaby and the short-eared rock wallaby. Spend a bit of time in Purnululu National Park and it's pretty easy to see why it earned that World Heritage listing.
Shark Bay earned the title of WA's first World Heritage-listed area in 1991. One of only a select few sites around the world that meets the four natural criteria for selection, this westernmost point of Australia is a truly unique place.
Perhaps most famous for the friendly dolphins of Monkey Mia, the area is home to a wealth of other sea creatures such as turtles, manta rays and whales. It also boasts a large dugong population, the largest and richest seagrass beds in the world, and unique stromatolites - colonies of algae which form hard, dome-shaped structures and are known to be among the oldest forms of life on earth.
Throw in stunning white beaches, startlingly red sand dunes and some of the clearest water you're ever likely to see, and you've got a World Heritage area that's definitely worth visiting.
Several sites across the country that depict Australia's brutal history as a penal colony share this World Heritage listing with Fremantle Prison. This Fremantle landmark contains incredibly well preserved reminders of the early days of European settlement in Western Australia.
Take a tour of the prison today and you can't help but wonder what life must have been like for those unlucky enough to serve time there. From the tunnels under the buildings to the gallows, the eerie Main Cell Block, and some of the graffiti left behind by prisoners, it's a fascinating place to visit.