Priceless World Heritage Sites You Can Visit in NSW
Your backyard is world-class, jump in the car and check it out!
UNESCO World Heritage sites are places that boast a level of natural or cultural heritage (or both!) that’s certified world-class.
Each year, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) decides to add a select few locations to its list that are of ‘outstanding unniversal value’ to humanity. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites are then further protected by the World Heritage Convention and can apply for additional funding to support their conservation.
New South Wales National Parks looks after four of these incredible properties. Here’s why they are so special.
The Greater Blue Mountains Area
This area encompasses eight different national parks and a conservation reserve. Boasting over a million hectares (and over 600,000ha of ‘declared wilderness’) the GBMA is a massive region with something for everyone.
It’s home to 98 different species of eucalyptus and a range of rare plants that call the deep slot canyons, sweeping valleys and towering sandstone cliffs their home. In particular, the legendary Wollemi Pine can be found here, but it’s so rare that its location is a closely guarded secret.
The Greater Blue Mountains Area spans the Country of the Darkinjung, Darug, Dharawal, Gundungurra, Wiradjuri and Wonnarua Aboriginal peoples. Cultural connections to Dreaming stories, rock art and the famous Three Sisters rock formation can be found here.
There are eight different parks and a reserve in the GBMA. There are more activities, for example you could try canyoning for the first time or go camping in Wollemi National Park.
The Willandra Lakes Region
A semi-arid region 1,000km inland might not sound that enticing at first glance, but once you realise just how phenomenal the Willandra Lakes Region and that you can easily drive there is positively mind-blowing. Mungo National Park makes up a portion of the site and is a must-visit on your trip.
Aboriginal people have inhabited the area for at least 50,000 years and it’s home to the Barkandji/Paakantyi, Mutthi Mutthi and Ngiyampaa people.
The dryness of the desert coupled with the remnant lunettes provides the perfect conditions for the preservation and analysis of this ancient land. It is the knowledge learnt from the many stories stored within the ecological pages of the Willandra Lakes Region that led to its inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage property for both it’s cultural and natural heritage.
The cultural and natural values includes:
Mungo Woman and Mungo Man – who were buried and cremated some 42,000 years ago. Their story shifted the paradigm in our understanding of the deep history of Aboriginal Australia and demonstrated the longevity of Aboriginal land management.
The largest collection of fossilised human footprints in the world – the 500 prints of varying sizes representing families, hunters and individuals interacting some 20,000 years old.
Giant marsupial fossils from now extinct Australian megafauna.
The mind-bending eroded dune formations known as the Walls of China Take a tour with an Aboriginal NPWS guide.
The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
Gondwana was a supercontinent mainly covered in rainforest back in the day (180 million years ago). As it split up, drifted north and dried out, much of the rainforest disappeared, but little pockets, including these on the east coast and escarpment, hung on to just the right microclimate for the ancient species to survive.
Barrington Tops National Park is a great introduction to the diversity of Gondwana Rainforests, which date back 180 million years to the Mesozoic era. Only three hours north of Sydney, you’ll find a unique experience as nearly all of the remaining examples of the species live in these forests.
Other features that secured the rainforests’ World Heritage status include eroded craters of shield volcanoes, species that look just like their fossilised ancestors and large areas of warm temperate rainforest.
The Australian Convict Sites
A total of 11 sites across the country have been given UNESCO World Heritage status for their tangible reminder of Australia’s convict past. NSW National Parks only looks after one of these sites, the Old Great North Road.
This was a 264km route from Sydney to the Hunter that was completed nearly 200 years ago in 1836. Today only 43km of the route remains in its original state, running through Dharug National Park and occasionally Yengo National Park.
The road is best experienced as a history lesson, so download the Convict Road app and get educated while you walk the 9km loop track. Look out for Clares Bridge and Circuit Flat Bridge, some of the oldest surviving stone bridges in Australia.