Great Barrier Reef

Visible from outer space, the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the largest living structures on the planet. In 1975 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established to protect its fragile ecosystems, which include more than 3,000 coral reefs; 600 continental islands, including the beautiful Whitsunday group; 300 coral cays; and inshore mangrove islands. One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the park stretches for 2,300 km along the state of Queensland, on Australia’s east coast (that’s about the distance between Mexico and Vancouver). Diving and snorkeling are spectacular.

The astounding array of marine life includes soft and hard corals, more than 1,600 species of tropical fish, sharks, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, rays, and giant clams. Those who prefer to stay dry can view the reef from underwater viewing stations and glass bottom boats. On the mainland, Cairns, Port Douglas, and Airlie Beach are the main launching points for tours.

Sydney Opera House

Mention “Sydney, Australia” and most people think of the Opera House. Shaped like huge shells or billowing sails, this breathtaking building on Sydney’s Bennelong Point graces the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is one of the world’s great architectural icons. The location is stunning. Water surrounds the structure on three sides and the Royal Botanic Gardens border it to the south. Danish architect, Jørn Utzon won an international competition for its design, but withdrew from the project after technical and financing problems. Construction was finally completed in 1973 at a cost ten times the original budget. By this time Utzon had left the country never returning to see his magnificent creation.

Today visitors can enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants or take a tour of the building, which encompasses theatres, studios, a concert hall, exhibition rooms, and a cinema. But it’s far more impressive viewed from a distance. One of the best sites to photograph the Opera House is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair in the Royal Botanic Gardens or from aboard a harbor cruise.

Location: Bennelong Point, Sydney