Top 10 most photogenic locations in Australia
For those eager to explore the best beauty spot locations with a scenic self-drive of Australia, there’s plenty of places that have a reputation for performing in front of a camera. Here’s 10 of the very best to wow professional photographers, budding point-and-shoot amateurs, and AGNI’s (All the Gear, No Idea) alike.
Hutt Lagoon (The Pink Lake), Western Australia
What looks like a giant blob of strawberry milkshake just a couple of miles from the town of Esperance is the surreal and dazzling Hutt Lagoon (also called The Pink Lake) - a 14-kilometre-long saltwater expanse fed by waters from the Indian Ocean. Its vivid bubblegum-pink hue is the result of massive amounts of micro-organisms which produce tonnes of the beta carotene-producing algae Dunaliella Salina - a food colouring that ends up in everything from ice-cream and make-up to vitamin A supplements. For shutterbugs, patience and persistence is key as the lake glows different shades of pink throughout the day; a shocking Pepto Bismol-pink at mid-morning and sundown, and pale and silvery (almost lavender) by late afternoon.
Get the shot: For incredible imagery and contrast, nothing beats an aerial view from a chartered seaplane. Alternatively, head to the lookout along Eleven Mile Beach Road - or drive up Port Gregory Road and snap away from the “Welcome to Port Gregory sign” set on a small hill.
Cape Byron Headland and Lighthouse, New South Wales
It’s all rugged sea cliffs, eye-poppingly gorgeous coastal views, and epic sandy beaches at the Cape Byron Headland - the Insta-worthy State Conservation Area found on the easternmost point of the Australian mainland. The photo ops are off-the-scale; think swooping native birds, dolphins, turtles, surfers, humpback whales (between May and October) as well as expansive views over Cape Byron Marine Park, the lush hinterland, and the Pacific Ocean. Most rewarding for photographers is the 19th-century lighthouse - a 22-metre-high, brilliant-white icon that stands 94 metres above sea level. Opened in 1901 and operated by resident keepers until 1989, its now-automated light flashes every 15 seconds over a range of 27 nautical miles.
Get the shot: The views from the top of the lighthouse across Wategos Beach are amazing. Equally fabulous is the 3.7-kilometre-long Cape Byron Walking Trail - a two-hour-long hiking loop that takes you through beach, grassland, littoral rainforest, and Banksia forest.
The Pinnacles, West Australia
Nicknamed the Rock Stars of the Outback, the fabled Pinnacles is a series of ancient limestone spires that rise out of the deep yellow sand dunes in Nambung National Park - the biodiversity hotspot just north of Perth. Formed millions of years ago when the Indian Oceans coastal winds eroded the surrounding sand, these otherworldly pillars are scattered across the desert in their thousands; some resembling tombstones, others like huge jagged columns up to three metres-high. For the most powerful images, head here in the early morning or late afternoon as the play of light brings out the contrasting colours and extended shadows of the formations. You’ll also need a polariser filter on your camera as well as a wide-angle lens with a hood to eliminate glare.
Get the shot: The parking bays at various points along a one-way drive are perfect for those wanting to explore the Pinnacles on foot (you can also access the area itself by a 100-metre-long trail from the car park). The walk to the dedicated Pinnacles Lookout is equally pleasurable.
Surfer’s Paradise Beach, Queensland
The three-kilometre strip of sun-blazed golden sand between the Queensland suburb of Surfers Paradise and the Pacific Ocean is easily Australia's most iconic beach. There’s lifeguards galore for safe swimming, an adjacent foreshore precinct for alfresco dining and buzzy night markets, and breaks extending the full length of the beach for surfers to show off their tricks and techniques. The boarding action is undeniably brilliant - and there’s lessons and hire for those who fancy a go (Go Ride A Wave is the only Surfing Australia-credited surf school to operate here). Just be aware that photographing surfers in action presents several technical challenges, so err on the high side for shutter speed and be sure to study the light before you shoot.
Get the shot: On ground level, opt for a vantage point close to the break and preferably at an angle to the waves. Alternatively, venture to the SkyPoint Observation Deck located on Level 77 of the iconic Q1 skyscraper for some of the best-ever panoramic beach views.
West MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory
Know as the West Macs, the weather-beaten West MacDonnell Ranges that stretch for 200-kilometres west of Alice Springs are spot-on for those wanting to see nature at its rawest and most beautiful. There’s spectacular waterholes at Ormiston Gorge and Ellery Creek Big Hole, superb rock systems along the 223-kilometre Laprinta Trail, and incredible wildlife everywhere you look. Most photographers make a beeline for Simpsons Gap - a pretty gorge carved out of the mountains that’s a spiritual site for the Central Arrernte people (they call it Rrengetyirpe). There’s also a number of walks available here, most interestingly the Ghost Gum Walk that winds down to the edge of Roe Creek (keep your eyes peeled for black-footed rock wallabies).
Get the shot: The golden hours (sunrise and sunset) are the best times to watch colour of the rocks change from pink to red to orange. It’s also best to visit the gorges in the afternoon when the light on the rocks is softer and less fiery than in the mornings.
There are 1249 registered shipwrecks in Queensland, the most famous of which is SS Yongala in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Sinking in 1911, it’s regarded as one of the best dives in the world, rewarding PADI Open Water divers (or those with a minimum of six logged underwater dives) with weird and wonderful marine life such as giant groupers, schools of cobia and trevally, and sharks, humpback whales, eagle rays, and manta rays. Further historic wrecks of ships that met their tragic fate include Tangalooma Wrecks off Brisbane’s Moreton Island, Ex-HMAS Brisbane between Maroochydore and Mooloolaba, The Lady Bowen off the coast of Mission Beach, and RMS Quetta near the Adolphus Channel in the Torres Strait Islands.
Get the shot: Visibility is always a limiting factor, so you may end up photographing a section of the vessel rather than capturing its entirety. On shallow wrecks with good light, shoot without strobes and set your white balance manually to enhance the colours of the wreck scene.
Sydney Opera House, New South Wales
Described by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee as “one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity”, the Sydney Opera House stands on a site sacred to the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon in 1957 and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, it shot to fame as one of the most famous arts venues on the planet - not least for its futuristic silhouette of soaring white roof and shell-shaped sails (the highest of which soars 67 metres above sea-level). Inside, there’s 1,000 rooms with access through a concourse that encircles the entire building and links the five performance spaces. When it comes to outstanding imagery, the building is best seen in profile from high above on a helicopter.
Get the shot: Mrs Macquarie's Chair provides the best-ever views of this great artistic monument. Alternatively, climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon, walk around the Circular Quay area, or take the ferry across to Milson’s Point.
Glass House Mountains, Queensland
Rising from the coastal plain on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the Glass House Mountains are a group of eleven gorgeous hills formed by volcanic activity around 26 million years ago. Named by Captain James Cook in 1770 (the peaks apparently reminded him of the glass furnaces in his home county of Yorkshire), this protected area is a spiritual and sacred ceremonial site for the Aboriginal people as well as an outdoor playground for city folk who fancy rock climbing, bushwalking, abseiling, and hiking. In addition to the must-see peaks, the mountains are also home to six small townships as well as the Australia Zoo - the 100-acre wildlife wonderland founded by the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin who tragically died in 2006.
Get the shot: The Glass House Mountains Lookout Circuit on the Glass House-Woodford Road is an easy-to-find spot kitted out with picnic tables, grassed areas, and toilets. From here you’re assured sweeping views across to Caloundra, Maroochydore, Brisbane and Moreton Island.
Uluru, Northern Territory
Known as Uluru by the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal tribe long before surveyor William Gosse named it Ayers Rock in honour of South Australia Chief Secretary Henry Ayers in 1873, nothing in Australia comes close to this geological wonder. Measuring 3.6-kilomeres long by 2.4-kilometres wide and rising 348 metres above the surrounding desert plain, this sandstone icon is more mesmerising than you can ever hope to capture on film. For the most part, photographers are encouraged to shoot from either the sunset or the sunrise viewing platforms, both of which are positioned to capture the red glow of the rock in the last or first rays of light. It’s best to arrive here an hour before sunset when the rock turns from salmon pink to orange to burgundy.
Get the shot: Head to the Car Sunset Viewing Area at dawn to capture Uluru in silhouette. Alternatively, make like French astronaut Thomas Pesquet who recently photographed the rock from the International Space Station - and then famously shared his image on Facebook.
Twelve Apostles, Victoria
The superstar of Australia's Great Ocean Road, the Twelve Apostles is a series of giant limestone pillars rising out of the Southern Ocean (the name is a misnomer as only eight remain; the ninth having collapsed in July 2005). For photographers, the trick here is trying to find a fresh approach or angle, so it’s often better to get down onto the beaches at the foot of the cliffs at dusk rather than settling for a clichéd shot from the viewing platform. These dramatic sea stacks obviously take centre stage, but you’ll also want to photograph the historic sites (Loch Ard Gorge, the Grotto, and London Arch) as well as the hundreds of Fairy Penguins who call the Twelve Apostles Beach home (they usually appear here 15 to 20 minutes after sunset).
Get the shot: For a bird's-eye view of these weather-battered icons, scenic helicopter flights depart throughout the day from the heliport behind the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre. Rides last for at least 15 minutes and include sightings of The Sentinel, Two Mile Bay, and Point Hesse.