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Australia's Top Tourism Treasures - The Blue Mountains & Corner Country

Updated on March 25, 2010

You can get down to Blue Gum Forest and out again in a day, but it's best to camp overnight and savor the scenery and wildlife. The flats abound with birds. One of the most beautiful, the superb fairy wren, flits like a jewel through the shrubbery. At dusk, swamp wallabies graze in clearings, and at night ring-tailed possums scuttle in the trees above your tent as the boo-book call of the southern boobook owl echoes through the forest. If you're lucky, you may catch sight of Australia's largest nocturnal aerial hunter, the powerful owl, which preys mainly on possums.

For a longer walk through varied countryside, try the Six Foot Track, on the other side of the ridge. Allow three days for this 26-mile trail from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.

The caves were such a popular tourist destination in the 1800s that the state government ordered this bridle track built in 1884 to replace the circuitous train and horse route. Named for its original width, it weaves through the farmland of the Megalong Valley to the Coxs River, which you cross on a pedestrian suspension bridge.

Experienced hikers can try the challenging 15-mile, two-day return trip from Kanangra Walls to Mount Cloudmaker. The mountain often lives up to its name, and walkers should always be prepared for rain and cold. It's possible to continue the hike beyond Mount Cloudmaker all the way to Katoomba, a trip that requires thorough preparation and at least three days. However short or long your trail and whichever route you take through the Blue Mountains, you're sure to be amazed by the wildness of this landscape and to marvel that it exists so close to a major city.

Corner Country, New South Wales

Corner Country, a remote, broad sweep of red dunes, flat-topped hills, sandy creek beds, and stony plains, is so named because the pin-straight borders of three states, New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia, meet here in a giant T-junction. It is situated on the edge of the great sun-baked deserts of Central Australia in one of the driest regions on Earth. The frontier township of Tibooburra is the Corner's only settlement; north and east of this outpost lies Sturt National Park, formed in the early 1970s by the amalgamation of six sprawling sheep farms (known locally as stations) and named for the first European explorer to reach this area, Charles Sturt.

Today, the park is the domain of the red kangaroo, emu, wedge-tailed eagle, and fearsome-looking but harmless lizards. Although little has changed here in the past 200 years, you'll also come across traces of intrepid explorers, pioneer pastoralists, and gold-hungry miners, as well as echoes of the area's lost Aboriginal groups who lived in harmony with these harsh lands for millennia.

Restriced to arid and semiarid parts of Australia, the red kangaroo is the largest living marsupial. A heavily muscled, russet-colored male can stand seven feet tall and weigh more than 175 pounds, while the smaller and slighter blue-gray doe weighs in at about 90 pounds.

Continued in: Australia's Top Tourism Treasures - Corner Country & Lamington National Park

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