The thirtieth anniversary of the nomination of New South Wales rainforests for World Heritage listing provided an opportunity to reflect on the process by which the nomination came about. I discuss the development of ideas about ‘heritage’, as it applies to the natural environment, the development of the World Heritage List and changing perceptions about the values and importance of rainforest in subtropical and temperate Australia. The concept of a serial nomination and its relevance to a geographically widespread collection of sites is considered. The nomination included sites which contained a range of vegetation, not just rainforest. The significance of the interactions between rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest displayed in New South Wales rainforest is recognised as one of the outstanding values in the nomination.