Capital City: Sydney
Australia is the only country that has a whole continent to itself. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries. It is also well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Australia is the smallest continent but sixth-largest country. It is comparable in size to the 48 contiguous United States. Australia is bordered to the west by the Indian Ocean, and to the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, separating it from New Zealand, while the Coral Sea lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbours, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.
Australia is highly urbanised with most of the population heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Most of the inland areas of the country are semi-arid. The most-populous states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.
Australia has an area of 7,682,300 square kilometres (2,966,152 sq mi) and the distances between cities and towns is easy to underestimate.
Australia has large areas that have been deforested for agricultural purposes, but many native forest areas survive in extensive national parks and other undeveloped areas. Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.
As a large continent a wide variation of climates are found across Australia. Most of the country receives more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year. Generally, the north is hot and tropical, while south tends to sub-tropical and temperate. Most rainfall is around the coast, and much of the centre is arid and semi-arid. The daytime maximum temperatures in Darwin rarely drop below 30°C (86°F), even in winter, while night temperatures in winter usually hover around 15-20°C (59°F-68°F). Temperatures in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter and the Snowy Mountains in the South East experiences metres of winter snow. Parts of Tasmania have a temperature range very similar to England.
As Australia is in the southern hemisphere the winter is June-August while December-February is summer. The winter is the dry season in the tropics, and the summer is the wet. In the southern parts of the country, the seasonal temperature variation is greater. The rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year in the southern parts of the East Coast, while in the rest of the south beyond the Great Dividing Range, the summers are dry with the bulk of the rainfall occuring in winter.
Regions ▪ New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) (NSW) & (ACT) - New South Wales is Australia's most populous state. The Harbour City of Sydney is Australia's largest city. The coast of New South Wales is lined with beachside communities, each one offering experiences for the traveller. A little inland are the mountain ranges of the Blue Mountains, and the purpose built capital city of Canberra, excised from New South Wales. Further inland still expect sweeping plains, turning from agriculture to desert the further inland you venture.
▪ Northern Territory (NT) - From the red deserts surrounding Uluru and Alice Springs up to the tropics of Darwin and Kakadu National Park, the Northern Territory is stunningly beautiful, and easier to access than you might think.
▪ Queensland (QLD) - Famous for its sunny warm weather, Queensland offers coastal exploration from the vibe of the Gold Coast to the tropics of the Great Barrier Reef to the bustling city of Brisbane. It is also home to tropical rainforests of the Daintree National Park, and the island resorts of the Whitsundays. Inland lies the ranges of the hinterland, and further on the vast expanses and beauty of outback Australia.
▪ South Australia (SA) - Renowned for the fine wines of the Barossa Valley, the beauty of the Flinders Ranges and the outback, and the beaches and events and culture of the City of Churches, Adelaide.
▪ Tasmania (TAS) - Separated from the mainland by Bass Strait, Tasmania has rugged beauty of Cradle Mountain and the west, the beaches of the east, and the complete wilderness of the south. Hobart was the site of the second European settlement in Australia, and many historic sites are well preserved. The island has well developed facilities for travellers.
▪ Victoria (VIC)
Small, vibrant and with something for everyone, Victoria has dramatic surf beaches along the southwest and central coast, green rolling farmland and photogenic national parks. The diversity of rural Victoria is very easy to access due in part to its size and well maintained roads. Australia and Victoria's sporting, shopping, fashion and food capital is Melbourne.
▪ Western Australia (WA)
A vast state. The south-west contains the state capital and major city of Perth closely surrounded by the wildflower, wine growing and scenic destinations of the Margaret River and Albany. North to the tropics and the beachside destination of Broome. Small townships, roadhouses, mining communities and national parks scattered around the long distances between.
Islands ▪ Lord Howe Island - Two hours flying time from Sydney, with a permanent population, and developed facilities. (Part of New South Wales)
▪ Norfolk Island - Direct flights from the East Coast, and from Auckland. Permanent population, and developed facilities.
▪ Christmas Island - Famous for its red crab migration. Flights from Perth and Kuala Lumpur, developing facilities.
▪ Cocos Islands - Coral atolls, populated, accessible by flights from Perth, with some facilities for travel.
▪ Torres Strait Islands - between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, most islands have some traveller facilities but require permission from the traditional owners to visit. Flights from Cairns.
▪ Ashmore and Cartier Islands - uninhabited with no developed traveller facilities.
▪ Coral Sea Islands - largely uninhabited, with no developed traveller facilities.
▪ Heard Island and McDonald Islands - uninhabited islands over 4000km from the Australian mainland.
▪ Macquarie Island - An Australian Antarctic base, halfway to Antartica. No facilities for travellers.
Cities ▪ Canberra - the purpose-built national capital of Australia
▪ Adelaide - the City of Churches, a relaxed South Australian alternative to the big eastern cities
▪ Brisbane - capital of sun-drenched Queensland and gateway to beautiful sandy beaches.
▪ Cairns - gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Daintree National Park, and many beautiful beaches and resorts. A great place for people to getaway to and relax.
▪ Darwin - Australia's tropical northern capital, at the top of the Northern Territory
▪ Hobart - Picturesque and quiet capital of Tasmania. Site of the second convict settlement in Australia.
▪ Melbourne - Australia's second largest city. Melbourne is a large sporting, shopping and cultural capital. Melbourne is regarded as Australia's most European city in style.
▪ Perth - the most remote continental capital city on earth, on the south-western edge of Western Australia
▪ Sydney - Australia's oldest and largest city, famous for its picturesque harbour. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales
▪ Other cities can be found under their respective state and regional articles.
Other destinations ▪ The Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast are the beachside and national park playgrounds, north and south of Brisbane.
▪ The Great Barrier Reef is off the coast of Queensland, easily accessible from Cairns, and even as far south as 1770
▪ Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), are iconic rock formations located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory.
▪ Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.
▪ The Great Ocean Road is a spectacular coastal drive in Victoria past many scenic icons including the 12 Apostles.
▪ The Blue Mountains is a mountainous region in New South Wales, including The Three Sisters.
▪ Kings Canyon, a mighty chasm reaching a depth of 270 metres in Watarrka National Park, Red Centre.
▪ The amazing Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine.
There is much to see in Australia that you can't see easily in its natural setting anywhere else:
WildlifeAustralian flora and fauna is unique to the island continent, the result of having been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Amongst Australian animals are a large group of marsupials (mammals with a pouch) and monotremes (mammals that lay eggs). Just some of the animal icons of Australia are the kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala. A visit to Australia would not be complete without taking the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment.
Wildlife parks and zoos ▪ Wildlife parks and zoos are in every capital city, but also check out the animal parks if you are passing through smaller towns, like Mildura or Mogo, or staying on Hamilton Island. See the Warrawong Fauna Sanctuary if you are in South Australia, or visit the koalas with best view in the world, at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
In the wild ▪ Kangaroos and wallabies reside in national parks all around the country. You won't see any kangaroos hopping down the street in Central Sydney, but they are abundant not too far from the centre of the nation's capital
▪ Wombats and Echidna are also common, but harder to find due to their camouflage and tunnelling. See lots of Echnida on Kangaroo Island.
▪ Koalas are present is forests around Australia, but are very notoriously hard to spot, and walking around looking upwards into the boughs of trees will usually send you sprawling over a tree root. Best seen during the day, there is a thriving and friendly population on Raymond Island near Paynesville in Victoria. You have a good chance on Otway Coast, on the Great Ocean Road, or even in the National Park walk near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
▪ Emu are more common in central Australia. You will certainly see some if you venture to the outback national park at Currawinya
▪ Platypus are found in reedy flowing creeks with soft river banks in Victoria and Southern New South Wales - seen at dusk and dawn - you have to have a bit of luck to see one. Try the platypus reserves in Bombala or Delegate in New South Wales, or in Emu Creek at Skipton just out of Ballarat.
LandmarksAustralia has many landmarks, famous the world over. From Uluru in the red centre, to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in Sydney.
SportsSport is an integral part of the Australian culture from the capital cities to country towns. The majority of games are played over the weekend period (from Friday night to Monday night).
In the winter in Victoria Aussie Rules (Australian Football) is more than just a sport, it is a way of life. Catch a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The national competition has teams from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth as well.
In summer, international cricket is played between Australia and at least two touring sides. The games rotate around all the capital cities. To experience the traditional game catch the New Year's test match at the Sydney cricket ground played for 5 days starting from the 2nd of January, or the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne. Or for a more lively entertaining form, that only takes a few hours, try a twenty-twenty match. The final form is "One Day" Cricket, international matches generally start at 1PM and finish at 10 or 11PM (a "Day-Nighter"), with most domestic and occasional international matches played from 11AM to 6PM. The Australia Day One Day International is held in Adelaide every January 26th.
The Australian Open, one of the tennis Grand Slams, is played annually in Melbourne. Or the Medibank International in Sydney Olympic Park in January.
Catch a rugby union Super-14 game, with teams playing from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney and Perth during late Summer/Autumn. The Australian national team, the Wallabies, also host international teams during winter, including New Zealand and South Africa for the Tri-Nations tournament.
Rugby League is a winter game played mainly in New South Wales and Queensland, with the National Rugby League competition. Teams include Melbourne in Victoria, Brisbane, North Queensland and the Gold Coast in Queensland, a team from New Zealand, with the rest of the teams coming from suburban areas in Sydney, and some in regional areas of New South Wales such as Newcastle and Canberra.
Netball is Australia's largest female sport, and there are weekly games in an international competition between Australia and New Zealand teams.
Football (Soccer) is a small event by European standards, but there is a national A-League, which is a fully professional league involving teams from Australia and one from New Zealand, with games played weekly during the summer. Most cities have a semi-professional "state league" played during winter, with most clubs being built around a specific ethnic/migrant community.
▪ in the surf. Australia has seemingly endless sandy beaches. Follow the crowds to the world famous Bondi Beach in Sydney, or Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Or find a stretch all for yourself (but beware of dangerous rips on beaches, it is considerably safer to find a patrolled beach). The surf is smaller and warmer in the Tropical North, where the reef breaks the swell, and larger and colder in the south with waves rolling in from the Southern Ocean. (And yes, in the middle it is just right).
▪ in calm tropical oceans. Cable Beach in Broome is swept pristine daily by the tide, has perfect sand, and warm water - go in winter.
▪ in thermal pools. South of Darwin there are many natural thermal pools, surrounded by palms and tropical foliage. The most expensive resort in the world couldn't dream of making a pool this good.
in freshwater lakes. Inland Australia tends to be dry, but there are freshwater lakes where you would least expect them. Explore inland of Cairns at the Atherton Tablelands, or head outback to the Currawinya National Park.
▪ in rivers. If its hot, and there is water, there will be a place to swim. Wherever you are, just ask around for the favourite swimming spot, with a waterhole and rope to swing on.
▪ in man-made pools. The local swimming pool is often the hub of community life on a summer Sunday in the country towns of New South Wales and Victoria. Many of the beachside suburbs of Sydney have man made rock pools for swimming by the ocean beaches.
on the beach! Find your spot by the water, and get out the towel. Tropical north in the winter, down south in the summer. As always when in Australia, protect yourself from the sun.
▪ Snorkelling take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef on the Queensland coast, or the Ningaloo Reef off the coast of Western Australia. Or take a trip out to Julian rocks off Byron Bay, or just dive in off the beach to see the tropical fish in Bundaberg.
Sports ▪ Golf
▪ Rock Climbing
▪ Mountain Biking. Try the trails in the Snowy Mountains or black mountain in Canberra, or cycle for days along the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike trail in Western Australia.
▪ Skiing. New South Wales and Victoria have well developed ski facilities. Tasmania can also have skiing for a few months of the year, given the right weather.
See Winter sports in Australia
Thrill ActivitiesSky Diving, all around Australia
Hot Air Ballooning, in Canberra, Brisbane or in the Red Centre.
GambleIt has been said that if there are two flies crawling up a wall, then you just need to look around to find the Aussie who will be running a book.
▪ Casinos. Crown Casino in Melbourne is Australia's largest, nicely located at Southbank, but there are others scattered in every capital city as well as Cairns, Launceston, the Gold Coast and Townsville.
▪ Day at the races. All capital cities have horse racing every weekend, with on-track and off-track betting available, they are usually family occasions, and fashion and being seen are part of the event. Just about every pub in New South Wales will have a TAB, where you can place a bet without leaving your chair at the bar. Greyhound racing and trotting happens in the evenings, usually with smaller crowds, more beer, and less fashion. Smaller country towns have race meetings every few months or even annually. These are real events for the local communities, and see the smaller towns come to life. Head outback to the Birdsville races, or if you find the streets deserted it is probably ten past three on the first Tuesday in November (the running of the Melbourne cup).
▪ The unusual. The lizard races, cane toad races, camel races, crab races. Betting on these races is totally illegal, and at you will find the TIB (Totally Illegal Betting) around the back of the shed at the annual guinea pig races at Grenfell.
▪ Two up. If you are around for Anzac Day (25th April), then betting on coins thrown into the air will be happening at your local RSL club, wherever you are.
Australia has almost a quarter of all the slot machines (locally known as "pokies" or "poker machines") in the world, and more than half of these are located in New South Wales, where most pubs and clubs have gaming rooms (labelled "VIP lounges" for legal reasons) where one can "have a slap" and go for the feature.
If none of this appeals, and you just have too much money in your pocket, every town and suburb in Australia has a TAB. Pick your sport, pick a winner, and hand over your money at the counter.
Gambling is illegal for under-18's. This can often restrict entry to parts of pubs, clubs, and casinos for children.