Australia is both the world’s smallest continent and the only country that has a whole continent to itself. Famed for its natural wonders and wide open spaces (beaches, deserts and “the bush” or “the Outback”), Australia is ironically one of the world’s most highly urbanized countries and is well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Australian capital city Canberra.
By far the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid. Australia is the driest inhabited continent, the flattest, and has the oldest and least fertile soils. Only the south-east and south-west corners of the continent have a temperate climate. The northern part of the country, with a tropical climate, has vegetation consisting of rainforest, woodland, grassland and desert.
The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, and lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over 2,000 km.
Most of the estimated 20.4 million Australians are descended from 19th- and 20th-century immigrants, the majority from Britain and Ireland. Australia’s population has quadrupled since the end of World War I, spurred by an ambitious immigration program.
Rock Monolith/Ayers Rock- Uluru in the heart of Australia is a striking rock monolith rising spectacularly from the desert plain. One of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions, it was better known as Ayers Rock until its Aboriginal name, Uluru, became more popular. Uluru is 348 metres high, Visitors converge before sundown on the Uluru Sunset Viewing Area which provides a magnificent spectacle of the rock monolith as it shifts hues with the dying of the day, turning into brilliant red just before the sun vanishes and plunges the desert into night.
Alice Springs – The traditional home of the Arrente Aboriginal people, Alice Springs has become a prime tourist destination mainly because of Uluru close by, the Olgas, KingsCanyon, the Valley of the Winds, and because of its genuinely Outback character. Alice Springs lies in a cleft of the MacDonnellRanges where the ToddRiver (when it still lived up to its name) had washed out the edges of the mountains.
Great Barrier Reef – Close to the north Queensland coast and extending for some 2000 kilometres lies another of the many Australian attractions: the Great Barrier Reef and its many coral beach islands, an underwater haven of colorful reefs and marine life and a paradise for divers.
Sydney Opera House – is one of the most distinctive and famous 20th century buildings, and one of the most famous performing arts venues in the world.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge – is one of Australia’s most well known and photographed landmarks. It is the world’s largest (but not the longest) steel arch bridge with the top of the bridge standing 134 metres above the harbour. Known by the locals as the ‘Coathanger’.
How to get there
Most of all international travellers arrive first in Australia to Sydney, the largest city, via Kingsford-Smith International Airport. (8 km (5 mi) south of the city.)
After Sydney, the airports are Melbourne (Tullamarine Airport), Brisbane and Perth. Much smaller numbers arrive at international airports in Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin, the Gold Coast (Coolangatta), Norfolk Island, Newcastle and Broome.
Due to the extremely large distances involved, many people traveling between states and most people who want to cross the country from one side to the other will fly on one of the domestic airlines.
There are many car hire companies to choose from. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by dual carriage highway systems. Major regional areas have dual-lane roads, but isolated areas may have poorly maintained dirt roads or even tracks.
Note that Australia’s low population density makes for long driving times–here are some indicative travel times:
- Melbourne to Sydney: 12 hours
- Brisbane to Sydney: 10 hours
- Perth to Sydney: 36 hours
- Adelaide to Melbourne: 10 hours
- Brisbane to Melbourne: 24 hours
- Melbourne to Perth: 36 hours
Travel between major cities by train is not fast due to the lack of cooperation between the states, and the sheer distances involved.
Within the capital cities, mass transit is by train or bus, and Melbourne also has a comprehensive tram network serving the inner suburbs. Sydney has an extensive rail system which includes stations within the metropolitan area. Some states also have an inter-urban train service, although it tends to be devoted to carrying people into and out of the state’s capital.
Most people arriving by ship to Australia are on cruise ships.
Australia’s national bus network is Greyhound Pioneer/McCafferty’s.
There are many festivals/events in most cities during the year
Eating Dining Shopping
Australia does not have a distinct Australian dish, most restaurants serve international/western food.
Sydney’s shops vary from those with international labels to Aboriginal art galleries, opal shops, craft bazaars, and weekend flea markets.
At the time of British settlement at Sydney Cove it is estimated that 300,000 aboriginal people, speaking around 250 languages inhabited Australia.
On arrival, finding no obvious political structure, the Europeans took the land as their own. The Indigenous people were driven out of their homes and many killed. Various new European diseases spread rapidly amongst the indigenous people, killing many. The introduction of feral and domestic animals contributed to the destruction of natural habitats.
Fighting wiped out the Aboriginal population in Tasmania and greatly reduced the numbers in the rest of Australia.
During the early part of the 20th century legislation’s were passed to segregate and protect Aboriginals. This involved restrictions on where they could live and work and families being broken up.
After World War II, assimilation became the governments aim. All rights were taken away from the Aboriginals and attempts made to ‘Europeanise’ them.
During the 1960’s the legislation was reviewed and the Federal Government passed legislation for all Aboriginals to be given citizen status. However, it wasn’t until 1972 that the indigenous people were given back limited rights to their own land. The situation has been steadily improving for Australia’s Indigenous people.
Useful telephone numbers
Emergency Number Tel: 000/112
Airport Information Tel: ( Kingsford-Smith International Airport. ) 02/9667-9111
Train station:Tel: (Sydney) 08 8213 4592
Tourist Office:Tel: (Sydney) 02-9255 1788
Holiday rents online: Tel:
National Transport Line Tel:
24 hour medical service Tel: