The Australian continent is one of Earth's main continents. It encompasses the Australian mainland, the island state of Tasmania to the south, and the island of New Guinea to the north.
By most accounts, Earth's continents include: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, and Australia. Europe and Asia are technically the same landmass called Eurasia, but most models separate them.
The nation of Australia is not to be confused by the continent of Australia which includes other countries. New Zealand is also not part of the Australian continent as many expect. New Zealand sits on its own continent called Zealandia. Thjis mostly submerged contient sits a mere 25 km to the east of Australia. The case for Zealandia as a continent is still up in the air however, but data so far shows that it meets the requirements as one of Earth's continents.
The Australian continent today is broken up into three main contiguous landmasses above sea level. They are New Guinea, the Australian mainland, and the island state of Tasmania. The most northerly point of the continent is the northern portion of New Guinea in the tropics. This island is separated from the Australian mainland by the shallow seas of Arafura Sea and Torres Strait. Tasmania to the south is separated by the Australian mainland by the shallow Bass Strait.
The Australian continent has a total land area of 8.56 million square kilometres (3,310,000 sq mi), New Guinea to Tasmania spans many climatic zones from tropical or equatorial in the north to temperate in the south.There are high mountains and tropical rainforests in New Guinea. Smaller mountain ranges, desert, grasslands, and tropical to temperate rainforest exist in mainland Australia. Tasmania to the south is a mountainous island with large areas of temperate rainforest. The continent sits mostly in the centre of the Indo-Australian Plate so it has no active volcanic regions unlike all other continents.
Once part of the greater continent of Gondwana, the Australian continent broke away about 96 million years ago. For most of its journey, Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania have been a continuous landmass. Only in the last 10,000 years have the sea levels risen high enough to separate Tasmania and New Guinea.
Other areas in the Australian continent include: Seram Island the largest island of Indonesia and the island of Timor. Both Seram and Timor have experienced the most uplift due to being located above the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Australian plate. While New Guinea is the most northerly part of the continent, and the most tropical, the altitude of the highlands of New Guinea have a cooling effect. Many animals and plants that were once common across the Australian mainland now survive only here due to the warming up of the Australian mainland as it journeyed north.