Australia is a country of great size and diversity. The climate ranges from the tropics to sub-alpine, giving the country a great variety of landscapes and destinations. Landscapes range from mountains to plains, rainforests to deserts, rivers to coastlines, and outback to rural. Australia also has some of the most iconic and thriving urban centres in the world. From the bright lights and sunny beaches of Sydney to Melbourne's high fashion, arts, and culture, there is a city in Australia to suit everyone's taste.
Many people think that Australia is a big island, while that is true. it is actually classified as one of the world's continental landmasses. The Australian continent is larger in area than Western Europe and about the same size as the mainland United States. However, unlike the United States, Australia doesn't border any other country, being fully surrounded by ocean on all sides. The result is an impressive 37,000 km long coastline with the most beaches of any country on Earth.
One of Australia's must see places, is the Great Barrier Reef. It is the world's largest reef system and is a whopping 2000 km long. That is about the size of the eastern coastline of the USA. Within the reef lie nearly 1000 beautiful islands that contain some of the world's best beaches and diving spots. These islands are popular tourist spots and while there are many resorts that cater for tourists, most of the area in these islands remain untouched.
Australia also contains the largest desert area in the world outside of the Sahara. This area dubbed the 'Outback' has a special place in Australian history, song, and folklore. While it is a huge expanse, it contains just over 3% of the country's population due to the lack of water.
In contrast to the Outback there are coastal rainforests. In Northern Queensland, the Daintree is considered the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. The Gondwana Rainforest in New South Wales and Queensland is the world's largest undisturbed sub-tropical rainforest. In eastern and southern Australia there are large areas of temperate rain forest. The Tarkin in Tasmania for instance is Australia's largest tract of temperate rainforest and second largest in the world.
The New South Wales and Victoria border contains an area called the Australian Alps where most of Australia's ski industry exists. Snow is not something you usually associate with Australia, yet the area which is gets yearly winter snow is bigger than the country of Switzerland.
Australia also has many unusual almost mystical natural features resulting from eons of erosion. Uluru / Ayers Rock, Kata Tjuta / The Olgas, Purnululu / Bungle Bungles, and the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park to name a few. In addition to these special places there is an abundance of other less known rock formations and gorges that have been carved out of the Outback.
Located below Asia, Australia's long isolation has led to unique flora and fauna. Some 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 93% of amphibians, and 90% of fish & insects that inhabit this continent are endemic to Australia, i.e., are found nowhere else on Earth.
Native animals of Australia are familiar with most and marsupials such as the koala and kangaroo are perhaps the most famous. It is surprising to many visitors that many native animals are easy to spot in the wild due to water being more readily available. there are more kangaroos in Australia than there has ever been in the history of the continent. Other animals you are likely to see include possums, bats, emus, and a huge array of colourful bird species. If you are in the right location, you could also spot a crocodile, goanna, wombat, bandicoot, or many other unique species found in certain locations in Australia.
When it comes to the citizens of Australians, many people imagine a Crocodile Dundee personality or a tanned surfer. While these personality types certainly exist, most Australians are urbanites because Australia is surprisingly one of the most urbanised nations in the world. Most Australians are of British decent, but with a large European population from countries like Italy and Greece.
The Aboriginal culture of Australia is one of the oldest cultures in the world and stands in direct contrast to just over 200 years of European history. There are many places where one can learn about this mysterious ancient culture. Aborigines make up only 1% of the country's population, but they live all areas of Australia including the cities.
Australia has a number of great cities. The most iconic is Sydney is famous for its spectacular harbour, beaches, and iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Melbourne is the cultural capital with theatres, superb restaurants, and high fashion. Brisbane is a sub-tropical river city surrounded by natural and man-made attractions. Isolated Perth is an organised, clean and modern city with uncrowded beaches built on the shores of the Indian Ocean and Swan River and separated from Australia's other cities by huge expanses of outback. The Gold Coast is a beach city with great shopping and nightlife and located on the doorstep of world heritage rainforests. Adelaide is an elegant city known for its colonial stone architecture, expansive parklands, and lively festivals. Canberra is the nation's capital city built around beautiful lakes and parks and Australia's biggest inland city. Hobart is a scenic city located between an estuary and mountains with pristine wilderness areas nearby. Darwin at the top of Australia is a melting pot of food and cultures on Asia's doorstep, and near tropical wilderness areas. Cairns is the gateway to Australia's Barrier Reef and near the oldest rainforests on Earth. Alice Springs is located in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre, near huge monoliths, canyons, and deserts.
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