Australia Panorama Photo

Guide to Australia

Where is Australia?

Australia is bordered to the east by the South Pacific Ocean, to the south east by the Tasman Sea (the island of Tasmania is part of Australia), to the northeast by the Coral Sea and to the west by the Indian Ocean. To the north of Australia are islands such as Papa New Guinea while New Zealand is to the south.

What is Australia?

Australia is a Federal Constitutional Monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. It is the smallest continent on earth and the sixth largest country by size. The isolated nature of Australia has given it a distinct environment with many animals such as koalas and kangaroos being unique to the country. The Queen is the de facto monarch of Australia as it is a Commonwealth country but most formal links were cut between the countries in 1931. The Australian government is separated into three different branches – legal, judicial and executive - and it currently has a female PM Julia Gillard. Australia has the 13th largest economy in the world and it is a member of various organisations including APEC and the World Trade Organisation.

Why go to Australia?

Because Australia is in the southern hemisphere many tourists come here seeking winter sun between December and February, which is their summer.

The country is experiencing a strong economic boom and is on the lookout for more skilled professionals from other countries to further supplement its economy. Tourism accounts for a large percentage of its gross national product and the services sector is also strong. 

Australia has a strong sporting tradition with many premier events held. The Ashes cricket series between England and Australia is always fascinating while Melbourne hosts contests such as the Gold Cup horseracing and the Formula One race.

If you want to learn more about the indigenous peoples of Australia you can head up to Ayer’s Rock (Uluru) a massive red rock in the middle of the desert which has spiritual significance to the aborigines. The wider national park is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Who lives in Australia?

The first settlers in Australia were the aboriginal tribes but unfortunately they were largely wiped out by the arrival of free settlers from Ireland and England. Despite this being a huge country it is very under-populated with only 21 million inhabitants, about a one third of the population of England. Most people live in the main cities of Australia along the south and south east coasts in the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and the capital Canberra. There is also a large city on the west coast – Perth. The main cities are very multicultural with a large amount of immigrants from Asia and the Middle East. Australians are often affectionately known as Aussies.

How do you get into Australia

1)By Air
Australia is also a difficult country to enter with all visitors requiring visas. Some nationalities can get electronic visa cards for tourism or business. New Zealanders can get into Australia easily though with visas issued upon arrival. Most international arrivals come into Sydney and if you are coming from Western Europe expect a 24 hour flight, while the flight from the west coast of the US is at least 14 hours. If you wish to change planes you can save money on discount airlines like Air Asia X which fly from Singapore.

2)By Land
If you have a lot of time you can get a bus from London to Singapore with Ozbus and then fly the final leg of the journey while the bus is shipped over.  Bear in mind that if you then intend to drive in Australia the distances can be anything from 9-45 hours depending on which cities you want to travel between. For more information on driving in Australia see our Drive Smart Australia page. There are scenic train routes through Australia but these are certainly not quick as most travel is done by air. Greyhound has 1,100 bus destinations in Australia.

3)By Sea
There are various cruises from Australia with Royal Caribbean, the Holland America Line and Princess Cruises.

What to do in Australia

See the magnificent Sydney Harbour where the iconic Opera House dominates the eyeline.

Head for a sporting weekend in the city of Melbourne, which hosts the Gland Slam Australian Open tennis tournament.

Go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef which is incredibly biodiverse and the largest living organism that can be seen from space.

The Gold Coast near Brisbane is home to the aptly named Surfer’s Paradise beach resorts which have excellent waves.

What to do in Australia

While in Cairns head to the Daintree tropical rainforest where you can have scenic eco tours and even enjoy beaches.

Find out about the first place that discoverer Captain James Cook came ashore in Australia in Botany Bay. This national park offers picnic and barbeque areas.

Marvel at the stunning Jim Jim Falls cut through a swathe of rock in the Northern Territory Kakadu National Park near Darwin.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Jim Jim Falls

Jim Jim Falls

Quick facts
Government  Fed. parliamentary dem'y & constitutional monarchy
Prime Minister  Julia Gillard
Population  22,609,945
Date Format  
Drives on the  Left
Internet TLD  .au
Dialling Code  +61
Time Zone  UTC +8 to +10.5
Currency  AUD - $

Australia Public Holidays

International Day of the World's Indigenous People
Saint Mary MacKillop Day
White Rose Day (in honor of Princess Diana)
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