With a land mass covering an area the size of Europe, Australia is is the world's largest island continent. So if you like the outdoors, (or the beach perhaps) it is a great place to visit! Harbouring a small but modern nation, the land is a vast, flat, ancient place, and is one of the driest continents on earth (with the exception of Antarctica).
After about 65,000 years as the preserve of over 600 groups of Aboriginal people, in 1788 the land was officially "discovered" and later settled by British colonies as a colonial prison outpost. In the last 200 years, the fledgling nation has grown from its convict roots to become a modern multi-cultural nation of over 22 million people.
Most people, when they think of Australia, generally have one or more of her icons in mind. Sydney Harbour and the Opera House. The Great Barrier Reef. The stark outback scenery of Uluru and the Red Centre. Kilometres of golden beaches. The lush rainforests of Queensland, or the rugged wilderness of Tasmania.
In fact, the depth and breadth of natural wonders and stunning scenery, combined with modern architecture and cosmopolitan communities, goes well beyond what you are able to experience in a two or three week package vacation. There have been recorded occasions where tourists have turned up to Sydney Airport, and, upon arrival, expect to hail a cab to take them to Uluru. A quick glance on Google Maps puts the preferred routing as a 34 hour drive, covering a distance of over 2,800km (over 1,740 miles) - quite a cab fare in anyone's language. Suffice to say, it's not just any old island.
Australia is divided into 6 states and 2 territories. As it is such a large area with different needs and interests, this was done originally to make Government simpler - although some Australians would say it has not necessarily worked! You may ask the difference between a state and a territory? Well, I'm sure there is a definition, but it's not anything we Australians see as really critical so I'd say don't let the definitions worry you. It is good to understand however that the different state boundaries have an impact on things like transport, timing, some quarantine rules, etc so best to do a little checking while you are travelling around.
The different states are New South Wales (capital - Sydney), Victoria (Melbourne), Queensland (Brisbane), South Australia (Adelaide), Western Australia (Perth), Tasmania (Hobart), Northern Territory (Darwin) and The Australian Capital Territory (Canberra). There is more detail about each area included in other parts of the website. Each state has it's own flavour, but all are uniquely Australian!
In terms of the locals, Australia's population is largely urban, with the largest concentration of residents to be found in the South Eastern coastal regions between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. And with a sophisticated mix of architecture, nightlife, dining, sightseeing and cultural activities, Australia's cities are second to none - high on the "must see" list for any prospective traveller.
If you really want to get out there and experience Australia, you need to plan your journey. Many many locals tend to spend their holiday or vacation time based in the one location - either a beach destination (Aussies love their beaches) within easy reach of city sophistication, or hiding out in a favourite spot not too far from where they live (but far enough to "get away from it all").
However, I do know a number of friends of mine who have planned, saved up and packed the car or 4WD with the camping gear (or the caravan), and just left for 3 - 4 months just to drive through the country and experience the raw vastness of the land. For many, the "outback" is where you really find Australia - the endless skies, the red dust plains, the sky at night glittering like a million diamonds, and of course, the true Aussie bush characters you will meet on the way.
Australia is invigorating. It is exciting. And there is no other country quite like it. We hope you fall in love with the experience as you Travel Around Australia.