A quick guide to Australia

Geography of Australia

Australia is the world’s smallest continent, but sixth-largest country. It is the only nation to govern an entire continent and its outlying islands. Australia stretches some 3700km from its northernmost to its southernmost point, and about 4000km from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the Indian Ocean in the west.Map of Australia

There are vast sandy deserts and tablelands in the west and centre, while sweeping plateaus and plains flank narrow coastal slopes to the east. The coastal regions are famous for broad sandy beaches and lush vegetation.

Australia is the second driest continent on earth (after Antarctica) yet, surrounding the arid centre, there are large tracts of rainforest, temperate grasslands and bush.

Australia's parliamentary system

Australia is a parliamentary democracy, with a popularly elected federal (or Commonwealth) government. Under this system, law-making powers are distributed between the federal government and the six states (the territories – ACT and the Northern Territory – are self-governing).

Regions of Australia

Each state, while sharing Australia's ethnic and scenic diversity, has its own lifestyle and unique attractions.

Northern Territory (NT)

The Northern Territory is 1.4 million km2 of wild beauty, and still carries the marks of an asteroid that cannoned into the land 300,000 years ago. Near the state capital, Darwin, is the nearly 5 million acre World Heritage Kakadu National Park, famed for its unique bird life, rugged beauty and Aboriginal art.

Key facts about Northern Territory:

  • Capital: Darwin
  • Population: 223,000
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer range from 19 to 33°C

Western Australia (WA)

The state of Western Australia covers the whole of the western third of the country. It has one of the most diverse climates in Australia – from grasslands to countryside English settings, to coastlines with the scenic tranquillity of Pacific islands. Rich mineral and petroleum resources drive the state’s economic growth, evident in the prosperity and lifestyle of the capital city of Perth.

Key facts about Western Australia:

  • Capital: Perth
  • Population: 2.2 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer range from 8 to 32°C

South Australia (SA)

South Australia, situated in the central, southern part of the country, is famous for its wines, beaches and stunning national parks. With 4000km of sunny coastline, and the famed vineyards of Barossa Valley, South Australia creates a Mediterranean charm.

Key facts about South Australia:

  • Capital: Adelaide
  • Population: 1.6 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer range from 20 to 28°C

Victoria (VIC)

Victoria, located in the southeast corner of Australia, is a melting pot of cultural diversity, with as many as 175 languages spoken. With almost 90% of residents living in cities and towns, Victoria is Australia's most urbanised state. The garden city of Melbourne boasts the headquarters of some of Australia’s largest companies.

Key facts about Victoria:

  • Capital: Melbourne
  • Population: 5.4 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer range from 5 to 27°C

Tasmania (TAS)

Island state Tasmania is a living museum of ancient Aboriginal art and early European settlements. Tasmania has a relatively unspoiled natural environment and is famed for the sprawling Wilderness World Heritage Area – where the location of a cave of rare rock art is still a secret! Hobart is Australia’s least-populated capital with 200,000 people.

Key facts about Tasmania:

  • Capital: Hobart
  • Population: 500,000
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer range from 4 to 22°C

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

ACT is a self-governing inland territory located inside New South Wales and is home to the Australian capital city, Canberra. Canberra, designed by American architect Walter Burley Griffin, is a city of circles and rectangles, wide streets and boulevards. Set amidst snowy mountains and native bush, it is a veritable showcase of architectural styles, from the 1800s to the present.

Key facts about Australian Capital Territory:

  • Capital: Canberra
  • Population: 339,900
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer range from O to 27°C

New South Wales (NSW)

The eastern state of NSW is home to mountains, beaches, islands, national parks and the largest population of all the Australian states. Its biggest city, Sydney, is famous for the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Bondi Beach.

Key facts about New South Wales:

  • Capital: Sydney
  • Population: 7 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer range from 7 to 26°C

Queensland (QLD)

Queensland, known as the Sunshine State of surf and fun, boasts one of the most famous natural wonders of the world – the Great Barrier Reef. For the adventurous, there is no better place for fishing, diving and snorkelling. Located in the northeast of Australia, and home to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, Queensland is a popular tourist destination.

Key facts about Queensland:

  • Capital: Brisbane
  • Population: 4.1 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer range from 10 to 29°C

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