Australia is divided into six states and two main territories, as well as a number of smaller territories/islands. The states and territories in order of population are: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, Australian Antarctic Territory, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Jervis Bay Territory, Coral Sea Islands, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and Heard Island and McDonald Islands.
English is the main language of Australia. Around 92% of the population is of European decent. People of Asian decent amount to 7%, with the remainder including Indigenous Australians at 1%. Among the different Indigenous communities in Australia, there is great diversity with a variety of customs and languages. There is no official religion of Australia, but Christianity is by far the biggest belief system.
Australia is both a continent and a country. While many believe that Australia is the world's largest island, it is by definition a continent because it has its own tectonic plate, (the Australian Plate). Australia also has an additional 8,222 surrounding islands. These islands range from Tasmania, which is about the same size as Ireland, to smaller uninhabited islands in the Great Barrier Reef. Other notable islands include: Kangaroo Island which is the second largest, Lord Howe Island which has great diving and high mountain peaks, and Fraser Island which is the largest sand island in the world.
On average there is only 2.9 people per km making it one of the most sparsely populated countries. In contrast to this, the urban population is one of the highest in the world at 89%.
The landscapes of Australia consist of plains that are divided by a number of mountain ranges. The biggest is the 'Great Dividing Range', it is the fourth longest in the world. The eastern side of these mountains borders the eastern seaboard where most Australians live, including the three biggest cities. This mountain range extends from the temperate south in the state of Victoria to the tropics in Northern Queensland. The highest mountains are located in the Victoria and New South Wales border where Australia's ski industry is located. There are a number of other ranges including the Darling, Flinders, King Leopold, Hammersley, Macdonell, and Stirling ranges.
Of the islands that are part of Australia, there is great diversity. They range from the tropics down as far as the sub-Antarctic. On the mainland there too is a wide range of climates from tropical in the north to a temperate south. Being a big country, there is a wide range of forest types in Australia with the predominant being eucalyptus. There are also rain forests ranging from tropical, to sub-tropical, and temperate. As you head into the interior of the continent, forests give way to huge areas of grasslands which eventually merge into the biggest desert area in the world outside of the Sahara. It is dubbed 'The Red Centre' because of the dark red colour of the sand. Both the grasslands and deserts are collectively known as the outback, an area of few people and endless landscapes. Tasmania, an island state below the main continent is similar in appearance to nearby New Zealand. Considered one of the most mountainous island in the world, much of the island is still in its natural state, so nature abounds here. Up to a quarter of the land is protected as national parks and reserves.
Top 10 cities by population
Sydney, the most iconic city in Australia. Home to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, great beaches, and arguably the best natural harbour in the world. Also home of the scenic Blue Mountains;
Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia. Beautiful architecture, high fashion stores, and incredible food from all over the globe gives this city a high energy vibe;
Brisbane a river city with great beaches to the south and north with scenic hills to west where a number of sub-tropical rain forest reserves exist;
Perth is the only big city on the west coast over 3000 km (2000 mi) away from the eastern cities. It is a beautiful modern city with superb beaches, and enjoys a Mediterranean type climate;
Adelaide is a southern city with a Mediterranean type climate and great beaches. It has both modern and colonial era architecture and is located near Barossa Valley a major wine producing region;
Gold Coast City is a city built behind a long stretch of beaches. Towering apartments fight to gain views of the beach while houses further back are built around waterways that are greater in area than Venice;
Newcastle is only 100 miles north of Sydney. The city is blessed with great beaches, and is located next to the Hunter Valley a major wine producing region;
Canberra is both the capital and biggest inland city of Australia. It is a planned city built around huge parks. Rather than beaches, the city is more famous for skiing in the nearby mountains;
Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane doesn't have a single CBD, but is the conglomeration of smaller towns that have grown together. The city has great beaches and lies near the scenic Glass House Mountains;
Wollongong lies south of Sydney in the scenic Illawarra region. The city sits on a coastal strip between an escarpment and the some superb beaches. It is located near scenic Royal National Park.
Top 10 natural sites
The Great Barrier Reef has thousands of kilometres of coral reefs, tropical islands, and incredible beaches;
Whitsunday Islands. A group of idyllic tropical islands within the Great Barrier Reef. Most are undeveloped with Hamilton Island and others offering accommodation and other services.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a famous and iconic area of huge rock domes and red sand in the centre of Australia;
Kakadu National Park is rich in wildlife especially crocodiles and birds. The landscapes are rugged with escarpments, wetlands, & waterfalls. There are also ancient Aboriginal rock art sites which are among the oldest on Earth.
Purnululu National Park was discovered in 1983 by a film crew. It is a huge area of other-worldly scenery. Containing black and orange striped shaped sandstone domed hills and deep gorges, there is nowhere else on Earth quite like it;
The Tasmanian Wilderness has scenic waterfalls that flow down rugged hills and mountains into pristine temperate rain forest below. It is also home to endemic animals such as the Tasmanian Devil;
Great Ocean Road is a scenic coastal drive outside of Melbourne and toward Adelaide. It is home to beaches with great surf such as Bells Beach, to Otway an area of temperate rainforest, to the famous coastal features of Port Campbell National Park. This park has steep cliffs, gorges, blow-holes, arches, and islets;
Gondwana Rainforest is the largest area of sub-tropical rain forest in the world. Nature abounds here with native wildlife, pristine forests, tall waterfalls, and scenic lookouts toward the coast;
Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world. The island is unique in that the sand holds many pristine fresh water lakes and has a tract of sub-tropical rain forest growing in the sand;
Cairns and the Tropical North provides easy access to two World Heritage areas that side by side, i.e., the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest which is the oldest rain forest in the world.