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Australia covers 7.69 million square kilometres in the southern hemisphere, comprising the mainland, Tasmania Island and hundreds of smaller islands around its coast. The population of 24 million primarily resides on the eastern seaboard, with the majority of its landscape composing wide open plains known as ‘the outback’.
Divided by six states, it’s also the sixth largest country by land area and highly urbanised, offering a mix of towering cityscapes and untouched wilderness. The main cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth all sit on the coast, while the most popular islands include Tasmania, off the coast of Victoria; the Whitsundays, in Queensland; and the Tiwi Islands, just north of Darwin.
Sydney finds itself on the majority of Australian brochure covers, with its iconic opera house recognised around the world, climbable Harbour Bridge affording unrivalled views over the city, and famous beaches. The second largest city, Melbourne is the sporting, shopping and cultural centre of Australia, giving off a European feel with its Victorian-era buildings, tram networks and high-end restaurants.
The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s most well-known natural features, is Cairns. Situated in the north east, it’s been noted as the world’s first tropical fruit wine region and offers easy access to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.
A land of natural wonders, also including the enormous sandstone monolith in Northern Territory known as Uluru, Australia’s unique wildlife is one of its most defining features. Capturing the hearts of most visitors is the kangaroo, but other fascinating species include the duckbill platypus, koala, dingo, wallaby and wombat.
Australia has numerous offshore islands and archipelagos which are hugely popular for both foreign tourists and domestic holidaymakers, so the country’s ferry networks are well-established and span across the whole coastline. Arguably the most popular excursion is to the Barrier Reef, with daily crossings to and from mainland Queensland, while longer crossings also link Tasmania with Melbourne.