Located in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia is a long way from anywhere else which makes it a unique land. It is a country of extremes and truly a place like no other. Australia’s vivid blue skies, unspoiled beaches, cinnamon-red earth, deserted gorges, bizarre geological features, and exotic wildlife never stop to cease the imagination. Here are some interesting facts about Australia.
Facts about Australia
1. Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world.
Australia has a total area of 7,692,024 km² (2,969,907 sq mi), which makes it only slightly smaller than the contiguous 48 states of the United States, or 31.5 times larger than the United Kingdom. Now, that is big!
2. Australia has an enormous coastline.
Being a nation composed of multiple islands, Australia has a massive coastline. The Australian mainland has a total coastline length of 35,821 km (22,258 mi) with an additional 23,860 km (14,830 mi) of island coastlines.
3. Mainland Australia’s highest point is Mount Kosciuszko.
At 2,228 meters (7,310 ft) above sea level, Mount Kosciuszko is mainland Australia’s highest point. It is located in the southeast of Australia on the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales.
Mount Kosciuszko was named by the Polish explorer Paweł Edmund Strzelecki, the first European to summit the peak. Strzelecki gave Mount Kosciuszko its name after Polish-Lithuanian freedom fighter General Tadeusz Kościuszko because of its perceived resemblance to the Kościuszko Mound in Kraków, Poland.
4. Australia’s highest mountain is 3860 km (2,400 mi) away from Australia.
Well, sort of! Mawson Peak, an active volcanic summit of the Big Ben massif on Heard Island, an external Australian territory in the Southern Indian Ocean, is 517 m (1,696 ft) higher than Mount Kosciuszko. It rises to an elevation of 2,745 m (9,006 ft) above sea level.
There are actually two peaks in the Australian Antarctic Territory that are even higher than Mawson Peak, but since only four other countries recognize Australia’s claim to almost half of Antarctica, we’re not counting them.
5. Murray River is the longest river in Australia.
At 2,508 km (1,558 mi) in length, the Murray River is the longest river in Australia. Located in southeastern Australia, the Murray River rises in the Australian Alps flowing through the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia before emptying in the Great Australian Bight.
6. Lake Eyre is Australia’s largest lake and contains the lowest point in Australia.
Lake Eyre, officially Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, is an endorheic lake in the northern part of the state of South Australia. It is the largest lake in Australia covering an area of up to 9,500 km² (3,668 sq mi). The lake is also home to Australia’s lowest natural point which is approximately -15 m (-49 ft) below sea level.
7. Australia is home to the oldest humans outside of Africa.
Indigenous Australians or the Aborigines have been living in Australia for more than 50,000 years. They may even have migrated over from Africa as much as 65,000 years ago. They are considered the oldest population of humans living outside Africa.
For tens of thousands of years, the Indigenous Australians were a race of hunters leading a nomadic existence. At the time of first European contact, it has been estimated the existing Australian Aboriginal population was at least 350,000 and high as 1,000,000.
8. The Dutch were the first Europeans to land in Australia.
This is one of the more lesser-known Australia facts. Although a theory of Portuguese discovery in the 1520s exists, it lacks definitive evidence. As such, The Dutch East India Company ship, Duyfken, led by Willem Janszoon, is considered to have made the first documented European landing in Australia in 1606.
On 26 February 1606, Janszoon landed at the Pennefather River on the western shore of Cape York in Queensland, near what is now the town of Weipa. However, the Dutch didn’t claim Australia because the part they saw – the western and north-western coast – was deemed to be an unfamiliar and seemingly barren landscape with little benefit.
9. Australia was initially called New Holland.
Until the early 19th century Australia was known as “New Holland”, a name first used by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman in 1644.
10. The name Australia is derived from Latin.
The name Australia derives from the Latin term Terra Australis meaning “Southern land”, which had been in existence as a name for a hypothetical continent in the Southern Hemisphere since ancient times. The name Australia was popularized by English explorer Matthew Flinders in 1803.
11. Australia began life as a penal colony.
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Britain had a major problem with crime and criminals. Many people convicted of crimes (including petty crimes such as theft) were sentenced to be transported to America. Until the American Revolution, the British could dispatch convicts to the Thirteen Colonies. When the War of American Independence (1775–83) ended, Great Britain lost its American colonies and was deprived of a place to dispose of its convicts.
Inspired by voyager James Cook’s mapping and claiming of the east coast of Australia (which he named New South Wales) for Great Britain, the British Government sent a fleet of ships to establish a new penal colony. On 26 January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip guided a fleet of 11 store and transport British ships carrying convicts to New South Wales, effectively founding Australia.
Further settlements were subsequently established in Tasmania (1803), Victoria (1803), Queensland (1824), Western Australia (1826), and South Australia (1836). Australia presented the ideal opportunity for Britain to get rid of its convicts and in the next 80 years, about 165,000 were transported to Australia.
12. Following English settlement, Australia’s indigenous population declined by 90%.
Following the British settlement of Australia in 1788, the indigenous population sadly declined by 90% over the next 120 years. The main reasons for their population reduction included the introduction of new diseases, settler acquisition of Indigenous lands, and direct and violent conflict with the colonizers. Today, around 3.5% of Australia’s population claims full or partial Aboriginal descent.
13. Over 100 indigenous languages are spoken in Australia.
There are still about 120-150 indigenous languages spoken in Australia, down from the peak of the approximately 300 Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia in the late-18th century.
Unfortunately, 90% of still spoken languages are considered endangered and only 13 languages are still being transmitted to children. Some of the most-spoken Aboriginal languages of Australia are Djambarrpuyngu, Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri, Tiwi, and Kunwinjku.
14. Australia has over 8,000 islands.
Australia is composed of 8,222 islands to be exact. Besides the mainland, the three largest Australian islands are Tasmania, Melville Island, and Kangaroo Island.
15. Australia lays claim to almost half of Antarctica.
Only seven nations in the world lay eight territorial claims on Antarctica. Australia is one of those nations and its territorial claim to Antarctica. The area is estimated at 5,896,500 km², which is more than two-thirds the size of Australia itself! However, only four other nations recognize Australia’s claim to Antarctica.
16. Australia drives on the left.
Perhaps not surprising for it is a former British colony. Cars in Australia drive on the left-side of the road.
17. The Australian currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD).
The Australian dollar was adopted as the nation’s currency in 1966, before which Australia’s currency was the Australian pound.
18. Australia has over 60 wine regions.
Grapes and wine have been produced in Australia virtually since European settlement in the late-18th century. Today Australia is home to some of the world’s oldest vines and has 60+ wine regions that produce more than 100 different grape varieties. Some of the most acclaimed Australian wines are shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.
19. Australia is the birthplace of the word selfie.
Here’s one of the most random facts about Australia. While American photography enthusiast Robert Cornelius, who took a picture of himself in 1839, is credited with taking the world’s first self-portrait, the term “selfie” was first used in 2002 to describe a self-portrait photograph on an Australian internet forum.
20. Australia is home to the longest fence in the world.
The Dingo Fence was built in Australia during the 1880s and finished in 1885, to keep dingoes out of the relatively fertile land and to protect the sheep flocks. The fence is nearly 2 m (6 ft) high and stretches for 5,614 kilometers (3,488 mi) across the states of Queensland and South Australia.
21. Australia has a lot of beaches.
Australia has more than 10,000 beaches, meaning that it would take more than 27 years to visit a new one every day.
22. Australia is home to the longest national highway network in the world.
Spanning over 14,500 km (9,000 mi) in length, the Highway 1 network circumnavigates Australia, joining all mainland state capitals.
23. A cattle station in Australia is larger than Israel.
This is one of the most amazing facts about Australia. Anna Creek Cattle Station, located in the center of the state of South Australia covers an area of 23,677 km² (9,142 sq mi). It is so huge that it is actually larger than Israel.
24. Australia observes three different time zones.
Given Australia’s massive size, it’s no surprise that the country is divided into three different time zones.
25. Australia has six states and two major mainland territories.
The six states of Australia are New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. The two major mainland territories of Australia are the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory.
26. Australia became a federation in 1901.
On 1 January 1901, the six states that made up Australia proclaimed themselves to be part of one nation. Thus, the Commonwealth of Australia was formed.
27. Canberra is the capital of Australia.
Located at the northern tip of the Australian Alps in southeastern Australia, Canberra is Australia’s largest inland city and has served as the permanent capital of Australia since 1927. Canberra was selected as Australia’s capital for the sole reason of resolving disputes between Sydney and Melbourne which had both wanted to be the country’s administrative center.
28. Christianity is the predominant religion in Australia.
Although the share of Christians in Australia is gradually getting smaller, Christianity remains by far the most prevalent religion in the country. A little over 50% of Australia’s population claim to be Christians. The majority of Christians in Australia are Catholics and Anglicans.
29. Australia takes care of its citizens.
Australia provides universal health care and free primary and secondary education to its citizens.
30. Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
The majority of skin cancers in Australia are caused by exposure to UV radiation in sunlight.
31. Melbourne was once the capital city of Australia.
Melbourne served as the interim capital city of Australia for 26 years between 1901 and 1927 before the capital permanently shifted to Canberra.
32. January 26 is the official national day of Australia.
The official national day of Australia is ‘Australia Day’. People celebrate it on the 26th day of January. This special day is a remembrance of the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales on 26 January 1788.
33. Australia exports camels to the Middle East.
Yet another one of the hard-to-believe Australia facts! Australia is home to such a large feral population that they have been known to cause serious degradation of the local environmental and cultural sites. Camels are occasionally exported to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Brunei, and Malaysia. These countries have a small camel population and there is a high-demand for highly-prized camel meat and also for camel-racing.
34. English is the national language of Australia.
Although Australia has no official language, English is the de facto national language of the country.
35. Queen Elizabeth II is Australia’s head of state.
Although Australia is a sovereign independent nation, it is a constitutional monarchy. Being a former British colony, Queen Elizabeth II still serves as Australia’s monarch and head of state.
However, the Queen does not have a role in the day-to-day running of Australia. The real executive power over Australia lies in the hands of its prime minister. On the advice of the Prime Minister, the Queen appoints the Governor-General, who is the Queen’s representative in Australia.
36. Australia is the only liberal democracy with neither a constitutional nor federal legislative Bill of rights.
This has got to one of the most surprising facts about Australia. The reason why Australia doesn’t have a Bill of Rights is that basic freedoms are adequately protected by the common law and by the good sense of elected representatives, as constrained by the doctrine of responsible government.
37. The world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, is in Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Often heralded as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 km (1,400 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 km² (133,000 sq mi).
The Great Barrier Reef is so large it can be seen from space! It is home to an extraordinary array of wildlife. Unfortunately, it is now in danger of dying due to human activities.
38. Australia is home to the world’s largest war memorial.
The Great Ocean Road is a 43-kilometer stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. It is one of the most famous drives in Australia, with gorgeous views and scenic vistas along the route.
Built by returning soldiers after World War I, the road was dedicated as a memorial to those who died fighting and was designed to connect the isolated communities that clung to the edge of Victoria’s rugged coastline.
39. Australia’s Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.
Located off the eastern part of Queensland’s coast and covering an area of 1,655 km², Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island. It is made up of sand that has been accumulating for approximately 750,000 years on volcanic bedrock. Fraser Island is an area of remarkable natural beauty and unique landscapes where tall rainforests grow on sand dunes, and diverse lake formations can be seen.
40. Australia is home to the longest golf course in the world.
The Nullarbor Links golf course in Western Australia’s Golden Outback is undoubtedly the world’s longest golf course. The 18-hole par-72 golf course spans 1,365 km (848 mi) with one hole in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia. It was built in 2009 to give Australian truckers something to do on this desolate stretch.
41. Until 1984, “God Save the Queen” was the national anthem of Australia.
“God Save the Queen”, the national anthem of the United Kingdom was also the national anthem of Australia until 1984. The current national anthem of Australia is “Advance Australia Fair” which was chosen in a 1977 plebiscite.
42. Australia is home to the world’s first dedicated LGBTIQ radio station.
Definitely one of the more obscure Australia facts. Joy 94.9, which is based in Melbourne, began broadcasting in 1993 as the first dedicated LGBTIQ station in the world. Today it remains the only LGBTIQ radio station in Australia, and one of only four full-time LGBTIQ stations in the world.
43. Australia is a leading player in mining.
Mining in Australia has long been a major industry and contributor to the Australian economy. Australia has the world’s largest resources of brown coal, opal, iron ore, uranium, nickel, zinc, and lead and ranks in the world’s top six for bauxite, black coal, copper, gold, and industrial diamonds
44. About 90% of Australia’s population lives around the coast.
About 90% of Australia’s population huddles in cities around the coast covering a mere 2.6% of this vast country. The reason is fairly simple given that a major chunk of Australia is harsh outback land, characterized by savanna land, spectacular rocky outcrops, shifting deserts, and dry salt lakes.
45. Australians are known to be big gamblers.
One of the interesting things about Australia is that Australians are big on gambling. Per capita, Australians spend more money on gambling than any other nation, with over 80 percent of Australian adults engaging in gambling of some kind.
This isn’t surprising since Australia was the first country in the world to deregulate gambling. Pokies are everywhere here and Australia is also home to approximately 20% of the poker machines on the planet!
46. Australia is home to 21 of the world’s 25 most venomous snakes.
Snakes are common throughout Australia, but you will rarely see one. The most venomous land snake is the inland taipan, which hides in the grasslands in northern Australia—one bite contains enough venom to kill up to 200 sheep.
47. Kangaroos and Emus feature on the Australian Coat of Arms.
The Kangaroo and Emu were chosen to be the two animals on the Australian Coat of Arms because they can’t walk backward, reflecting a sentiment of ever moving forward, never back. Aussies are also one of the few people in the world who heartily eat the animals featured on their national coat of arms.
48. Kangaroos are often considered pests in Australia.
The kangaroo is Australia’s national animal and there is perhaps no animal and nation in the world more closely identified. Images of kangaroos adorn the nation’s currency, coat of arms, commercial airlines, Olympic insignia, and athletic uniforms. However, Australia has a complicated relationship with its national symbol.
With over 50 million estimated kangaroos throughout the country, they often go hopping around damaging crops and compete with livestock for scarce resources. Kangaroos are also said to be involved in more than 80 percent of vehicle-animal collisions reported each year.
49. There are 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.
A total of 20 places in Australia have been chosen as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Some of these are the Sydney Opera House, Fraser Island, The Great Barrier Reef, Australian Convict Sites, Greater Blue Mountains Area, and the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park.
50. Australia is the location of the largest rock in the world.
Australia is home to the largest rock in the world. And guess what, it’s not the famous Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. The biggest rock in the world is Mount Augustus, located in Western Australia. That rock is 1,105 m high, spans 92 km², and is almost three times larger than Uluru.
However, Uluru is the world’s largest single rock monolith meaning there is no other single rock formation as large as Uluru. Mount Augustus, on the other hand, is a monocline meaning that it has rock layers that have been folded into an arch-like structure.
51. Australia is home to the happiest animal in the world.
Native to Rottnest Island, the quokka is a type of small wallaby-like marsupial that has a thick greyish brown fur. Quokkas are often called “the happiest animal on Earth” because of their big grins and friendly natures. It’s become a popular trend to click a selfie with a quokka.
However, it’s vital to keep in mind that quokkas are still wild animals. They can bite and can get pretty aggressive when fighting over mates or when they feel threatened.
52. Australia’s national flag is one of the most recognizable.
The Australian national flag consists of a blue field with the Union Jack in the upper hoist quarter with the Commonwealth Star directly below it and five white stars on the fly which represent the Southern Cross constellation.
The six points on the Commonwealth star represent the six external territories, and the seventh stands for the Northern Territory. The national flag was introduced in 1901 and approved by the King of Great Britain in 1903.
53. 80% of Australia’s animals are unique to the country.
Australia is endowed with a huge and unique array of fauna. The country’s great age, variable weather patterns, and long-term geographic isolation have produced incredibly distinctive fauna.
54. Australia once hosted the world’s richest city.
When the state of Victoria struck gold in 1851, the economy in Melbourne flourished and the city experienced rapid growth. This economic boom peaked during the 1880s and Melbourne had become the richest city in the world. That’s no longer the case, but Melbourne does consistently score at the top of the charts for the world’s most ‘liveable’ city
55. Australia exports sand to Saudi Arabia.
This is definitely another one of those unique facts about Australia. Saudi Arabia may have a lot of sand, but the sand isn’t of the right quality for sandblasting, types of construction, etc. The oil-rich nation is undergoing a massive construction boom that has created a demand for raw materials.
A variety of heavy mineral garnet sand, which is found in copious amounts in Australia, is good for sandblasting and pressure-cleaning and is thus exported in large volumes to Saudi Arabia.
56. You can’t find a Burger King in Australia.
The popular US chain Burger King couldn’t use their own brand in Australia, as the name had been trademarked by a takeaway chain based in Adelaide. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack’s in Australia., and the first store opened in Innaloo, Perth on 18 April 1971.
57. Rum was once used as currency in Australia.
When Australia was first settled in 1788, no provision was made for an internal currency, and for some time there were no banks. With only a small quantity of English coins brought with the First Fleet of British ships, most of the dealings in the early years of Australia consisted of bartering, with rum being the main means of exchange.
58. The world’s first full-length feature film was made in Australia.
The world’s first full-length feature film was The Story of the Kelly Gang, made in Melbourne in 1906. When it opened on 26 December 1906, this biopic about the notorious armored bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly (1855-80) was six reels long and ran for 60 minutes, which at the time was unheard of. Unfortunately, most of the film was destroyed and what remains is only about 10 minutes of footage.
59. Australia’s first police force consisted entirely of convicts.
A quirky fact but one that makes sense given Australia’s roots as a penal colony in 1788. When the fledgling New South Wales settlement needed a police force, Governor Phillip hired 12 of his best-behaved convicts for the job!
60. Australia’s biodiversity is so vast and complex that about 75% of it remains unknown.
According to many scholars, about 75% of Australia’s biodiversity remains largely unknown. So, there’s no telling how many undiscovered species there are in Australia!
61. Australia’s national floral emblem is the golden wattle.
Throughout August and September, gardens across Australia turn yellow in a sea of golden hues displaying the country’s national colors, courtesy of the golden wattle.
62. Australians are big on sports.
Australians are highly passionate about sports and it is often said the sport is the national religion. The most popular sports in Australia are cricket, Australian Rules Football (AFL), and rugby. Tennis, basketball, football also enjoy considerable popularity.
63. In Australia, there is a mountain known as Mount Disappointment.
Supposedly, the view from the top of the peak was so disappointing that there was no better name for it than this! The explorers wanted to see the ocean from the peak, but a group of trees blocked the view leading to the name.
64. The city of Melbourne was known as Batmania.
The founder of Melbourne was John Batman. Before the city got its present name, it was known as Batmania for a brief period!
65. The Australian Alps get more snow than the Swiss Alps.
This is one of those fun facts about Australia that shocks most people who never think about it snowing Down Under. It actually snows a lot in Australia. The area of Australia that gets covered by snow during winter is more snow than Switzerland gets in an average year.
The Australian Alps are located in southeastern Australia, straddling New South Wales and Victoria. Snow usually falls between June and September making them a mecca for skiing enthusiasts.
66. the world’s first green political party was formed in Australia in 1972.
The world’s first Green party, the United Tasmania Group (UTG), was formed at a meeting in the Hobart Town Hall on 23 March 1972. It was formed by protest groups opposed to the construction of a dam that was flooding Lake Pedder in the southwest of the Australian state of Tasmania.
67. Australia is one of only five countries to have competed in every Summer Olympic Games.
Interestingly, Australia is one of only five countries (along with France, Great Britain, Greece, and Switzerland) to have competed in every Summer Olympic Games.