Australia is an enormous nation in the Southern Hemisphere, comprising its own continent. It covers 2,989,000 square miles (7,741,200 sq. km), making it nearly twice as large as the state of Alaska, and the sixth-largest nation on Earth. It is located near New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and a number of Polynesian island nations.
Australia was first settled by people at least 45,000 years ago, with some research suggesting the date to be closer to 70,000 years ago. Land bridges formed at this time as a result of lower sea levels allowed humans to cross over to Australia from neighboring islands, navigating smaller sections of sea when necessary. Over the next few tens of millennia the landscape of Australia would change drastically, both through human intervention via burning and hunting, and through climate change. Aboriginal Australians would form a complex society, with interconnected groups and a highly-developed spiritual system. Starting in about 3000 BCE the Aboriginal groups began to experience a growth in the development of new technologies, including some simple agriculture and more advanced tool use.
Europeans first definitively sighted Australia at the beginning of the 17th century, although there is evidence to suggest that for a few hundred years prior to this Europeans were aware of the continent’s existence. As far back at the early 15th century the Chinese may have been aware of Australia, as evidenced by notations on some maps. In 1770 Captain Cook charted much of the Australian coastline, claiming the area for Britain during his expedition.
In 1788 the colony of New South Wales was formed, in large part to help alleviate overcrowding in Britain’s penal system. Over the next sixty years more colonies would be founded, covering most of Australia. In the mid-19th century gold was discovered in Australia, and immigrants began arriving from all over the world to take part in the gold rush.
At the dawn of the 20th century the continent was joined together as the Commonwealth of Australia, under the British crown. In 1931 Britain severed many links between the nations, and during World War II Australia accepted the separation. In the period immediately following World War II, and with the fear of invasion the Japanese had instilled in them, Australia began promoting immigration massively. The population exploded, with Aboriginal groups suffering substantially from the new settlers and the incredibly racist White Australia act, which was eventually abolished in the 1970s. The last vestiges of British power in Australia were removed in 1986, although Queen Elizabeth II remains the Monarch.
Australia is an enormous, very well-developed country, and as such has enough to do to keep any tourist happy for an entire lifetime. From the cultural hubs of Perth to Melbourne to Sydney, to the amazing diving and surfing on the Great Barrier Reef, to the wines of the Barossa Valley and beyond, to the lowland Daintree Rainforest, to the Snowy Mountains, to the exotic island of Tasmania, Australia will never let you down.
Flights arrive daily in all of Australia’s major cities from hubs throughout the world. Ships also connect Australia to the rest of the world, especially the nearby islands.