This dry and dusty country-continent has more kangaroos and non-indigenous camels than people. It’s also home to six of the most poisonous snakes in the world, scorpions, coastal sharks, miniscule poisonous jellyfish and of course, the adorable, eucalyptus-smelling koala. No wonder this continent is where Britain once exiled prisoners (1788-1868). Today it’s a playground for outdoor adventurers (think Crocodile Dundee), scuba divers and wine lovers.
Given its arid landscape, most people live on the coast, leaving lots of space with few signs of humanity in the middle (aka outback). Australia is 80 percent the size of the United States but has only 8 percent of its population (25 million). That means there is lots of room to explore, mate. You can dive into what’s left of the Great Barrier Reef, see spectacular sunrises over red earth (hello, Uluru), discover gorgeous shiraz and other wines, make furry friends, bungee jump to your heart’s discontent and walk the harrowing Sydney Bridge among endless adventures. Note 8,222 islands, including Tasmania and New Guinea, also belong to Australia.
Contrary to popular belief, New Zealand is not part of the Australian continent. It belongs to a submerged, unofficial continent called Zealandia that’s 25 kilometers east of Australia. While the jury’s out on whether to make Zealandia an eighth continent, data to date says no.
“A red-bellied black snake is on the loose!” cried the owner of a famous Australian winery while running with a shovel through the tasting room where we were sipping Shiraz. This was not at all who we were expecting to meet on our beautiful excursion to Hunter Valley.
Unlike Australia, Antarctica is only a continent, not also a country. That’s because it does not have sovereignty, a government, a political system, an army or a permanent population.