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Australia’s iconic southern charm contrasts with hard outback life in this huge country of red dust and cosmopolitan cities. Party along the east coast cities while spending your days at the beach, or head ‘cross country to dodge kangaroos, explore opal mines and walk around Uluru (Ayers Rock). And, of course, there’s plenty of wine and lager along the way.

Australia divides the Pacific and Indian oceans, with East Timor, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to the north and New Zealand — three hours flight away — the largest of many Pacific nations off the eastern coast.

Australia is a continental landmass, the sixth largest country in the world. The mainland measures a massive 7.682 million square kilometres. Australia is also comprised of Tasmania in the south east and the Torres Straight Islands, part of Queensland in the north. The country is divided into six states (Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania), and two territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory).

Australia’s size leads to a wide range of tourism experiences, many with water at the heart of it. The surf, beach and babes image is still strong on the east coast, where sport fishing and diving is also hugely popular. The other iconic Australian image, the great red centre, is the place to head for on massive road trips through the dusty outback.

Sports play a major part in the country’s cultural landscape, so expect to watch some netball, cricket, rugby, league or AFL along with dozens of other sports. Australia is home to some premier wine districts in both the east and west, while craft beers are slowly but surely pushing back against the big lager producers.

Transport to and from Australia

Flights operate into all Australian cities, with a good network of internal flights supplementing that. Airlines include the national flag-carrier, Qantas, as well as Air New Zealand and low-cost carriers Air Asia X, Tiger, Jetstar and Virgin Australia.

To and From the Airport has the rundown on getting you from the airport to the city. Frequent Flyer Masters learn to earn their miles fast, and get free flights around the world.

It may be cheaper to fly with low-cost carriers to an Asian hub then hop down to Australia, rather than doing a straight long-haul flight. Most flights to and from South America route through New Zealand, which can help if you plan to spend time there on the way.

Cruise ships ply the waters from Asia, the Pacific Islands, and New Zealand — although there are fewer ships from Asia than one might expect.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no bridge from Sydney to Auckland.

Australia travel resources

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Check out our best cities in Australia podcast or browse the articles below.