Some call it the world's smallest continent. Others say it's the world's
largest island. Either way â€¦ AUSTRALIA IS BIG!
The distance from Perth to Cairns is about 3,500 km (2,000 miles), which is
roughly the same as Gibraltar to St Petersburg, Vancouver to New Orleans
or Tokyo to Hanoi.
Australia is almost exactly the same size as the USA (minus Alaska) but has
only 23 million people to America's 300 million. Apart from the coastal
fringes, it is a dry sunbaked land. The south has a temperate (sometimes
cold) climate and the top third is in the tropics.
A range of mountains runs down the east coast. Rain falls on the seaward
side and this is where the bulk of the population lives. Further areas of
habitation are to be found in soggy Tasmania, around Adelaide and in the
vicinity of Perth. The rest of the continent (marked yellow on the map) is
2 The Outback
It's Australia's "Never Never Land": If you never never go you'll never
ever know what it's like. But where the hell is it?
That's a frequently asked question and you'll get a heap of different answers
from a heap of different people. City folk talk about their outback cousins but
the cousins don't necessarily see themselves that way.
Eighty percent of Australians live within a few hours drive of the sea . When
you leave the settled areas on the coast and travel inland you enter a
different world. The trees get smaller, woodland gives way to scrub and
scrub to semi-desert.
The huge, sparsely inhabited interior of Australia stretches all the way from
the eastern coastal mountains to the Indian Ocean. It is about the size of the
USA (minus Alaska and the east coast). On the map of Europe, it would
reach from the Atlantic to the Black Sea.