Australia is situated between the Indian and South Pacific Oceans in a geographically misunderstood region of the world called Oceania, and is a continent nearly twice the size of Europe. Australia is also an independent nation made up of six states and two territories. The literal continental size of the country makes for travel that is diverse and exhilarating without the hassle of ever crossing a single border!
Australia has been inhabited for an estimated 45,000 years with the first recorded European encounter with the landmass not until 1606. In 1770, the English navigator James Cook claimed Australia for Britain, but it was not until the gold rush of the 1800s that Aboriginal tribes were really harmed by Europeans who were drawn into the depths of the continent's formidable Great Dividing Range where natives had since thrived undisturbed.
Today there are many trading posts, such as Alice Springs, where Aborigines sell traditional artwork and musical instruments such as the popular didgeridoo.
Wine, Waves, and Whimsical Wilderness Most travelers anticipate a visit to the Sydney Opera House, a wild ride through the outback and then a dive at the Great Barrier Reef. A great number of visitors experience an abrupt awakening to the sheer depth of Australia's wonderful attributes and activities as well as the great distances that would make such a trip lengthy at best.
South western Australia is a fantastic wine-producing region, with harvests including Australia's own Shiraz. Visit the popular Margaret River area for delicious reds or take a drive along the nearby coast and surf some of the best waves in the morning.
One can also take a leisurely afternoon of wine tasting in the quaint coastal towns along the way. On the path of indulgence, make sure to enjoy some truly authentic Aussie cuisine like slow-roasted kangaroo or emu, and don't shy away from the Moreton Bay bug, which is actually an exceptional species of slipper lobster native to Australian waters.
Witness firsthand, the versatility of the Aussie landscape, by venturing north to the coastal Daintree Rain forest in the wet tropical region, near the festive city of Cairns and the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the world's oldest rain forest stands in Australia's tropical north while ski resorts garnish the eastern Snowy Mountains outside of cosmopolitan Sydney.
The semi-arid Flinders Ranges in the south represent the last of the quintessential Australian outback, complete with crocodiles and wallabies. Tasmania, Australia's giant southern island, is often considered a miniature Australia with all of the spectacular sights in a fraction of the size.
Most notable is the intense backdrop marked with jutting peaks, plunging crevasses and glacial lakes of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
Whether you travel to Australia for the rugged adventure of the outback or the richly multicultural and ultra-hip global scenes of Melbourne and Sydney, the deluge of opportunities available upon arrival are sure to turn your initial itinerary on its head.
Not to mention, Australia is an excellent jumping point from which to discover the many tropical island-nations of Southeast Asia to the north.