A few years back, Micki and I spent half a year driving across Australia. We landed down south in Adelaide and then worked our way through the center of the Outback up to Darwin on the north coast, and eventually made our way past Cairns and Port Douglas before slowly making our way down the east coast, past the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, all the way to Sydney.
Over the course of those six months, we learned just how big and just how awesome Australia is. We ended up put over 25,000 kilometers on our van, got up close and personal with some unique wildlife, met some interesting people, and saw the beautiful and varied landscapes that make up Australia.
As our kids get older, and we tell them tales of the land down under (like the termite mounds that were twice the height of our van!), the realization that we’re going to have to take them to Australia becomes clearer. It’s also what prompted us to dive into these interesting facts about Australia.
Interesting Facts About Australia
So without further ado, if you’re thinking of heading to Oz or have ever been curious as to what kinds of things await you down under, here are our interesting facts about Australia that will amaze you.
Australia is big. As in, really big.
We put on over 25,000 kilometers during our trip around Australia, took six months to do it, and we still only saw half of the country. As the 6th largest country in the world with one of the lowest populations per kilometer, most people fly from city to city. When we were driving in the Outback, we would go hours at a time before seeing anyone else on the highways except the occasional road train and kangaroos.
Due to it’s massive size and the fact that the entire country is an island, Australia is the only place in the world that is considered both a continent and a country. As such, it’s sometimes also referred to as the island continent.
If you love beaches, there are over 10,000 beaches found around Australia. If you visited three beaches a day it would still take you over nine years to see them all!
We visited dozens of beaches along 3 coasts however we found the Whitsundays had the prettiest beaches of them all.
It also has over 25,000 kilometers of coastline where you can jump on a speedboat, a catamaran or even a sailboat and explore the over 8000 islands that circle the giant island. We visited almost every beach we could find, and even toured the Whitsunday Islands on a sailboat for four days. We loved every minute of it.
Australia has the largest sand island in the world
Just off the east coast of Hervey Bay, Australia lies the largest sand island in the world. Fraser Island, measuring over 120 kilometers (75 mi) long and 24 kilometers (15 mi) wide also houses the country’s only all sand highway/airport runway where you can drive 80 kilometers an hour on the beach only a few feet from the crashing waves.
Renting a 4×4 SUV for 4 days, camping along the beach and driving along the sand paths and the beach was one of our favorite highlights of the trip.
It has the world’s largest coral reef
Australia is home to the Great Barrier Reef, which is the planet’s largest living structure.
Diving the Great Barrier Reef was one of the highlights of our trip. Unfortunately, the reef is in trouble these day – scientists say that the reef is dying off.
Australia wildlife is unique, and often well… pretty darn weird
The kangaroo, the duck billed platypus, the dingo, the emu, the cassowary, and the koala are just some of Australia’s unique species that can only be found in Australia.
We spotted them all in the wild, including the shy platypus, however the little rock wallabies might be one of the cutest things alive.
Australian Aboriginal culture may be 65,000 years old
Australian Aboriginals first arrived in Australia 65,000 years ago marking them as some of the oldest known human cultures.
We saw rock paintings around Uluru (Ayers Rock) and near Darwin that are some of the oldest found anywhere in the world.
Australia was founded by inmates
Here’s one of the many fun facts about Australia: The first English settlers landed in Sydney in 1788 and the majority of that first fleet were inmates. Though most died off, a sizable number of inmates helped found Australia.
We’ve been to dozens of countries over the years, however I can truly say Australia is the only country we traveled to that I was ever held at knife point. Coincidence? Haha, probably not since the vast majority of Australians we met were super nice and helpful. Australia is also one of the safest countries in the world.
Camels, camels, camels … and more camels
The are more than half a million feral camels wandering around Australia’s outback.
We saw some wild camels more than a few times while driving and even considered riding a few that had been tamed. Unfortunately, the camel smell was only matched by the heat of the sun that day.
Are we sad we didn’t do it? Nope, we did rode camels in the Sahara desert instead.
In a country that’s mostly desert, water can be a problem
To secure a constant potable water supply, the first settlers built water tanks along the stream leading into Sydney Cove they called the Tank Stream. However, due to early pollution, the tank stream eventually became a stormwater drain that still protects Sydney from flooding.
We were in a few heavy rainstorms while in Sydney so can attest to their ability to protect the city from flooding. Rain or shine, Sydney is a gorgeous city.
Everything will kill you
Australia probably has the largest collection of dangerous things on the planet. From the box jellyfish to poisonous snakes like taipans, death adders, brown snakes and tiger snakes. Not to mention they have funnel spiders, blue ringed octopuses and even huge jumping bird eating spiders!
We swam in special Lycra bodysuits up north to protect us from jellyfish stings and only swam in beaches with shark nets down south.
However, we never shied away from walking trails or going on hikes, even at night. We had a few close calls with spiders, however we never saw a snake in the wild without being on a guided tour.
Since the platypus is known as hyper reclusive, we feared we wouldn’t be able to spot one. In truth, we found one the first place we looked and then spotted several more at different places the following days. Who knew?
That being said, our son’s favorite animal has always been the platypus, so you know we’ll be searching them out again next time we go.
Lifeguards are incredibly important
Bondi Beach in Sydney, was home to the world’s first and longest running life saving club, the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club, that started in 1907 when several groups routinely patrolled the beaches around Sydney.
Though Bondi Beach wasn’t our favorite beach in Australia, it was definitely the most happening beach we came across. If you want to see and be seen, Bondi is definitely the place to be.
The world’s tallest birds live here
There are some amazing birds in Australia, however, the red eyed emu and the blue feathered cassowary definitely top them all, at least when it comes to size. Some emus stand over 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) while the sometimes dangerous cassowary can grow to nearly the same size.
We saw a lot of emus while crossing the center of Australia, however the huge blue feathered cassowary is both an endangered species and supposedly impossible to find.
After talking to some locals, we drove into a national park and, as we got out of our van, there happened to be a big cassowary only a few feet in front of us. They’re known to be a little dangerous, so we got back in the van and watched him strut around for 15 minutes before he suddenly turned and disappeared back into the forest.
The reptiles will eat you
Australia is home to over 750 different reptile species, which is more than any other country in the world.
Though we saw them numerous times, the huge saltwater crocodiles were always intimidating to us.
Well, they have been known to eat people! The turtles on the other hand, were always fun to watch.
It’s really, really, dry in the Outback
For all the water Australia gets along the coasts, the lack of water in the central outback of Australia makes it the driest continent on the planet excluding Antarctica.
Though the outback wasn’t as dry as we originally expected, we covered huge distances across the Australian outback with only a few scraggly trees and the occasional hopping kangaroo seen in the distance. To put it simply, it was dry enough to make me happy we always had spare water on hand.
The Outback is fairly empty
How isolated is the Outback?
And this is where our Australian facts get really weird. The Outback is so isolated that an obscure, but well bankrolled, Japanese Cult may … or may not … have detonated a nuclear bomb at Banjawarn Station, Western Australia back in 1993. No one knows for sure, because it just registered as a small 3.6 earthquake.
Not only is there not much flora in the Outback, but there aren’t many people either.
Here’s one of the most weird facts about Australia: with nearly 85% of the population in Australia living 50 miles or less from the coast, you can literally be the only person within a hundreds of square miles in the outback.
When we exited from the tanned emptiness of the outback, the greenery of the coastal areas shocked us every time.
Birds be crazy in Australia
Besides for the big birds of Australia, there are some regular sized Australian birds that are a both a joy to watch and hear. The parrots in the north are gorgeous and the silly antics of the widespread galah or rose-breasted cockatoo are fun to watch.
While the laughing call of the kookaburra is definitely a bird call you’ve never heard outside of Australia, one of the most haunting sounds in Australia has to be the cry of the Green Catbird. It sounds like a cross between a baby crying and a cat meowing.
Micki and I both nearly ran into the bush looking for this poor crying baby the first time we heard it. It wasn’t until we talked to some locals, who explained it was only a bird, that we relaxed. That said, it still made us look around every time we heard it.
There are cattle ranches bigger than Belgium
The Anna Creek Station in South Australia is the largest cattle ranch in the world. Bigger than either Israel or Belgium, it’s also 7 times as big as the famous King Ranch in Texas. It currently holds around 10,000 head of cattle and is run by only eight workers.
We drove through part of the Anna Creek Station when we took the offroad Oodnadatta Track to Coober Pedy. Our van wasn’t really outfitted for it, and we nearly got stuck a few times after a rare rainstorm, but it definitely gave us an appreciation for anyone living out there on their own.
Australians love their wine
There are over 2,000 wine producers throughout Australia and they export over 750 million liters a year to world markets. They also drink their fair share domestically.
Some of our favorite wines ever come from Australia and we spent weeks going from one winery to another tasting a bunch for ourselves. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, they don’t export their amazing port so, if you want to try some out for yourself, you’ll just have go to Australia yourself.