- With a landmass of 7.69 million sq km, Australia is the world’s smallest continent and largest island.(i) Australia is also the lowest, flattest and most stable continent, with desert comprising 35 per cent of the landmass. (ii)
- Australian native flora is the most diverse in the world, with about 20,000 different native species and more flowering plants than any other country.
- Australians are custodians of one-third of the world’s protected marine areas, with more than 360such areas covering 65 million hectares. (i)
- The Great Barrier Reef (iii) is one of the world’s natural wonders and Ningaloo Reef, on Western Australia’s Coral Coast, is one of the most accessible reef experiences in the world.
- Australia’s marine environment is home to 4000 fish species, 500 coral species, 50 types of marine mammal, seabirds, rare sea dragons and whales, dolphins, dugongs, turtles, giant rays and whale sharks. (iv)
- Australia is home to 15 'natural' World-Heritage sites. One of these, Kakadu National Park, covers a land area of almost 20,000 sq km the same size as Israel.
- About 81 million hectares (10.5 per cent) of our land area is protected in national reserves and there are 547 national parks. (i)
- The 135 million-year-old Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest. It is home to about 430 species of birds, including 13 species found nowhere else in the world.
- Indigenous Australians learnt to 'read' the country and plan their lives, festivals and travels by the flowering of plants and the behaviour of animals.
- Lyrebirds, found in bushland areas, are the world’s best imitators, able to mimic 15 other bird calls as well as sounds of chainsaws, mobile phones and car alarms, stringing them into melodies.
It took the forces of earth, wind, fire and water over 250 million years (v) to create the spectacle of nature in which Australians live, work and play.
From the smallest wonders of our tropical fish, rare plants, birds and gems, to world treasures like the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and Kakadu National Park, the country is a spectacular canvas of nature’s finest work.
We provide a home to plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth, intriguing creatures such as kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, bilbies, and kookaburras (to name a few) and we are custodians of 15 unique natural World Heritage areas (vi), some of the oldest rainforests on earth and one-third of the world’s protected marine areas, treasured by humankind for their natural and/or cultural importance to us all.
Our natural history holds unique keys to the planet’s past and tells stories as ancient as the world’s oldest mountains (iv) and as fresh as a swim on the world’s richest reef.
Many parts of the country still bear the signs and artworks of man’s early life, our landscape keeps the stories left by Indigenous people 50,000 years ago and, according to their 'Dreaming', bears the marks of the spirits’ journeys as they created all landforms and life.
There are many of nature’s worlds to discover - untouched tropical rainforest, cathedrals of towering trees, canyons, golden beaches with calm water, hiking tracks, pristine rivers, great expanses of coast and desert, mountains, caves, snowfields and palm jungles are just the beginning.
Australia’s natural wonders are yours to be enjoyed - they are easy to find and easily accessed whether your desire is to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, take a guided walk through an ancient rainforest, walk along a secluded bush track, trek on a beach, or picnic in a park, the great outdoors is ready to be explored.
Exploring nature is easy as most of our cities flank national parks, spectacular coast or rivers and even offer peeks at the great forces of nature we treasure. They also provide a handy place from which to watch whales and dolphins in the seas and on their outskirts, walk fields of native wild flowers, visit forests, reefs, islands and sacred sites.
Try an underwater journey on one of our reefs, take a tour of a sacred site, trek through mountains eons old, walk on a canopy set high above an ancient forest, see how many of our 770 species of birds you can spot in our skies, or take a drive on the world’s largest sand island.
Take your time to be mesmerised by the land as it meets the sea. Explore craggy cliffs continually carved by sea, walk on beaches with sand like talcum powder, enjoy the startling contrasts of red desert merging with blue water and languish in the shade of rich rainforests at the water’s edge.
Head inland to the Outback and enjoy the formidable deserts and ancient wilderness areas that are so much a part of our heritage. This is a wonderful place to explore by four-wheel drive or perhaps by plane if you believe the distances are just too great.
Feast your eyes on the spectrum of vivid red, yellow, white, green and blue ancient landscapes, distinctive plants and intriguing wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else in the world – such as koalas, wombats and platypuses.
Discover some of the oldest rainforest in the world and immerse yourself in the vibrant sounds and smells of nature – from waterfalls and wildlife, to the cry of our strange lyrebird and the whisper of wind in the eucalypts.
First published 28 July 2009.
(i) Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
(ii) Geoscience Australia
(iii) Great Barrier Reef Park Authority
(vi) Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts