- The British claimed the eastern half of Australia in 1770 and settled the penal colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788. As the population grew and new areas were explored, another five, largely self-governing Crown Colonies were established.
- On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and remains a Commonwealth Realm.
- The current population is more than 22 million with the majority concentrated in the coastal cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.
- The oldest and largest city is Sydney, with a population of about 4.5 million people.
- Hobart is the second oldest city in Australia and home to much of our earliest architecture and intact colonial history.
- Melbourne is Australia’s second-largest city and was once the national capital.
- The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation’s capital in 1908 as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne. It is unusual among Australian cities as an entirely purpose-built, planned city.
Our vibrant cities best show off the Australian genius for blending a world of influence in lifestyle and culture. The eight capitals showcase our fresh and uniquely Australian style.
You can see it in our architecture; experience it in our cosmopolitan precincts, shops, theatres and bars; watch it in our people; taste it in our food; smell it in the scent of the ocean or the bush backdrops to all our great cities.
Typical city life reflects the vigour of a young, wealthy and ambitious nation combined with a relaxed and casual outlook, passion for local food and produce and a love for outdoor living and water-based recreation. It’s a heady mix that sparks great energy expressed by multicultural and cosmopolitan precincts, fabulous festivals and spectacular events.
Each of the capital cities is a reflection of our multicultural mix, ancestry, landscape and climate. From the vibrant Asian and Aboriginal influences of tropical Darwin to the convict-built buildings of Hobart; from the rich fashion, food and sports culture of Melbourne to the cutting edge of Sydney. While Canberra is home to a wealth of national institutions, Brisbane is laidback, Adelaide is elegant and Perth is a scenic city where water sports abound.
Here you can savour our great wines and unique menus, our history and the arts, or join in the relaxed and casual atmosphere by taking a ferry ride, enjoying our famous beaches, learning to surf or to cook seafood.
We welcome you to our cities to enjoy our lifestyle and to use them as a springboard for adventure – from whale watching and cruising, to island tours, bushwalks, hikes and easy access to hundreds of regions offering more from the kaleidoscope of life in Australia.
Check your diary and join in our love for major events and festivals. And there are many: from grand slams to grand finals; from writers' festivals to arts festivals. There are also the quirky fringe and comic festivals throughout the year as well as abundant food and wine celebrations. It’s worth checking the calendar of events to time your visit to perfection and be in town when the locals go partying.
Australian fashion designers are making their mark on the world's catwalks, so why not visit their boutiques along trendy shopping strips or be seen at a fashion festival.
Experience the icons from the inside. Many of our postcard locations, such as the Sydney Opera House, have behind-the-scenes tours which will give you a different view of the famous buildings and structures you instantly recognise as being Australian.
Explore our cities on some unusual transportation. Take a guided tour on the back of a Harley Davidson, hire a yacht and explore the city harbours or take a scenic flight in a seaplane for an entirely different perspective of our cities from above.
Immerse yourself in our culture and heritage and visit one of our many museums and art galleries. While you’re there, check out their great eateries and excellent gift shops.
Meet the locals after work for a drink or plate of tapas at some of the interesting little bars hidden in the laneways of our CBDs.
Catch a ferry with Sydney commuters whose passage to work each day is through the waterways of the world’s most beautiful harbour.
Learn to surf or sail at one of the many yachting and surf clubs that are part of our coastal cities’ landscapes. Or join the thousands who throng to the beach each weekend - not only to top up their tans but to chill out in some of Australia’s best restaurants.
Take a drive through suburbia and notice how different the architecture is in the various cities. Each has its own trademark and style, as do their CBDs.
Soak up the ambience of the Australian lifestyle in an open-air cafe dotted along one of the many bustling city streets.
Our cities are shop-till-you-drop destinations and there are many world-renowned Australian goods to consider for your shopping list - such as opals, pink diamonds and pearls. Australian bush clothing also has a reputation for excellent quality and is long-wearing, while street and beach wear designed in Australia for our relaxed lifestyle is now found all over the world. Aboriginal dot paintings, bark paintings, weaving and woodcarving are always popular purchases.
Originally published 4 August 2009.