Nestled between the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, Australia is the largest country in Oceania and the sixth-largest country in the world by land area. But that’s just the start of the many unique and curious facets of this ancient land. From its one-of-a-kind wildlife species to the world’s largest reef and the planet’s oldest civilization, here are eight fascinating facts that you might not know about Australia.
It Would Take Three Decades to Visit All of the Country’s Beaches
Whether for surfing, barbecuing, or just to catch some rays, beach culture is fundamental to the Australian lifestyle. And with a coastline that stretches for 37,282 miles, it will come as no surprise that the country has its fair share of beaches. The official estimate is that there are almost 12,000 beaches in Australia. If you were to visit one a day, it would take you approximately 32 years to see them all. From the sugary white sands of Whitehaven Beach and the kangaroo-inhabited Lucky Bay to the pounding surf at Bondi Beach and Bells Beach, there’s a beach spot for all tastes.
Australia Is Home to the World’s Oldest Civilization
While the first documented European landing in Australia was by Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon in 1606, the continent had already been inhabited for tens of thousands of years by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2016, an extensive DNA study by Cambridge University deduced that Aboriginal Australians are the world’s oldest civilization. Indigenous Australian and Papuan ancestral groups migrated to Sahul (a prehistoric subcontinent made up of present-day Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania) about 50,000 years ago. Rising sea levels later caused the separation of the islands and consequently forced the Aboriginal peoples into genetic isolation.
Uluru — the World's Largest Monolith — Extends for Over 1.5 Miles Underground
The most sacred site in Aboriginal culture is the huge red sandstone monolith known as Uluru (or Ayers Rock). The largest monolith in the world, this emblematic landmark of the Australian Outback rises 1,142 feet above its desolate desert surroundings. But what’s perhaps more impressive is that it’s estimated to extend for more than 1.5 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, almost like an iceberg on land. The Anangu people are the traditional owners of this 500-million-year-old rock and consider it to be a resting place of ancient spirits.
Australia Has 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
From natural wonders to architectural masterpieces, Australia has an impressive 19 properties on UNESCO’s World Heritage List — more than either Greece or Turkey. You may already be familiar with several of them which rank among the country’s most popular tourist attractions. No visit to Australia would be complete without catching a show at the Sydney Opera House or touring Melbourne’s Carlton Gardens. Visitors can also get a taste of Australia’s natural beauty at places such as the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and Fraser Island. Or catch a glimpse into the nation’s past as a penal colony at the Australia Convict Sites.
Highway 1 Is One of the Longest Highways on the Planet
With wide open roads running along meandering coastlines, cutting through vast deserts, and crossing mountainous terrain, Australia is a dream destination for a road trip. Highway 1 (nicknamed the Big Lap) is a 9,010-mile-long road that follows the coastline in one enormous loop. It connects almost all of Australia’s major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, and Brisbane. It’s also the second-longest highway in the world, after the Pan-American Highway. One of the many fascinating sections of the highway is the “90 Mile Straight.” This perfectly straight stretch passes through the flat, tree-less landscapes of the Nullarbor Plain between Balladonia and Caiguna, in Western Australia.
More Than 60 Wine Regions Dot the Country
When European settlers such as Gregory Blaxland and George Wyndam planted some of the first grapes in Australia in the early 1800s, they were probably unaware that they were laying the foundations for one of the world’s largest wine producers. Today, Australia is home to 65 individual wine regions and around 2,400 wineries. The country grows more than 100 grape varieties — including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and merlot — and produces approximately 360,000 gallons of wine annually. Wine lovers can indulge in tours and tastings all around the country — most notably in the Adelaide Hills, Barossa, Margaret River, and Mornington Peninsula regions.
Around 80% of Australia’s Fauna and Flora Is Unique to the Country
Australia has some of the cutest, most unique, and most venomous animals on the planet. In fact, thanks to its isolated island geography, over 80% of the country’s plants and animals can only be found here. Spotting cuddly koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats often features high on tourists’ bucket lists. Many also hope to spot the notoriously feisty Tasmanian devil, the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, and the rainforest-dwelling and sound-mimicking lyrebird. Meanwhile, other national animals strike fear into tourists — Australia has approximately 100 venomous snakes.
Australia Boasts the World’s Longest Golf Course
Golfers with time to spare can play an 18-hole, par-72 course that spans two Australian states. Starting in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, the Nullarbor Links feature one hole at each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, before finishing 848 miles away in Ceduna, South Australia. The course incorporates the rugged outback terrain of the Nullarbor Plain, and play can often be interrupted by kangaroos and wombats. Golfers should set aside four days to complete the entire course, and clubs are available for rent at each course (for those who don’t wish to carry them for the multi-day journey).