The earliest settlers of Australia were the Aborigines who came from Southeast Asia more than 50,000 years ago. The Aborigines believe in Dreamtime, also called the Dreaming, which is characterized by an eternal spiritual cycle that runs parallel to the daily cycle of activities and is often more real than reality.
Today, the Aborigines live in harmonious co-existence with the descendants of the British immigrants and immigrants from 200 other countries. This wonderful hodgepodge has made Australians friendly and helpful toward neighbors and strangers alike, tolerant of diverse cultures and peoples, and adventurous in their souls with laidback attitudes.
The Australian geography continues to encourage more of its people to enjoy the wonders of the legendary Outback. Thus, be prepared for the sight of backpackers loaded with camping gear alongside men in suits with briefcases and locals in casual clothes.
Australia holds many world records. It is the smallest, flattest, and driest inhabited continent with the oldest soils in the world, not to mention the least fertile. Despite these limitations, however, Australia boasts of a megadiverse ecosystem because of the great diversity in geography and climate. Albeit, it possesses one of the world’s most unique ecosystems in that the majority of its flora and fauna are endemic to the country.
Australia boasts the Great Barrier Reef and Mount Augustus, the world’s largest coral reef and monolith, respectively. It also hosts 16 World Heritage Sites, some of which are home to koalas, kangaroos, wombats, platypuses, emus and kookaburras.
As befits its unique geography, Australia has a history all unto itself. During the last Ice Age, the Aboriginees came from Southeast Asia and brought with them their complex oral culture, belief in Dreamtime and reverence for nature. They were hunter-gatherers who subsisted on the land’s bounty.
In 1770, the claim of Captain James Cook on the land and the establishment of the continent as Britain’s penal colony signaled the beginning modern Australian history. It was characterized by birthing pains including the displacement of Aborigines from their homelands, the gold rush and the Eureka Rebellion, participation in World War I and the Statute of Westminster that gave Australia its independence from the United Kingdom.
Due to its ancient land and modern history, Australia offers the best of both worlds when it comes to its famous attractions. First, its natural attractions include the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef, Ayers Rock, Katherine Gorge, Arnherm Land, Gold Coast, Frasier Island, Monkey Mia and Bungle Bungles, to name few.
Second, its man-made structures like the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Coober Pedy, Australian Parliament House, the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia as well as the Australian Memorial War Memorial are popular tourist attractions.
For the wine connoisseurs, the Hunter Valley and the Barossa Valley are the rural places to be. Or if you want a taste of urban cosmopolitan Australian flair, then Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra are must-see cities.