Australia

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Australia is the only country that has a whole continent to itself. Although it is world famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries with vibrant, cosmopolitan cities such as Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.

Population: 22,262,501 people
Area: 7,741,220 km2
Highest point: 2,229 m
Coastline: 25,760 km
Life expectancy: 81.98 years
GDP per capita: $43,300
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About Australia

History

The continent of Australia was first settled more than 40,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration of Aboriginal peoples from south and south-east Asia. With rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and the Aboriginal tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on a close spiritual relationship with the land and nature, and extended kinship. Australian Aboriginal people maintained a hunter-gatherer culture for thousands of years in association with a complex artistic and cultural life - including a very rich 'story-telling' tradition. While the 'modern impression' of Australian Aboriginal people is largely built around an image of the 'desert people' who have adapted to some of the harshest conditions on the planet (equivalent to the bushmen of the Kalahari), Australia provided a 'comfortable living' for the bulk of the Aboriginal people among the bountiful flora and fauna on the Australian coast - until the arrival of Europeans.

Although a lucrative Chinese market for shells and beche de mere had encouraged Indonesian fishermen to visit Northern Australia for centuries it was unknown to Europeans until the 1600s, when Dutch traders to Asia began to 'bump' into the North Western Coast. Early Dutch impressions of this extremely harsh, dry country were unfavourable, and Australia remained for them something simply a road sign pointing north to the much richer (and lucrative) East Indies (modern Indonesia). Deliberate exploration of the Australian coast was then largely taken over by the French and the British. Consequently place names of bays, headlands and rivers around the coastline reflect a range of Dutch, French, British, and Aboriginal languages.

In 1770, the expedition of the Endeavour under the command of Captain James Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770. Cook continued northwards, and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York on 22 August 1770. Here he formally claimed the eastern coastline he had discovered for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. Given that Cook's discoveries would lead to the first European settlement of Australia, he is often popularly conceived as its European discoverer, although he had been preceded by more than 160 years.

Following the exploration period, the first British settlement in Australia was founded in 1788 at what is today Sydney, led by Captain Arthur Philip who became the first governor of the colony of New South Wales. This started a process of colonisation that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced indigenous populations drastically and marginalised them to the fringes of society. Originally comprising the eastern two-thirds of the continent, the colony of New South Wales was later split into several separate colonies, with Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen's Land) becoming a separate colony in 1825, followed by South Australia in 1836, New Zealand in 1841, Victoria in 1851 and Queensland in 1859. On the other hand, the western third of the continent was not settled by Europeans until the British established a naval base in Albany, then known as King George Sound in 1826. The Swan River Colony was formally established in 1829 at what is today Perth. The Swan River Colony was officially renamed Western Australia in 1832.

While Australia began its modern history as a British penal colony, the vast majority of people who came to Australia after 1788 were free settlers, mainly from Britain and Ireland, but also from other European countries. Convict settlements were mostly along the east coast, with scattered pockets of convict settlements in Western Australia. The state of South Australia, on the other hand, was settled entirely by free settlers. Many Asian and Eastern European people also came to Australia in the 1850s, during the Gold Rush that started Australia's first resource boom. Although such diverse immigration diminished greatly during the xenophobic years of the White Australia policy, Australia welcomed a successive series of immigration from Europe, the Mediterranean and later Asia to formulate a highly diverse and multicultural society by the late 20th century.

The system of separate colonies federated to form the self-governing British dominion of Australia in 1901, each colony now becoming a state of Australia, with New Zealand opting out of the federation. The new country took advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and made a large contribution (considering its small size of population) to the Allied war effort in World Wars I and II as part of the British Commonwealth forces. Australian troops also made a valuable, if sometimes controversial, contribution to the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Australian Diggers retain a reputation as some of the hardest fighting troops along with a great social spirit. Australia and Britain passed the Australia Act in 1986, ending any remnant power the British parliament may have had to pass laws for Australia, though the British queen remains the head of state with an appointed Governor-General as her representative in Australia.

Climate

As a large continent a wide variation of climates are found across Australia. Most of the country receives more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year. Generally, the north is hot and tropical, while the south tends to sub-tropical and temperate. Most rainfall is around the coast, and much of the centre is arid and semi-arid. The daytime maximum temperatures in the tropical city of Darwin rarely drop below 30°C (86°F), even in winter, while night temperatures in winter usually hover around 15-20°C (59-68°F). Australian winters tend to be milder than those at similar latitudes in the northern hemisphere, and snow never falls in most parts of the country. Temperatures in high altitude areas of some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter (and sometimes even in the summer) and the Snowy Mountains in the South East experiences metres of winter snow. Parts of Tasmania have a temperature range very similar to England, and it is not unheard of for snow to fall in the summer in some mountainous regions of the state.

As Australia is in the southern hemisphere the winter is June–August while December–February is summer. The winter is the dry season in the tropics, and the summer is the wet. In the southern parts of the country, the seasonal temperature variation is greater. The rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year in the southern parts of the East Coast, while in the rest of the south beyond the Great Dividing Range, the summers are dry with the bulk of the rainfall occurring in winter.

Geography

Australia is both the world's smallest continent and the sixth largest country with a land area of 7,682,300 square kilometres (2,966,152 square miles). It is comparable in size to the 48 contiguous United States although it has less than one tenth the population, with the distances between cities and towns easy to underestimate. Australia is bordered to the west by the Indian Ocean, and to the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, separating it from New Zealand, while the Coral Sea lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbours, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.

Australia is highly urbanised with most of the population heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Most of the inland areas of the country are semi-arid. The most-populous states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.

Australia has large areas that have been deforested for agricultural purposes, but many native forest areas survive in extensive national parks and other undeveloped areas. Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.

Activities

Swim

  • in the surf. Australia has seemingly endless sandy beaches. Follow the crowds to the world famous Bondi Beach in Sydney, or Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Or find a stretch all for yourself (but beware of dangerous rips on beaches, it is considerably safer to find a patrolled beach). The surf is smaller and warmer in the Tropical North, where the reef breaks the swell, and larger and colder in the south with waves rolling in from the Southern Ocean. (And yes, in the middle it is just right).
  • in calm tropical oceans. Cable Beach in Broome is swept pristine daily by the tide, has perfect sand, and warm water - go in winter.
  • in thermal pools. South of Darwin there are many natural thermal pools such as Berry Springs & Mataranka, surrounded by palms and tropical foliage. The most expensive resort in the world couldn't dream of making a pool this good.
  • in freshwater lakes. Inland Australia tends to be dry, but there are freshwater lakes where you would least expect them. Explore inland of Cairns at the Atherton Tablelands, or head outback to the Currawinya National Park.
  • in rivers. If its hot, and there is water, there will be a place to swim. Wherever you are, just ask around for the favourite swimming spot, with a waterhole and rope to swing on.
  • in man-made pools. The local swimming pool is often the hub of community life on a summer Sunday in the country towns of New South Wales and Victoria. Many of the beachside suburbs of Sydney have man made rock pools for swimming by the ocean beaches.
  • on the beach! Find your spot by the water, and get out the towel. Tropical north in the winter, down south in the summer. As always when in Australia, protect yourself from the sun.

Bushwalking

Bushwalking is a popular Australian activity. You can go bushwalking in the many National parks and rainforests.

Diving

  • Snorkelling take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef on the Queensland coast, or the Ningaloo Reef off the coast of Western Australia. Or take a trip out to Julian rocks off Byron Bay, or just dive in off the beach to see the tropical fish in Bundaberg.
  • Scuba Diving

Sports

  • Golf
  • Rock Climbing
  • Mountain Biking. Try the trails in the Snowy Mountains or black mountain in Canberra, or cycle for days along the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike trail in Western Australia.
  • Horse Riding. The horse has a rich tradition in the settlement of Australia since the arrival of the first European settlers. Relying on the horse to travel the vast distances and harsh environments of Australia was the foundation of a strong and lasting relationship between Australians and their horses. Today horse riding in Australia includes many recreational and occupational activities from cattle musters on vast stations, to the multi-million dollar racing industry. On the outskirts of towns and cities and out in the rural landscape, you will see the many pony paddocks and much loved horses that are a testament to the ongoing passion and commitment Australian horse owners have to their horses and the enjoyment they bring.

Ski

  • Skiing. New South Wales and Victoria have well developed ski facilities. Tasmania can also have skiing for a few months of the year, given the right weather.

See Winter sports in Australia

Thrill Activities

  • Sky Diving, all around Australia
  • Hot Air Ballooning, in Canberra, Brisbane or in the Red Centre.

Gamble

It has been said that if there are two flies crawling up a wall, then you just need to look around to find the Aussie who will be running a book.

  • Casinos. Crown Casino in Melbourne is Australia's largest, located at Southbank, but there are others scattered in every capital city as well as Cairns, Launceston, the Gold Coast and Townsville.
  • Day at the races. All capital cities have horse racing every weekend, with on-track and off-track betting available. They are usually family occasions, and fashion and being seen are part of the event. Just about every pub in New South Wales will have a TAB, where you can place a bet without leaving your chair at the bar. Greyhound racing and trotting happens in the evenings, usually with smaller crowds, more beer, and less fashion. Smaller country towns have race meetings every few months or even annually. These are real events for the local communities, and see the smaller towns come to life. Head outback to the Birdsville races, or if you find the streets deserted it is probably ten past three on the first Tuesday in November (the running of the Melbourne cup).
  • The unusual. Lizard races, cane toad races, camel races, crab races. Betting on these races is totally illegal and you'll find the TIB (Totally Illegal Betting) around the back of the shed.
  • Two up. If you are around for Anzac Day (25 April), then betting on coins thrown into the air will be happening at your local RSL club, wherever you are.
  • Australia has almost a quarter of all the slot machines (locally known as "pokies" or "poker machines") in the world, and more than half of these are in New South Wales, where most pubs and clubs have gaming rooms (labelled "VIP lounges" for legal reasons) where one can "have a slap" and go for the feature.
  • If none of this appeals, and you just have too much money in your pocket, every town and suburb in Australia has a TAB. Pick your sport, pick a winner, and hand over your money at the counter.

Gambling is illegal for under-18's. This can often restrict entry to parts of pubs, clubs, and casinos for children.

Food

Places to eat

  • Restaurants, Australians eat out frequently, and you will usually find one or two options to eat out even in small towns, with a wider range in larger towns and cities.
  • BYO restaurants, BYO stands for Bring Your Own (alcohol). In many of the urban communities of Australia you will find small low-cost restaurants that are not licensed to serve but allow diners to bring their own bottle of wine purchased elsewhere. This is frequently much cheaper than ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant. Beer can be taken to some BYO restaurants, others allow only wine. Expect to pay a corkage fee which can vary from $2–15, or may be calculated by head. BYO is not usually permitted in restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol.
  • Pubs, the counter lunch is the name for a lunch served in the bar of a pub. Traditionally served only at lunchtime in the lounge. Today most pubs provide lunch and dinner and many have a separate bistro or restaurant. Meals of steak, chicken parmigiana, nachos are common.
  • Clubs, clubs, such as bowling clubs, leagues clubs, RSLs are in many towns and cities. They are most common in the states of Queensland and New South Wales. Most allow visitors, and sometimes offer good value meals. Some offer attractive locations, like the water views from the Twin Towns in Tweed Heads.
  • Cafes, most towns and suburbs have a cafe or coffee shop, serving breakfast and light meals and cakes throughout the day. Not unusual for them to close before dinner.
  • Bakeries, usually a good place to buy bread rolls, a pie or a sausage roll. Some, like the Beechworth bakery, or the bakery in historic Gundagai offer an experience as well.
  • Fast food restaurants, McDonalds, Subway and KFC are common. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack's. Red Rooster is an Australian chain, offering barbecued chicken and other mostly chicken-based items.
  • Take-away, milk bars or take-away stores usually sell pies, barbecued (rotisserie) chicken, hamburgers, fish and chips, gyros, and kebabs. Ubiquitous in every town and suburb.
  • Food courts, most shopping centres have a food court, even in country towns.
  • Picnic, the Australian climate is usually amenable to getting whatever food you can, and heading to the nearest park, river, lake or beach.
  • Barbecue, is a popular Australian pastime and many parks in Australia provide free barbecues for public use. Contrary to the stereotype, Australians rarely "Throw a shrimp on the barbie" (also, in Australia a shrimp is more commonly referred to as a prawn). Steaks, chops, sausages, chicken fillets, fish, and kebabs are popularly barbecued.

Native foods

  • Kangaroo, if you fancy some, it is commonly available from most supermarkets and butchers shops. Head to the nearest park, and barbecue it until medium rare. Best not to overcook as it may become quite tough. It tastes much like beef. It occasionally makes it onto the menu in restaurants, mostly in tourist areas. Kangaroos aren't endangered, and kangaroo grazing does far less damage to the sensitive Australian environment than hoofed animals, and far less carbon emissions too. If you are not ready to go vegetarian, kangaroo is the best environmental statement you can make while barbecuing.
  • Crocodile, meat from farms in the Northern Territory and Queensland is widely available around the top end, and occasionally elsewhere. At Rockhampton, the beef capital of Australia, you can see the ancient reptile on a farm while munching on a croc burger.
  • Emu, yes, you can eat the Australian Coat of Arms. Emu is low in fat, and available in some speciality butchers. Try the Coat of Arms pie in Maleny on the Sunshine Coast.
  • Bush tucker, many tours may give you an opportunity to try some bush tucker, the berries, nuts, roots, ants, and grubs from Australia's native bush. Macadamia nuts are the only native plant to Australia that is grown for food commercially. Taste some of the other bush foods, and you will discover why.

Beyond cuisine

Vegemite, a salty yeast-based spread, best spread thinly on toast. If you aren't up for buying a jar, any coffee shop will serve vegemite on toast at breakfast time. It may not even be on the menu, but the vegemite will be out the back in the jar next to the marmalade. If you do buy a jar, the secret is it to spread it very thin, and don't forget the butter as well. It tastes similar to Marmite or Cenovis. Australians are quite used to the taste, and may spread the Vegemite very thick; but this is not recommended for first-timers.

The Tim-Tam is a chocolate fudge-filled sandwich of two chocolate biscuits, all dipped in chocolate. You can buy a packet (or two) from any supermarket or convenience store. Tim-Tams are required to perform the Tim-Tam Slam manoeuvre. This requires biting off both ends of the Tim-Tam, then using it as a straw to drink your favourite hot beverage, typically coffee. The hot drink melts the fudge centre and creates an experience hard to describe. Finesse is needed to suck the whole biscuit into your mouth in the microseconds between being fully saturated and dissolving. Tim-Tams are sold in packs of 11, so be sure to agree on the sharing arrangements before buying a packet with your travel partner, or onward travel arrangements may be disrupted. During summer, Tim-Tams are often stored in the freezer, and eaten ice cold.

The lamington is a cube of sponge cake covered in chocolate icing and dipped in desiccated coconut. It's named after Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. The home-baked form can be found at a local Saturday morning market, or you can buy one from a bakery if you are desperate. Avoid at all costs the plastic wrapped varieties sold in supermarkets.

The pavlova is a meringue cake with a cream topping usually decorated with fresh fruit. Served on special occasions, or after a lunchtime barbecue. Often the source of dispute with New Zealand over the original source of the recipe.

ANZAC biscuits are a mix of coconut, oats, flour, sugar and golden syrup. They were reputedly sent by wives and care organisations to world war soldiers in care packages, but the story is likely apocryphal. They are available from bakeries, cafes and supermarkets, and are popular in the lead up to ANZAC day (25 April).

Damper is a traditional soda bread that was baked by drovers and stockmen. It has basic ingredients (flour, water and perhaps salt) and usually cooked in the embers of a fire. It is not routinely available in bakeries and only commonly served to tourists on organised tours. Best eaten with butter and jam or golden syrup as it is dry and bland.

A pie floater is a South Australian dish available around Adelaide. It is a pie inverted in a bowl of thick mushy pea soup. Similar pie variations are sometimes available in other regions.

A Chiko roll is a deep-fried snack inspired by the egg roll or the spring roll. Despite the name, it contains no chicken. Its filling is boned mutton, vegetables, rice, barley, and seasonings. Its shell is thicker than an egg roll, meant to survive handling at football matches. Available anywhere you can buy fish and chips.

The Australian Meat Pie is considered to be the national dish by many.

Other cuisines

Cuisines widely available in Australia, often prepared by members of the relevant culture, include:

  • Chinese, synonymous with the term "takeaway" in the past generations. Many Chinese restaurants still cater to takeaway addicts today, mostly of the Australianized Chinese variety, but major cities have small "Chinatowns" or suburbs with a large number of ethnic Chinese residents, that have excellent restaurants serving authentic Chinese food.
  • Thai, especially in Sydney. As above, suburban Thai restaurants of indifferent quality are starting to replace the previous generation of Chinese restaurants of indifferent quality, but Australia also has excellent and authentic Thai restaurants.
  • Italian, the Italian community is one of the largest ethnic communities of non Anglo-Saxon origin in Australia, and they have contributed greatly to the cafe culture that has flourished across the major cities over the past few decades. Restaurants either serve Italian food that has been adapted to suit Australian tastes, or authentic regional Italian food, with the latter tending to be pricier and in more upmarket surrounds. Head to Lygon street in Melbourne if you're a fan.
  • Greek, as above.
  • Lebanese, especially in Sydney.
  • Indian, especially North Indian.
  • Japanese, including bento takeaway shops and sushi trains.
  • Vietnamese, although many are Vietnamese Chinese run and thus provide a more Chinese experience.
  • Asian fusion, refers generally to Asian-inspired dishes.

Vegetarian

Eating vegetarian is quite common in Australia and many restaurants offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes. Some will have an entire vegetarian menu section. Vegans may have more difficulty but any restaurant with a large vegetarian menu should offer some flexibility. In large cities you will find a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as well as in the coastal backpacker-friendly towns along the east coast. The market town of Kuranda or the seaside towns of Byron Bay are a vegetarian's paradise. In other regional areas vegetarians are often poorly catered for, but most towns will have a Chinese restaurant that will provide steamed rice and vegetables. Sydney and Melbourne in particular cater well for vegans and vegetarians with a large number of purely vegetarian restaurants, vegan clothing stores and vegan supermarkets.

Religious diets

People observing kosher or halal will easily be able to find specialist butchers in the capital cities, and will also find a number of restaurants with appropriate menus and cooking styles. Outside the capital cities, it will be much more difficult to find food prepared in a strict religious manner.

Markets

All of the capital cities and many regional towns in Australia host a "farmer's market", which is generally held each week in a designated area on a Saturday or Sunday. These markets mostly sell fresh fruits and vegetables, as hygiene standards in Australia forbid the selling of meat directly from market stalls. Butchers who set up shop at a farmer's market would usually trade their wares from a display cabinet within their boot (trunk). The attraction of markets is the lower prices and freshness of the produce. The attraction for the traveller will be the cheap and excellent fruits on offer - depending on the region and season. In regional areas the market is usually held outside the town itself in an empty paddock or sports field, markets in capital cities are easier to reach but the prices are typically more in line with those you would find in supermarkets. See the destination guides for details.

Drinks

Beer

Drinking beer is ingrained in Australian culture. Although Fosters is promoted as an Australian beer overseas, it is rarely consumed by Australians in Australia, and is almost impossible to find. Beers are strongly regional and every state has its own brews: Coopers and West End in South Australia, Carlton and VB in Victoria, Tooheys in NSW, XXXX (pronounced "fourex") in Queensland, Boags and Cascade in Tasmania, and Swan in Western Australia. There are also local microbrew choices, which can be harder to find, but are often worth seeking out. A range of imported European and American bottled beers are available in all but the most basic pub.

Light (Lite) beer refers to lower alcoholic content, and not lower calories. It has around half the alcohol of full strength beer, and is taxed at a lower rate, meaning it is also cheaper than full strength beer.

Because Australians like their beer to stay cold while they drink it, draft beer glasses come in a multitude of sizes, so that you can drink a whole glass before it warms up in the summer heat. The naming of beer glasses varies widely from state to state, often in confusing ways: a schooner is 425mL everywhere except South Australia, where it's only 285mL, a size that's known elsewhere as a middy or pot, except in Darwin where it's a handle, but in Adelaide a "pot" means a 570mL full pint, and a pint means what a schooner does elsewhere, and... you get the idea. The local beers and the local descriptions are covered in detail in the state guides.

Bottle naming is a little easier: the standard sizes across Australia are the 375 ml stubby and the 750mL long neck, or tallie. Cans of beer are known as tinnies and 24 of them make up a slab, box, carton, or a case.

Wine

Australia produces quality wine on a truly industrial scale, with large multinational brands supplying Australian bottleshops and exporting around the world. There are also a multitude of boutique wineries and smaller suppliers. Very good red and white wine can be bought very cheaply in Australia, often at less than $10 a bottle, and even the smallest shop could be expected to have 50 or more varieties to choose from.

The areas of the Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley, and Margaret River are particularly renowned for their wineries and opportunities for cellar door sampling, but northern Victoria and Mudgee, also have a large variety. You are never too far from a wine trail anywhere in southern Australia.

Try the local wines wherever you can find them, and ask for local recommendations. Try not to get taken in by the label, or the price tag. The best wine is rarely the one with the best artwork, or the most expensive price. However, it is probably wise to avoid the house wine if it comes straight from a cask (4-litre container). Wines at the cellar door are almost invariably sold at around 20% premium to the same wine in the shops in the local town.

If you still prefer overseas wines, the Marlborough region of New Zealand is usually well represented on wine lists and in bottle shops in Australia.

See also Grape grazing in Australia.

Spirits

Bundaberg Rum (Bundy) is an Australian dark rum particularly popular in Queensland and many Queenslanders will not touch any other brand of rum. It is probably the most famous Australian made spirit, mass-produced in Bundaberg and available everywhere.

You will have to search much harder to find other Australian distilled spirits, mostly from niche players, but there are distilleries in every state of Australia if you look hard enough. Drop into the Lark Distillery on the scenic Hobart waterfront precinct. Pick up a bottle of 151 East Vodka in Wollongong or after a few days in Kununurra you are definitely going to need an Ord River Rum.

Mixed drinks are also available, particularly vodka, scotch, bourbon and other whiskey mixers. Jim Beam bourbon is the most commonly drunk, so those from Kentucky should feel right at home. Spirits are also available as pre-mixed bottles and cans but are subject to higher taxation in this form, so it is cheaper to mix them yourself. Spirits are served in all pubs and bars, but not in all restaurants. A basic spirit and mixer (vodka and orange juice for example) will cost you about $7 at a bar or nightclub, but can vary ~$5–12.

Legal aspects

The legal drinking age throughout Australia is 18 years. It is illegal either to purchase alcohol for yourself if you are under 18 years of age or to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18 years of age. The only legally acceptable proof-of-age is an Australian drivers licence, state-issued proof-of-age card or a passport, and it would be wise to carry one if you want to purchase alcohol or tobacco and look under 25. It is illegal to go into a gambling area of a pub or club when under 18.

Often there is a lounge, restaurant or bistro area in a pub or club that permits under-age people provided they are accompanied by a responsible adult over 18 and don't approach the bar or wander around. Some city pubs even have video games and playgrounds for children. Some country pubs have large open areas out in the back where kids can run and play.

In general, you can take alcohol (say a bottle of wine or beer) to consume at a park or beach. Alcohol consumption is banned in some public places as 'street drinking'. These are often indicated by signs and is particularly the case in parks and footpaths where public drunkenness has been a problem. However, if you are a family with your picnic basket and blanket out at lunchtime with a bottle of wine, you are unlikely to encounter any problems.

Alcohol can be purchased for consumption on premises only in licensed venues: pubs, clubs and many restaurants. You can purchase alcohol for private consumption in bottle shops, which are separate stores selling bottled alcohol. In some but not all states you can buy alcohol in supermarkets. In those states where you can't, bottle shops and major supermarkets are often found in very close proximity. Although licensing laws and hours vary from state to state, and individual stores have different trading hours, as a rule of thumb, alcohol is generally available in towns to take-away seven days a week, 08:00-23:00, from bottle shops, supermarkets, licensed grocers/milk-bars and pubs. Outside of these hours though, it is almost impossible to buy alcohol to take home; unless you're in the middle of Sydney or Melbourne, so if you're planning on a party at home; it's a good idea to stock up and check on the local trading hours so you don't run out at 00:30 with no opportunity to buy more. Alcohol is not available at petrol stations or 24-hour convenience stores anywhere in Australia.

Public drunkenness varies in acceptability. You will certainly find a great deal of it in close proximity to pubs and clubs at night time but much less so during the day. Public drunkenness is an offence but you would only likely ever be picked up by the police if you were causing a nuisance. You may spend the night sobering up in a holding cell or be charged.

Driving while affected by alcohol is both stigmatized and policed by random breath testing police patrols in Australia, as well as being inherently dangerous. Drink driving is a very serious offence in Australia, punishable by a range of mechanisms including loss of license. The acceptable maximum blood alcohol concentration is 0.05% in all states, often lower or not allowed for operators of heavy vehicles and young or novice drivers. Police officers are also empowered to randomly test drivers for the recent use of prohibited drugs. The operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of prohibited drugs or alcohol will always result in arrest and a required court appearance many weeks from the date of arrest and it can comprehensively disrupt travel plans. Random breath testing is common early Saturday and Sunday mornings, and many people are caught the morning after.

A shout

Buying a round of drinks is a custom in Australia, as in many corners of the world. It is generally expected in a pub that when you arrive and make your first trip to the bar that you will offer to buy a drink for others you are drinking with. Similarly this will likely be done to you when someone else joins the group. This is called a shout, and incurs an obligation that you will generally return the favour in a following round, and that also you will generally maintain the same drinking pace as your associates in the round throughout the evening. If someone in the same round as you has an empty glass, who is ahead of you in drinks bought, you should declare that it is your shout, and make your way to the bar. If someone offers to buy you a drink, but does not offer to buy for the person who already has bought you a drink, you should say you are already in a shout, and decline. If they buy you and the people in your round a drink, they have joined the shout. Its generally not polite to switch between shouts during an evening. It you are in a large shout, and you decline a drink, you still have to buy a drink for the round when it comes to your turn. You are well advised if you wish to skip a round, to do so on your shout. It is generally poorly received to buy a round, and then to refuse a drink when one is purchased for you. Often the drink will just be bought for you without even asking. Don't be surprised if someone who bought you a drink earlier in the night, later says that it is your shout. Not joining a shout can be awkward in some groups. The best way is to say you are driving, and you will buy your own drinks. This is also an acceptable way to drop out after one round, when the score is even.

Shopping

Money

The Australian currency is known as the dollar ($), which is divided into 100 cents (¢). The dollar is called 'the Australian dollar' usually written as 'AUD' or A$.

Coins come in denominations of 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1 and $2, while notes come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Australian notes are printed on plastic polymer rather than paper. If the total of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents the amount will be rounded to the nearest five cents if you are paying in cash. The exact amount will be charged if paying by card.

The dollar is not pegged to any other currency, and is highly traded on world foreign exchange markets, particularly by currency speculators. Its exchange value to other currencies can be quite volatile, and 1-2% changes in a day are reasonably regular occurrences.

Currency Exchange

Money changers in Australia operate in a free market, and charge a range of flat commissions, percentage fees, undisclosed fees built into the exchange rate, or a combination of all three. You can avoid excessive rip-off rates by using banks in major centres, and staying clear of airports and tourist centres. However, both the best and worst rates come from the small private sellers, and you can certainly save money over the banks by shopping around. Always get a quote before changing money. You'll usually need to have photo identification with you, although you may be exempt if only changing a small amount.

Dedicated currency exchange outlets are widely available in major cities, and banks can also exchange most non-restricted currencies. These exchange outlets - especially the ones at the airport - can charge 10% over the best exchange that can be obtained from shopping around. Australian banks usually offer an exchange rate around 2.5% from the current exchange midpoint. A flat commission of $5–8 can be charged on top. Some outlets advertise commission free exchange, usually accompanied by a worse rate of exchange. Don't assume every bank will offer the same exchange. A simple calculation will let you know what offers the best deal for amount you wish to exchange. There are vouchers for commission free exchange at American Express available in the tourist brochure at Sydney Airport.

International airport terminals will have teller machines that can dispense Australian currency with Cirrus, Maestro, MasterCard or Visa cards.

Banking

Opening an Australian bank account is fairly straightforward, and in some cases can be done online. You will need to provide evidence of your identity, such as a passport, to the bank in order for your application to be processed. The "Big four" retail banks in Australia are National Australia Bank (NAB), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank and Westpac.

Cash dispensing Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in almost every Australian town. Australian ATMs are deregulated and may impose a surcharge over what is charged by your bank or card issuer. The fees can vary between institutions and between locations, but are usually around $2. The ATM will display the charges and you will have the option to stop the transaction before you are charged. Check with your bank as to what additional fees they apply to withdrawals in Australia.

Costs

Australia is generally an expensive place to visit due to the strength of the Australian dollar and economy. Some recent surveys have ranked Australia as the third most expensive country in the world in terms of consumer prices, only behind Norway and Switzerland.

Dorm accommodation in a capital city is around $30, but can run as low as $15 in Cairns or cheaper backpacker centres. A basic motel in the country or in the capital city suburbs would cost around $100 for a double. City Centre hotel accommodation in capital cities can be obtained for around $150 upwards for a double. Formule 1/Motel 6 style hotels (which are not common) can be around $60–90 for a double.

Car hire will cost around $65 a day. Public transport day passes from $10–20 per day depending on the city.

A café meal costs around $10–15, and a main course in a restaurant goes from around $17 upwards.

A basic takeaway meal - a burger, fancy sandwich, or couple of slices of pizza would cost $5–10, a Big Mac costs $4.50, and you can usually grab a pie for around $3, or a sausage roll for $2.50. A takeaway pizza from Pizza Hut big enough to feed two costs around $10.

A middy/pot (285mL) of house beer will cost you around $4, and a glass of house wine around $6 in a low end pub. To take away, a case of 24 cans of beer will cost around $40, or a bottle of wine around $8.

An airfare between neighbouring eastern capitals is around $120 each way but can get as low as $60 if you book at the right time, or around $350 to cross the country assuming that you are flexible with dates and book in advance. A train trip on the state run trains will usually cost slightly less. A bus trip, a little less again. A train trip on the private trains will be the most expensive way to travel.

There is usually no admission charge to beaches or city parks. Some popular National Parks charge between $10 and $20 per day (per car, or per person depending on the state) while more out of the way National Parks are free. Art Galleries and some attractions are free. Museums generally charge around $10 per admission. Theme parks charge around $70 per person.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. Almost all large vendors such as supermarkets accept cards, as do many small stores. Australian debit cards can also be used via a system known as EFTPOS. Any card showing the Cirrus or Maestro logos can be used at any terminal displaying those logos. The use of credit or debit cards for transactions under around A$5.00 is generally discouraged, and some stores may even have a minimum purchase amount to use a credit or debit card.

VISA or MasterCard are the most universally accepted cards, then American Express, then Diners Club with other cards either never or very rarely accepted. American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarket and department store chains, however be aware that restaurants and many tourist destinations will often add a relatively high surcharge fee on top.

Credit card surcharges are imposed at all car rental agencies, travel agents, airlines, and at some discount retailers and service stations. Surcharges are far more common for American Express and Diners Club (typically 2%-4%) than they are for VISA and MasterCard (typically 1.5%).

Haggling

Bargaining is uncommon in Australian stores, though vendors are usually willing to meet or beat a quote or advertised price from a competing retailer. It's also worth asking for a "best price" for high-value goods or purchases involving several items. For example, it would not be unusual to get 10% off an item of jewelry that was not already reduced in price. The person you are dealing with may have limited authority to sell items at anything other than the marked price.

Tipping

Tipping is never compulsory and is usually not expected in Australia. Staff are seen to be paid an appropriate wage and will certainly not chase you down for a tip. It is acceptable to pay the amount stated on the bill. When Australians do tip, it will often be in the form of leaving the change from a cash payment (usually as a convenience so the change does not hang around loose on someone's person - not as a gratuity), rather than a fixed percentage.

In a suburban or country restaurant where table service is offered, they will certainly take a tip of 5–10% should you decide to leave one, but it is almost always not expected, and locals usually do not leave any. In a cafe or more informal restaurant, even with table service, and even in tourist centres, leaving a tip is unusual. Sometimes there is a coin jar by the cashier labelled 'Tips', but more often than not, diners do not leave one.

Tipping is also not expected in taxis, and drivers will typically return your change to the last 5 cents, unless you indicate that they should round the fare to the nearest dollar (it is not unusual for passengers to instruct the driver to round up to the next whole dollar).

Trading hours

Australia's base trading hours are Monday to Friday, 09:00-17:00. Shops usually have a single night of late night trading, staying open until 21:00 on Fridays in most cities and on Thursdays in Brisbane and Sydney. Sunday trading is common but does not exist in all rural areas. Opening hours beyond these base hours vary by the type of store, by location, and by state. See our localised guides for more local information.

Major supermarket chains in main centres are generally open at least until 21:00. Smaller convenience stores like 7/11 are open 24 hours in major centres. Fast Food restaurant chains are commonly open 24 hours or at least very late.

Fuel/Service stations are open 24 hours in major centres, but often close at 6pm and on Sundays in country towns.

Australia's weekend is on Saturday and Sunday of each week. Retail trading is now almost universal in larger cities on weekends, although with slightly reduced hours. Again, Western Australia is an exception with restrictions on large stores opening on Sundays. In smaller country towns shops are closed on Sundays and often also on Saturday afternoons.

Tourist-oriented towns and shops may stay open longer hours. Tourist areas within cities, such as Darling Harbour in Sydney has longer trading hours every night.

Australian banks are open Monday-Friday 09:00-16:00 only, often closing at 17:00 on Fridays. Cash is available through Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) 24 hours, and currency exchange outlets have extended hours and are open on weekends.

Tax

Australia has a 10% sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax or GST that applies to all goods and services except unprocessed foods, education and medical services. GST is always included in the price of any item you purchase rather than being added at the time of payment except in rare circumstances where it will state Excludes GST

Receipts (tax invoices) will contain the GST amount, which is one eleventh of the total value of taxable supplies.

Sales tax refunds

If you buy items over $300 at one place at one time you can obtain a refund of the GST if you take the items out of Australia within 30 days. Pack the items in hand luggage, and present the item(s) and the receipt at the TRS, after immigration and security when leaving Australia. Also allow an extra 15 minutes before departure. The refund payment can be made by either cheque, credit to an Australian bank account, or payment to a credit card. There is no refund available for services.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Australia on Wikivoyage.

Popular cities in Australia

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Melbourne is Australia's second largest city, and the capital of the south-eastern state of Victoria, located at the head of Port Phillip Bay. Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital, with Victorian-era architecture, extensive shopping, museums, galleries, theatres, and large parks and gardens. Many of its ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Federation Square
  • St Paul\'s Cathedral
  • Block Arcade
  • Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
  • Eureka Tower
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Surfers Paradise is the capital of the Gold Coast, and one of the largest tourist destinations in Australia. Set on miles of ocean surf beach, Surfers has more going on than just the waves. From the high rise apartments that line the shore, to the the nightclubs, pubs and late night shopping lining the mall, ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Surfers Paradise Beach
  • Cavill Avenue
  • Chevron Renaissance
  • Adrenalin Park
  • Ripley\'s Believe It or Not
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Port Douglas is a coastal resort town north of Cairns, near the Daintree National Park.

Interesting places:

  • Marina Mirage
  • St Mary\'s by the Sea Chapel
  • Wildlife Habitat
  • Anzac Park
  • Sugar Wharf
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Byron Bay is a coastal town in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, located just off the Pacific Highway, approximately 800 km north of Sydney and 175 km south of Brisbane. Nearby Cape Byron is the easternmost point on the Australian mainland.

Interesting places:

  • Cape Byron Lighthouse
  • Wategos Beach
  • Kings Beach
  • Belongil Beach
  • Tallow Beach
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Sydney is the Harbour City. It is the largest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia with an enviable reputation as one of the world's most beautiful and liveable cities. Brimming with history, nature, culture, art, fashion, cuisine, design, it is set next to miles of ocean coastline and sandy surf ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Circular Quay
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Government House
  • Customs House
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Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia. It lies on the eastern shores of Gulf St Vincent in the central, southern part of the Australian continent. Adelaide is Australia's fifth largest city, with a population of over 1.2 million. More than three quarters of South Australians live in the Adelaide ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Adelaide Festival Centre
  • South Australian Museum
  • Government House
  • University of Adelaide
  • Art Gallery of South Australia
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Laid back and unpretentious, Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and other destinations such as Kuranda and the Daintree rainforest in Far North Queensland, Australia. Its 150,000 residents are regularly outnumbered by domestic and international visitors, with the tropical sunshine and relaxed ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Esplanade Lagoon
  • Reef Hotel Casino
  • Reef Fleet Terminal
  • Cairns Esplanade
  • Center of Contemporary Arts
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Brisbane is the capital of the state of Queensland. It has a population of about 2 million people, making it the third-largest city in Australia, after Sydney and Melbourne. It’s a positive attitude and creative confidence that makes Brisbane a genuine new-world city. Large enough to be cosmopolitan yet small ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Queen Street Mall
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • Brisbane Parliament House
  • Eagle Street Pier
  • Treasury Casino
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Darwin, a small yet cosmopolitan city, is the tropical capital city of the Northern Territory. People from more than 50 nations make up its population of 110,000. It is located on the Northern Territory coast (in north-central Australia), with the Timor Sea (a branch of the Indian Ocean) to the west, and the ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Parliament House
  • Government House
  • Smith Street Mall
  • Mindil Beach
  • Darwin Convention Centre
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Noosa is one of the major draws of Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Low rise resorts, upmarket shopping and dining line the sheltered beaches, waterways and parks.

Interesting places:

  • Noosa Beach
  • Noosa National Park
  • Noosa Springs Golf Club
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States in Australia

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Popular cities:

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Points of Interest in Australia

There is much to see in Australia that you can't see easily in its natural setting anywhere else:

Wildlife

Australian flora and fauna is unique to the island continent, the result of having been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Amongst Australian animals are a large group of marsupials (mammals with a pouch) and monotremes (mammals that lay eggs). Just some of the animal icons of Australia are the kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala. A visit to Australia would not be complete without taking the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment.

Wildlife parks and zoos

  • Wildlife parks and zoos are in every state capital city, but also check out the animal parks if you are passing through smaller towns, like Mildura or Mogo, or staying on Hamilton Island. See the Warrawong Fauna Sanctuary if you are in South Australia, or visit the koalas with best view in the world, at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

In the wild

  • Kangaroos and wallabies are in national parks all around Australia. You won't see any kangaroos hopping down the street in Central Sydney, but they're common on the outskirts of most urban areas.
  • Wombats and echidnas are also common, but harder to find due to their camouflage and tunnelling. See lots of echidnas on Kangaroo Island.
  • Koalas are present in forests around Australia, but are notoriously very hard to spot, and walking around looking upwards into the boughs of trees will usually send you sprawling over a tree root. Best seen during the day, there is a thriving and friendly population on Raymond Island near Paynesville in Victoria. You have a good chance on Otway Coast, on the Great Ocean Road, or even in the National Park walk near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
  • Emus are more common in central Australia. You will certainly see some if you venture into the outback national park at Currawinya
  • Platypus are found in reedy, flowing creeks with soft river banks in Victoria, Southern New South Wales, and the very southern region of Queensland - seen at dusk and dawn - you have to have a bit of luck to see one. Try the platypus reserves in Bombala or Delegate in New South Wales, or in Emu Creek at Skipton just out of Ballarat.

Convict sites

Much of Australia's modern history was as a penal colony for convicts from the United Kingdom, and there are many historical sites that still stand as a reminder from the days of convict transportation. Perhaps the most famous of these sities are Port Arthur, Tasmania, as well as Fremantle Prison in Fremantle, located near Perth, Western Australia. There are also many other sites scattered throughout the country.

Landmarks

Australia has many landmarks, famous the world over. From Uluru in the red centre, to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in Sydney.

The unusual

See some of the Big things in Australia.

Sports

Sport is an integral part of the Australian culture from the capital cities to country towns. The majority of games are played over the weekend period (from Friday night to Monday night). Australian sports fans are generally well behaved, and it is not uncommon for fans of two opposing teams to sit together during a match, even if the teams are bitter rivals. While the cheering can get really passionate, actual crowd violence is extremely rare.

  • In the winter in Victoria Aussie Rules (Australian Rules Football) is more than just a sport, it is a way of life. Catch a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The national competition has teams from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and the Gold Coast as well.
  • In summer, international cricket is played between Australia and at least two touring sides. The games rotate around all the capital cities. To experience the traditional game catch the New Year's test match at the Sydney cricket ground played for 5 days starting from the 2nd of January, or the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne. Or for a more lively entertaining form, that only takes a few hours, try a twenty-twenty match. The final form is "One Day" Cricket, international matches generally start at 13:00 and finish at 22:00 or 23:00 (a "Day-Nighter"), with most domestic and occasional international matches played from 11:00 to 18:00. The Australia Day One Day International is held in Adelaide every 26 January.
  • The Australian Open, one of the tennis Grand Slams, is played annually in Melbourne. Or the Medibank International in Sydney Olympic Park in January.
  • Catch a rugby union Super Rugby game, with teams playing from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney during late Summer/Autumn. The Australian national team, the Wallabies, also host international teams during winter, including New Zealand, South Africa and (starting in 2012) Argentina for The Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri Nations tournament).
  • Rugby League is a winter game played mainly in New South Wales and Queensland, with the National Rugby League competition. Teams include Melbourne in Victoria, Brisbane, North Queensland and the Gold Coast in Queensland, a team from New Zealand, with the rest of the teams coming from suburban areas in Sydney, and some in regional areas of New South Wales such as Newcastle and Canberra.
  • Netball is Australia's largest female sport, and there are weekly games in an international competition between Australia and New Zealand teams.
  • Football (Soccer) is a small event by European standards, but there is a national A-League, which is a fully professional league involving teams from Australia and one from New Zealand, with games played weekly during the summer. Most cities have a semi-professional "state league" played during winter, with most clubs being built around a specific ethnic/migrant community.
  • F1 Grand Prix The Melbourne Grand Prix in March takes place on a street circuit around Albert Park Lake, only a few kilometres south of central Melbourne. It is used annually as a racetrack for the Australian Grand Prix and associated support races.

Itineraries

  • Gibb River Road
  • Gunbarrel Highway
  • Oodnadatta Track
  • Stuart Highway: crossing Australia north-south
  • Military museums and sites in Australia

Circular Quay - Sydney

Overseas Passenger Terminal - The Rocks

St Paul\'s Cathedral - Melbourne

Luna Park - Milsons Point

Adelaide Festival Centre - Adelaide

Sydney Entertainment Centre - Haymarket

Queen Street Mall - Brisbane

Wheel of Brisbane - South Brisbane

Swan Bells Belltower - Perth

Surfers Paradise Beach - Surfers Paradise

Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex - Southbank

Round House - Fremantle

Sydney Harbour Bridge - Sydney

Sydney Opera House - Sydney

Government House - Sydney

Customs House - Sydney

Federation Square - Melbourne

Sydney Tower - Sydney

St. James Church - Sydney

Museum of Sydney - Sydney

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