Australia’s flora and fauna are unique to the island continent, the result of millions of years of isolation from the rest of the world. Australian animals include a large group of marsupials (pocket mammals) and monotremes (egg-laying mammals). The kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala are just a few of Australia’s animal icons. A visit to Australia would not be complete without the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment.
Nature parks and zoos
- Wildlife parks and zoos can be found in every state capital, but you can also visit the zoos if you’re passing through smaller towns like Mildura or Mogo, or if you’re staying on Hamilton Island. Visit the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary if you’re in South Australia, or see the world’s most beautiful koalas at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
In the wild
- Kangaroos and wallabies can be found in national parks all over Australia. You won’t see kangaroos on the streets of central Sydney, but they are common in the outskirts of most urban areas.
- Wombats and echidnas are also common, but harder to find due to their camouflage and presence in tunnels. You can see many echidnas on Kangaroo Island.
- Koalas are native to the forests of Australia, but they are notoriously difficult to spot. If you look up through the branches of trees, they are usually lying on a tree root. Mostly you see them during the day, but there is a thriving and friendly population on Raymond Island, near Paynesville in Victoria. You have good chances on the Otway Coast on the Great Ocean Road, or also in the Walking National Park near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
- Emus are more common in central Australia. You are sure to see them if you venture into the Outback National Park in Currawinya.
- Platypuses can be found in reedy creeks on the gentle banks of the Victoria River, in southern New South Wales and the very southern part of Queensland – they can be seen at dusk and dawn – you have to be lucky to see one. Try the platypus reserves at Bombala or Delegate in New South Wales or Emu Creek in Skipton, near Ballarat.
For much of Australia’s modern history, the United Kingdom was a penal colony for condemned prisoners, and there are many historic sites that still commemorate the time when condemned prisoners were transported. Perhaps the most famous of these sites are Port Arthur in Tasmania and Fremantle Prison in Fremantle, near Perth, Western Australia. There are also many other sites scattered around the country.
Australia has many landmarks that are famous around the world. From Uluru, the Red Centre, to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
Sport is an integral part of Australian culture, from the capital to the countryside. This is evidenced by the fact that despite its relatively small population, Australia is one of the top performing teams at the Olympic Games. Most of the games take place on weekends (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 cheering can get really passionate, actual crowd violence is extremely rare.
- In winter in the state of Victoria, Australian football (Aussie Rules, or simply “footy” in some areas) is more than a sport, it’s a way of life. Watch a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Although it originated and is popular in Victoria, the main national competition, the Australian Football League (AFL), features teams from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast. The AFL Grand Final, held annually at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in late September or early October, is one of the most important events in the Australian sporting calendar.
- International cricket is played in the summer between Australia and at least two touring teams. The matches revolve around all the capital cities. To experience the traditional game, check out the 5-day New Year’s Eve Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground from 2 January or the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne. Or for a livelier and more entertaining form that only lasts a couple of hours, try a Twenty-two-a-side match. The final form is One Day Cricket, international matches usually start at 1pm and finish at 10pm or 11pm (a ‘day-nighter’), with most domestic and occasionally international matches being played from 11am to 6pm. The Australia Day One Day International is held every 26 January in Adelaide. The Ashes is a series of five Test matches played between the Australian and British national teams. It takes place in Australia every three or four years and is one of the highlights of the cricket calendar. Whenever Australia hosts the series, the five matches take place in the five largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
- The Australian Open, one of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments, is held every year at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Or the Medibank International in Sydney Olympic Park in January.
- Attend a Union Super Rugby match featuring teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney in late summer/autumn. The Australian national team, the Wallabies, also hosts international teams including New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina for the Rugby Championship (formerly the Three Nations Tournament) in the winter.
- Rugby League is a winter game played mainly in New South Wales and Queensland, with the National Rugby League (NRL) being the main competition. Teams include Melbourne in Victoria, Brisbane, North Queensland and the Gold Coast in Queensland, one team from New Zealand, with the remaining teams coming from the Sydney suburbs and some from regional areas of New South Wales such as Newcastle and Canberra. The competition culminates in the NRL Grand Final, held annually at Stadium Australia in Sydney.
- Netball is Australia’s biggest women’s sport and there are weekly matches in an international competition between teams from Australia and New Zealand.
- Football is a booming sport that aspires to European levels. Many immigrants and second-generation Australians come from European countries where the passion for the sport is very strong. The Australian national team (the Socceroos) won the Asian Cup for the first time in 2015 and has greatly increased the visibility of the sport. There is a national A-League, a fully professional league with teams from Australia and New Zealand, with weekly matches during the summer. Most cities have a semi-professional “state league” played in the winter. Most clubs are built around a specific ethnic/migrant community, for example one club from the Newcastle League, Broadmeadow Magic, built around the cities’ Macedonian population.
- F1 Grand Prix The Melbourne Grand Prix in March is held on a road course around Lake Albert Park, just a few kilometres south of Melbourne city centre. It is used every year as the circuit for the Australian Grand Prix and associated companion races.
- V8 Supercars are a popular, Australian-only form of motorsport featuring powerful cars, comparable to NASCAR racing in the United States. Races are held around the country between March and early December. The famous Bathurst 1000 traditionally takes place in October.
- Gibb River Road
- Gun Highway
- Oodnadatta track
- Stuart Highway: Crosses Australia from north to south
- Museums and Military Sites in Australia