Australia really is like nowhere else on Earth. A giant island afloat in the Great Southern Ocean, cut off from the rest of the world for millennia, this most ancient of continents has long hidden its startling physical beauty and remarkable native wildlife from the rest of the world. Inhabited by Aboriginal people who have coexisted with the land for more than 40,000 years, it was into this pristine wilderness that the British first arrived in 1788. With its proximity to the Asian trading routes, and its isolated geography, Australia was the perfect penal colony for Britain’s overcrowded shores. For the next 100 years, this beguiling land remained the haunt of convicts, explorers and spirited free settlers, who together with growing bands of intrepid gold-miners, pearlers, farmers and traders, forged an Australian spirit that is characterized by independence, irreverence, and a good dose of humor.
Despite its transformation from wild hinterland into a sophisticated and glamorous nation, the land and the spirit of Australia still have the power to captivate you like nowhere else. With a population of only 23 million and a landmass almost the size of America, this is a vast, untamed land where you can always find room to get off the beaten track and chance upon the unexpected – as well as being peppered for choice in sensational cities like Sydney and Melbourne.