Australia's biggest attraction is its natural beauty. The landscape varies from endless sunbaked horizons to dense tropical rainforest to chilly southern beaches.
Scattered along the coasts, its cities blend a European enthusiasm for art and food with a laid-back love of sport and the outdoors.
Visitors expecting to see an opera in Sydney one night and meet Crocodile Dundee the next will have to re-think their grasp of geography in this huge country.
It is this sheer vastness that gives Australia - and its diverse population - much of its character.
When To Go:
Any time is a good time to be in Australia. Summer (December to February) can get uncomfortably hot but it's great beach weather.
Up north, the summer wet season is very, very humid and the sea is swarming with box jellyfish.
Winter (June to August) offers skiing in NSW, Victoria and sometimes Tasmania. In spring and autumn the weather is mild.
Australia - Fast Facts
Full Name: Commonwealth of Australia
Capital City: Canberra
Area: 7,682,300 sq km / 2,966,136 sq miles
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +10 (Eastern Standard Time); GMT/UTC +9.5 (Central Time); GMT/UTC +8 (Western Time)
Daylight Saving Start: last Sunday in October (TAS first Sun)
Daylight Saving End: last Sunday in March
Languages: English (official). Australia is a multi-cultural country, so it's not unusual to walk down a city street and hear people speaking Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Vietnamese or Arabic as their first language. Aboriginal languages are also spoken. English-speaking Australians have a passion for abbreviations and are liable to use a hotchpotch of local slang that can take the first-time visitor a while to untangle.
Religion: Christian 67.4% (Catholic 26.4%, Anglican 20.5%, other Christian 20.5%), Buddhist 1.9%, Muslim 1.5%, other 1.2%, unspecified 12.7, none 15.3%
Currency: Australian Dollar (A$)
Electricity: 220-240V 50Hz
Electric Plug Details: Australian-style plug with two flat angled blades and one vertical grounding blade
Country Dialing Code: 61