Australian Tourist Commission
Level 4, 80 William Street
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
(Box 2721 GPO Sydney NSW 2001)
Tel: 61 2 9360 1111 Fax: 61 2 9331 6469


Physical geography

Australia comprises a land area of 7,682,300 square kilometres. The land lies between latitudes 10° 41' South (Cape York) and 43° 39' (Southeast Cape, Tasmania) and between longitudes 113° 09' East (Steep Point) and 153° 39' East (Cape Byron).

The area of Australia is almost as great as that of the United States of America (excluding Alaska), about 50 per cent greater than Europe (excluding former USSR) and 32 times greater than the United Kingdom.

Australia is composed of six states,: New South Wales, (NSW) Victoria (VIC), Queensland (Qld), South Australia (SA), Western Australia (WA), Tasmania (TAS) and two territories: Northern Territory (NT) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The longest river in Australia is the Murray River (2,250km) which forms a natural border between the NSW and VIC. The highest mountain in Australia is Mount Kosciusko, 2,230 metres, which is situated in NSW.


As it is in the southern hemisphere, summer in Australia occurs during December, January and February; with June, July and August being the winter months. Generally the summer days in the southern part of Australia are hot and dry and in the northern part hot with thunderstorms and monsoonal rains. During the winter southern Australia experiences cool weather with showers, whilst northern Australia usually has blue skies and temperatures around 27°C. Snow falls occur on the high areas of southeastern Australia, giving excellent skiing conditions.

Economic geography

Australian exports in the 1995/6 financial year were valued at A$75,951 million. Although the economy continues to depend heavily on agricultural products for export income, mining products have increased considerably in importance as export earners in recent years.


Australia's population as at June 1995: 18,054,000. State and territory population figures: NSW 6,115,000; VIC 4,502,000; QLD 3,277,000; SA 1,474,000; WA 1,732,000; TAS 473,000; NT 174,000; ACT 304,000.

A brief history

Europeans discovered Australia early in the 17th century: Dutchmen Janszoon (1606) and Harzog (1616) landed first, while Abel Tasman (1642) and William Dampier (1688) also helped with early charts of the southern and northwestern coastlines. In 1770, Captain James Cook charted the east coast, and took possession of the land in the name of Britain. Colonisation first took place in 1788 when a part of more than 1,000 soldiers, sailors and convicts landed at Botany Bay.

Explorers opened up Australia's great hinterland and gold discoveries in New South Wales and Victoria in 1851 brought a further influx of new settlers. Wool and wheat also contributed to Australia's early development.

The self-governing colonies were federated in 1901 with the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in Melbourne and became states. The seat of federal government moved in 1927 to Canberra, Australia's Capital Territory.


Christianity is the predominant faith, but all major religions are represented. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues are located in most major cities. Your hotel desk can advise you on places of worship.

Languages spoken by nationals

English is the basic tongue, but a wide range of languages is also spoken.


Australia has three time zones: Eastern Standard Time, Central and Western Time - ten hours, nine and a half and eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time respectively. Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Tasmania are in the Eastern Time zone, South Australia and Northern Territory are in the Central Time zone, and Western Australia observes Western Time. Daylight saving is introduced in the majority of Australian States and starts in October.


Australian currency is decimal with banks notes of $2 (to be phased out in 98) 5, 1, 20, 50 and 100.

Currency exchange rate for November 96 was US$ = 0.791.

Official holidays (all offices and shops closed)

1 January - New Year's Day - 26 January, Australia Day - 28 March, Good Friday - 31 March, Easter Monday - 25 April, Anzac Day - 25 December, Christmas Day - 26 December, Boxing Day.

What one should not fail to see

New South Wales: Sydney - nightclub district of Kings Cross, cruises on Sydney Harbour, the exciting Darling Harbour Complex; Opera House with its sail-like roof, the historic 'Rocks' area: Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney Entertainment Centre, scenic views from Sydney Tower. Further afield: cruising on the Hawkesbury River, the Blue Mountains - rugged gorges, wilderness parks, beautiful waterfalls, scenic cable car, the snowfields of Kosciusko National Park; flights to outback sheep stations.

Queensland: Brisbane - Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary - have your photo taken holding a koala. Further afield: the Gold Coast south of Brisbane, 32km of surf beaches, restaurants and night clubs, Jupiter's Casino - plantations of tropical fruit, quiet beaches, fishing. The Great Barrier Reef - island resorts, coral islands, underwater observatories, marine life, game fishing and bareboat yacht charter. Sunshine Coast - north of Brisbane.

Australia Capital Territory: Canberra - modern buildings, cruises on Lake Burley Griffin, the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House, National Gallery and National Library and the Carillon Suburb of Yarralumin where nearly 70 countries have diplomatic missions, Telstra Tower at the top of Black Mountain. Take a bicycle ride around Lake Burley. Further afield: Tidbinbilla Fauna Reserve and Space Tracking Station, Mt Strotnio Observatory, Lanyon Homestead housing, High Court, paintings by Sidney Nolan. One-day coach tours to nearby sheep stations.

Victoria: Melbourne - for shopping. Ride a Melbourne tram. Arts Centre of Victoria - houses Australia's most important art collection. Tour historic National Trust properties - Como, Ripponlea, La Trobe's Cottage, World Trade Centre. Further afield: 'Puffing Billy' tram rides through the Dandenong ranges, Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary - platypuses, kangaroos, koalas, emus; Philip Islands - parade of fairy penguins, Sovereign Hill, a reconstructed gold mining town in Ballarat.

South Australia: Adelaide - Charming city of parks, open-air restaurants, Biennial Arts Festival, Adelaide Festival Theatre Complex; Adelaide Casino, Art Gallery of South Australia - specialising in work by Australian artists. Further afield: Cleland Wildlife sanctuary - observe native animals at close range. Mt Lofty Ranges - views of Adelaide from Mt Lofty. Barossa Valley - spring wildflowers and rugged scenery, Kangaroo Island beaches, fauna and fishing.

Western Australia: Perth - Kings Park - 404 ha of natural bushland, noted for spring wildflowers and a view over the city. River cruise from Perth to Freemantle. Further afield: Penguin Island near Rockingham, or go on a 4WD tour to the Pinnacles, or a coach tour to Wave Rock, both spectacular and natural attractions.

Tasmania: Hobart - Visit Salamanca Place, Battery Point and Mt Wellington. Hobart also has beautiful parks and do not miss the Botanical Gardens and Cradle Mountain. Further afield: Moorilla Winery, delightful Georgian village of Richmond, and visit the fertile Huon Valley for Atlantic salmon farms and various water activities on the Huon and Picton rivers.

Northern Territory: Darwin - Wander down Darwin Wharf Precinct, take a trip on a Darwin Pearling Lugger from here, MGM Grand Casino and Lasseters Hotel Casino. Visit Indo Pacific Marine at Stokes Hill Wharf with the living eco systems of the Territory's coral reefs. Further afield: Take a scenic flight on a seaplane and explore Darwin Harbour, Kakadu and Litchfield national parks, Bathurst and Melville islands. Ross River resort, the famous Ayers Rock/Uluru. See Territory Wildlife Park and then a take a cruise departing from Shady Camp on the Mary River.

Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touring

Australia is an all-year-round destination, but during the summer, December to February, it is hot in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. At the Great Barrier Reef, most rain falls in January and February. In northern Queensland and parts of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, roads may flood during the 'wet' season, January-March. The ski season takes place during June to October in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

How to dress

Check the temperature chart and the weather maps carefully. In the tropics lightweight (natural fibres) clothing is suitable all year round. In the southern temperate regions, summers (Dec-Feb) are warm to hot and lightweight clothes are suitable for daytime, but keep a jacket or sweater handy as nights may be cool. For the southern winters (Jun-Aug) sweaters, a jacket or light coat and generally warmer clothes are advisable. Australians are informal dressers, but for special occasions, such as business meetings, theatres and dining at good restaurants, men may need a jacket and tie or suit and women a more formal dress. Most of the time just keep it light and comfortable. Bring a sun hat, sunglasses and suntan lotion if you anticipate hot weather. For foot protection during your time gazing into the coral pools of the Barrier Reef, pack your sandshoes (trainers).

Main holiday resorts

Sydney, Australian Alps for Skiing, Gold Coast, Great Barrier Reef, Alice Springs and nearby desert attractions. Hobart (Tasmania).

Main holiday sports

Australia has ideal weather for year-round sport. Favourite activities include swimming and surfing, scuba diving, golf, tennis, cricket, big-game and trout fishing, skiing, squash, motor-racing, water sports, yachting, horse-riding and lawn bowls. Greyhound racing is popular. During winter, four types of football are played: Australian Rules, soccer, rugby league and rugby union. Horseracing has millions of spectators.

What to eat and drink

You can dine at elegant restaurants, leading hotels and other locations or enjoy a 'pub' counter lunch. Bistros, cafes and family-style restaurants offer good food at reasonable prices. There are many low-cost eating places, including fast-food chains and take-away food stores. Food is fresh and plentiful at stores and supermarkets. Australian wines are good and inexpensive; beer is served chilled. Restaurants usually serve iced water on request only. Many restaurants have a full liquor service; others allow you to 'bring your own' (BYO) wine or beer to serve with your meal.

What to buy

Big department stores, arcades, malls, gift shops, fashion boutiques and speciality stores abound in Australia. Good buys include quality Australian opals and other precious or semi-precious stones, sheepskins and leather goods, Australian fashion, woollen products, Aboriginal artefacts and paintings and Australian arts and crafts.

Frontier formalities


There are strict laws prohibiting or restricting the entry of drugs, steroids, weapons, firearms, protected wildlife and associated products. All animals, animal products, foodstuffs, plants and plant products are subject to quarantine control and must be declared on arrival. The penalties for breaking these laws are severe. If you are uncertain about anything in your baggage, declare it and bring it to the attention of a Customs officer. Each traveller over 18 years of age may bring into Australia 1,125ml of alcoholic liquor and 250 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco products duty/tax free. A duty/tax-free allowance of $A400 per person 18 years or older or $A200 per person under 18 years is available for other goods intended as gifts. These articles must accompany you through Customs and must not be intended for commercial purposes. In addition to these concessions, tourists visiting Australia for a limited period may bring most articles into the country duty/tax free, provided Customs is satisfied that they are for their own personal use and that they will be taken out of Australia on departure.

Currency regulations

There is no limit on the amount of Australian and/or foreign cash that may be brought into or taken out of Australia. However, amounts over A$5,000, or equivalent in foreign currency, must be reported on arrival. Currency means notes and coins of legal tender, but does not include travellers cheques or other monetary instruments. Forms for reporting currency transfers are available from Customs officers at ports or airports. Reporting is required by law, failure to do so is an offence.

Passenger Movement Charge (PMC)

From 1 July 1995 a more convenient system has been introduced to pay your PMC. Rather than buying the PMC at an Australian airport or post office in all cases this A$27 tax is now prepaid with your airline ticket, with payment noted on your airline ticket. Exemptions apply to children under 12 years of age, 24-hour transit passengers and transit passengers who stay longer than a day if departure is delayed by circumstances beyond their control.


Australia has a unique environment and is also free from many of the pests and diseases found elsewhere in the world. Therefore, the importation of fresh or packaged food, fruit, eggs and egg products, meat, vegetables, seeds, cultures, animals, plants and plant products is strictly controlled. Help us maintain the unique Australian environment. On entering Australia by plane or ship you are required to complete a Travellers' Statement. If you are carrying any animal or plant item with you, or packed in your luggage you must declare them on arrival. Quarantine officers conduct random checks on passenger baggage at international airports around Australia. Failing to declare items of quarantine concern carry heavy penalties.

Main travel routes

The 'Inner Circle' route visits Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, Mt Isa, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra. Other popular routes are: from Sydney to Canberra and Melbourne. From Sydney to Cairns via Brisbane, From Melbourne to Adelaide, Adelaide to Alice Springs and Darwin. From Perth to Adelaide and to Darwin via the west coast. From Melbourne to Hobart.


Events 1997

Feb-March Festival of Perth
March - Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade
April - Australian Indy Car Grand Prix
March - Australian Grand Prix
Aug - Barossa Classic Gourmet Weekend
Sep-Oct - Floriade, Canberra
Oct - Henley on Todd Regatta
Oct-Nov - Melbourne International Festival
Dec-Jan 98 - Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Representatives abroad

Australian Tourist Commission (Office Addresses October 1996)

AUCKLAND: Level 13 540, 44-48 Emily Place, Japan Auckland 1, New Zealand, Tel: 64 9 379 9594, Fax: 64 9 307 3117.

LONDON: Gemini House, 10-18 Putney Hill, London SW15 6AA, United Kingdom, Tel: 44181 780 2229, Fax: 44 181 780 1496.

FRANKFURT: Neue Mainzer Strasse 22, D 60311 Frankfurt/Main 1, Germany, Tel: 49 69 274 0060, Fax: 49 69 274 00640.

LOS ANGELES: 2049 Century Park East, Suite 1920, Los Angeles CA 90067, USA, Tel: 1 310 229 4870, Fax: l 310 552 1215.

HONG KONG: Suite 1501, Central Plaza, 18 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong, Tel: 852 2802 7700, Fax: 852 2802 8211

SINGAPORE: Suite 1703, 17th Floor, United Square, 101 Thomson Road, Singapore 11 30, Republic of Singapore, Tel: 65 255 4555 Fax: 65 253 8431.

TOKYO: Australian Business Centre, New Otani Garden Court Bldg 28F, 4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102, Japan, Tel: 813 5214 0720, Fax: 813 5214 0719.

OSAKA: Twin 21 MID Tower 30F, 2-1 -61 Shiromi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Tel: 81 6 946 2503, Fax: 816 946 2473.

HEAD OFFICE: Sydney Level 4, 80 William Street, Woolloomooloo, NSW 2011, (Box 2721 GPO Sydney NSW 2001), Tel: (02) 9360 1111, Fax: (02) 93316469.

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on Australia thanks to the co-operation of the Australian Tourist Commission.