Before my first trip to Australia a few years ago, my concept of the country’s size was wildly ignorant. I’m not sure if it’s a cartographer’s trick, but on a map this dusty continent doesn’t look as big as it really is. It’s this scale that I think surprises many first time visitors to the Land Down Under, so I thought I’d share some facts and figures that will help put Australia into perspective, as well as some other interesting tidbits that will make you rethink the country you thought you knew.
1. Australia is the 6th largest country by size, a massive 2.9 million square miles.
2. While it’s huge, the population is only 22.6 million.
3. The closest American state in population is New York, which has 19.6 million people, yet Australia is more than 53 times its size.
4. Texas is the largest state in the continental United States, but the largest state in Australia, Western Australia is more than 3 times its size but Texas has 13 times as many people.
5. You can fly from Perth to Melbourne faster than you can fly from one end of Western Australia to the other.
6. The Great Victoria Desert, just ONE of Australia’s barren areas is larger than the United Kingdom. You could lose an entire country in Australia and never know it.
7. A single cattle ranch in South Australia is larger than the state of Israel.
8. Don’t think Australia gets snow? Well it’s all relative. The area of Australia that is covered by snow in winter is larger than the area of Switzerland.
9. The longest fence in the world is in Australia, and it runs for over 5,530 kilometers.
10. The world’s longest golf course, measuring more than 850 miles long is located in Australia.
11. Australia includes the world’s longest stretch of dead-straight railway track, a 297 mile length.
Due to its remarkable isolation over the millennia, Australia enjoys fairly unique fauna. From furry kangaroos to the elusive quokka, they’re a big draw for many tourists. Australia also has more ways to die than perhaps any other country in the world, from spiders to seashells. Yes, seashells.
12. Australia is home to 10 of the world’s 15 most poisonous snakes as well as a disproportionate number of venomous spiders.
13. The mysterious platypus has venom strong enough to can kill a small dog.
14. The box jellyfish is responsible for more deaths in Australian than snakes, sharks and salt water crocodiles.
15. In other news, Australia has sharks, snakes and massive salt water crocodiles.
16. Other dangerous (usually venomous) animals to avoid include the blue ring octopus, the stone fish, funnel web spider and the cassowary; one of the world’s largest birds that when provoked attack with their sharp claws.
17. Marsupials like koalas, quokka and kangaroos can be found nowhere else in the world.
18. The only two mammals in the world that lay eggs are found in Australia, the platypus and echidna.
19. There are more than 150 million sheep in Australia and only 20 million people. That’s 8 sheep for every person.
20. There are over 60 different species (types) of kangaroos.
21. 1 million wild camels roam the Australian deserts. They were originally brought over to help with railroad construction.
Quirky People and Places
22. Aboriginal culture is the oldest on Earth. It’s estimated that the continent’s original inhabitants have been in Australia for a staggering 40,000-60,000 years.
23. The largest Greek population in the world beside Athens in Greece can be found in Melbourne Victoria.
24. More than 80 percent of Australians live within 100 kilometers of the coast.
25. Australia has 19 world heritage listed sites including historic townships, cities and landscapes.
26. More than 80% of Australians participate in gambling of some kind.
27. A cult may or may not have tested the first non-governmental nuclear weapon in Western Australia. Australia is so big though no one is completely sure.
28. Australians developed a fake animal to further scare tourists. The drop bear was purported by mainstream institutions including the Australian Museum to drop from trees and attack tourists. There is no drop bear.
29. More than 25% of all Australians were born in another country.
30. Australia is the only continent without an active volcano.
31. Australia has three national Frisbee teams.
Looking through all of these bizarre facts, I find it impossible not to love Australia more than I do. It’s a strange country no doubt, but is more endearing because of and not in spite of these oddities.