Grab your suncream, shades and snorkels, gang - because we're heading Down Under with these fab facts about Australia!
OFFICIAL NAME: Commonwealth of Australia
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Federal parliamentary democracy
POPULATION: 23, 856, 103
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: English
MONEY: Australian dollar
AREA: 7,692,024 square kilometres
MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Great Dividing Range, Macdonnell Ranges
MAJOR RIVERS: Murray-Darling, Murrumbidgee, Lachlan
Australia is one of the largest countries on Earth, and the only country that covers an entire continent. Although it is rich in natural resources and has a lot of fertile land, more than one-third of Australia is desert.
Most Australian cities and farms are located in the southwest and southeast, where the climate is more comfortable. The famous outback (remote rural areas) contains the country's largest deserts, where there are scorching temperatures, little water and almost no vegetation. In the northeast, there are dense rainforests where lush vegetation grows.
Running around the eastern and southeastern edge of Australia is the Great Dividing Range. This 3,700-kilometre stretch of mountain sends water down into Australia's most important rivers and the Great Artesian Basin, the largest groundwater source in the world.
Australia's ecosystem is an unusual one. Because of its remote location, many animal species that occur here are found nowhere else on Earth, such as the platypus, kangaroo, echidna and koala. Australia has 516 national parks to protect its unique plants and animals.
There are several types of rainforests in Australia. Tropical rainforests, mainly found in the northeast, are the richest in plant and animal species. Subtropical rainforests are found near the mid-eastern coast, and broadleaf rainforests grow in the southeast and on the island of Tasmania.
Australia also boasts the world's largest sand island, Fraser Island, which stretches over 120km along the southern coast of Queensland. You can check out our cool fascinating Fraser Island facts, here!
One of Australia's most amazing sites is called Uluru (or Ayers Rock) - a sacred natural rock which rises like an enormous whale’s back from a flat red-soil desert called the Red Centre. Standing a massive 335 metres tall, it's one of the largst rocks in the world!
Did you know Australia is home to many of the deadliest species of animals on the planet? There are 36 species of poisonous funnel-web spiders found in this incredible country and 20 species of venomous snakes, including the world’s most venomous snake - the taipan. This slithery reptile releases enough venom in one bite to kill 100 people. Yikes!
Aboriginal people arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago. It’s believed they travelled from Asia across land bridges that were exposed when sea levels were lower. The hardy Aborigines have learned to live in the harsh conditions of the outback.
Dutch explorers first landed in Australia in 1606, and the British began to settle there in 1788. Many settlers were criminals sent to live in Australia as punishment. For a short time, the newcomers lived peacefully with the Aboriginal people. But soon, fighting broke out over who owned the land.
In 1851, gold was discovered in Australia. A rush to find riches came as a result, bringing thousands of new immigrants to the country. By 1859 six separate colonies existed, and in 1901 these colonies joined to form the Federation of Australia.
Australia is one of the world's most ethnically diverse nations. Nearly a quarter of the people who live in Australia were born in other countries. Many come from the United Kingdom and other European countries, as well as from China, Vietnam, North Africa and the Middle East.
Australia's warm, sunny climate and abundance of open spaces give the population a love of the outdoors. The people are also passionate about sports, including swimming, surfing, sailing, tennis, soccer, cricket, rugby and their own invention - Australian rules football!
As a commonwealth of the United Kingdom, Australia's head of state is the British monarch. Many Australians think the country should end its ties to Britain and become a republic. In a vote in 1999, Australians decided against separating from the UK, but the vote was close and the debate continues.
Australia is an important exporter of agricultural goods like wool, wheat, beef and fruit. The country is also rich in minerals and metals and is the world's fourth largest producer of gold.