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Australia is a land of contrasts - topographical, cultural, physical, meterological and visual. About 40,000 years ago, the Aborigines were the first to settle. They lived as hunters and gatherers with a profound understanding for nature. Their way of living developed into a complex culture based on oral tradition and intricate social bounds, which was almost destroyed by the second wave of settlers.
In 1770, Captain James Cook landed in Botany Bay, which today is part of Sydney. (in fact Sydney Airport juts out into Botany Bay) This commenced with the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove (now Sydney Harbour, near Circular Quay railway station) on 26th January 1788. The British government decided to use convicts to tame the newly discovered continent and did not care a lot for the people that were already there. Deportation to Australia lasted for about eighty years. After this all immigrants went more or less voluntarily.
Australia became an independent nation on 1 January 1901. The British Parliament passed legislation allowing the six Australian colonies to govern in their own right as part of the Commonwealth of Australia. In 1986 history was made again when parliament passed legislation that ended the power for the Britsh Partliament to legislate for Australia.
Today a growing proportion of Australians were born overseas. Their combined cultural heritage makes the Australian culture a real global one. Australia has also discovered the value of the Aboriginal culture and is proud of it.
While Australia is a nation in its own right, it is also a continent, with really big differences between different areas. It is a land of leisure, with sun, sea and an enviable 'Crocodile Dundee' outdoor lifestyle, but this is just a very narrow conception of a continent.
One of the states is the island state Tasmania of which one fifth is World Heritage area. Each state has its own national parks with their specific character where you can indulge in bush-walking or maybe even rock-climbing. When you’re interested in the miracles of water-world, you can’t miss out on the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast, the main reason for many travellers to visit Cairns. The Wet Tropics of Queensland comprise dense rainforests and foaming waterfalls. Rare species of animals can be spotted in the famous Kakadu National Park as well as ancient aboriginal art. These old drawings can also be seen in the Namadgi National Park.
Good places to set off for exploration of the great outdoors are big cities such as Canberra, Darwin, Adelaide and Perth, that all have interesting sights and a good cultural atmosphere as well. Of course, Australia is surrounded by sea, so good swimming and surfing beaches are more rule than exception. North of Brisbane, is the Sunshine Coast one of the many stretches of coast where you can find excellent beaches, South of Brisbane is the better known Gold Coast. Don’t forget the smaller historically interesting Alice Springs, or William Creek [the most isolated town in Australia] that will lead you right to the famous Ayers Rock.
Deserts, rainforests, big cities….and just when you thought you’d caught a glimpse of the versatile character of this fascinating continent, you forgot about Melbourne and the excellent skiing opportunities in the Alpine National Park. Another good option is the Snowy Mountains area in NSW. How many months could you stay?