This blog post was updated on July 26, 2021.
Australia’s not just a state of mind but a broad nation comprised of six federated states spread across its own island continent “down under” in the Southern Hemisphere.
Here’s a quick look at the six states to use as a reference for planning your big Aussie adventure.
New South Wales
New South Wales in the southeast of Australia is the country’s most populous state and home to its biggest city, Sydney. With nearly five million people living in the Greater Sydney area (roughly two thirds of the entire state population) that leaves plenty of room to move when hitting the road for the interior.
North of New South Wales, home to the cosmopolitan city of Brisbane and famed for its beaches and laidback attitude – Queensland is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Its far northern extremity is nearer the wild rainforests of New Guinea than to the concrete jungles of Sydney and Melbourne (or any big Australian city for that matter).
Some of Australia’s driest parts are in South Australia, one of the country’s least populated states. Come here for vast beaches, wide-open spaces, amazing natural beauty, visits to vineyards and a trip to the Outback.
Tasmania is an island state about 150 miles south of the Australian mainland. Nature lovers should be most keen to make the effort to get here as almost half the state is a reserve, a national park or a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For majestic scenery on a grand scale, it’s hard to beat Tasmania.
Victoria is home to chic Melbourne, the so-called “sporting capital” of Australia that’s equally famous (if not more so) for its art scene, amazing range of restaurants and fastidious coffee culture. Beyond the draw of urban cool, there’s plenty close-at-hand for more outdoorsy types and a dramatic coastline to explore.
Welcome to the Wild West where the modern outpost of Perth serves as “base” for expeditions into Australia’s frontier with rugged landscapes and stunning coastline. Interested in a more tasteful take on the Great Outdoors? Head to the gourmet region of Margaret River for some of the best food and wine Australia has to offer.
In addition to its six states, Australia has ten territories: two mainland territories – Australian Capital Territory (home of capital city Canberra) and the Northern Territory (home of Uluru, aka Ayers Rock) – and eight offshore territories spread across the South Pacific – Norfolk Island; Ashmore and Cartier Islands; Australian Antarctic Territory; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Coral Sea Islands; Jervis Bay Territory; and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands.