Experts in Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific

15 things you didn’t know about Australia

Posted 26 January 2016
Australia is one of the most distinctive countries in the world; home to unique landscapes, animals, plants and traditions, it's an inspiring land that never fails to leave you in awe, whether it’s your first visit or a home from home.

Australia officially became a country on 26 January 1788, and despite its relatively short history, has come to be recognised for many defining features including its heritage, the people and of course, its amazing geography. 

So before you think Australia’s just one big beach party (with “shrimps on the barbie”), there’s plenty of interesting anecdotes and lots of unusual facts about Australia that you probably didn’t know... until now.

Let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known Aussie facts and figures:

1) Close to the coast


Despite its huge 7.962 million square kilometre expanse, more than 80% of Australians live within 100 kilometres of the coast.

All Australia’s major cities were built along the coastline as almost three quarters of the country’s land is unable to support any kind of agriculture due to a lack of available water.

2) …And sparsely populated

These arid conditions mean Australia is one of the least densely populated countries with just 2.66 people per square kilometre, compared to the 248.25 people per square kilometre in the UK!

3) Equal rights

Australia was the second country in the entire world to give women the right to vote, beaten to the punch only by its neighbour, New Zealand.

4) Counting camels

Camel riding

Originally imported to help with railroad construction, Australia’s feral camel population reached a staggering one million, prompting the government to launch a $19 million programme to help keep the numbers at bay.

Today, they are widely regarded as a pest and have been exported to Saudi Arabia since the early 2000s.

5) The world’s longest...

Australia is home to the world’s longest fence. A 5,614 kilometre fence originally built to stop the spread of rabbits – an invasive species – and maintained to keep dingoes away from fertile land. Ever wondered where the saying “at it like rabbits” came from?

Australia is also home to the world’s longest golf course (at 1,368 kilometres), and the longest stretch of straight railway track (478 kilometres).

6) Daylight swimming

In 1833, daylight bathing or swimming was banned around Sydney Cove. By 1838, this ban had spread to other states, leading to a by-law being passed in 1878 which forbid anyone to swim at a public beach between the hours of 7am and 8pm.

The law was eventually repealed in 1902 when Sydney was in the midst of a drought and the council thought allowing the public to bathe in the sea would preserve water levels.

7) Beer minister

Two pints of beer

Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, actually found fame 30 years prior to being elected when he set an official Guinness World Record for sinking a yard of beer, or 2.5 pints, in less than 12 seconds.

Bob suggested this achievement may have helped contribute to his political success by appealing to a voting population with a strong beer culture. 

8) The world’s smallest…

Australia is actually the smallest, flattest and driest inhabited continent in the world.

It is, however, the only continent named the same as the country that makes up its majority, which is why it is informally known as the island continent. Other countries and islands include Papua New Guinea, Maluka Islands and Timor, plus a few more.

It is also the only continent in the world without an active volcano, which leads to a lack of nutrients in the land and sea bed.

9) Coat of arms

It is said that the kangaroo and emu were chosen for the Australian coat of arms as neither animal can walk backwards, to symbolise Australia as a nation moving forward. 

10) Life’s a beach

Noosa Main Beach

Australia has more than 10,000 distinct beaches along its coast. Most of these beaches are postcard-perfect white and gold sand, clear blue water, with stunning mountain backdrops and underwater reefs.

If you were to visit one Australian beach a day, it would take you over 27 years to visit them all!

11) Unusual laws

Australia is home to some extremely unusual laws, ranging from it being illegal to wear pink hot pants in Victoria on a Sunday, only licensed electricians are allowed to change a light bulb, and you are prohibited from walking on the right hand side of the road.

Crazy, but all apparently true.

12) Snow (yes, really)

Australian Alps

Although famous for its dry, desert heat and scorching summer temperatures, Australia is home to the Snowy Mountains, or The Snowiest; the highest mountain range in Australia located in southern New South Wales.

Every Australian winter, more snow falls on this mountain range than the whole of Switzerland.

13) TV is very important

Australians are known for their love of TV shows. So much so that in 2010, the prime ministerial candidates were forced to change the air time of their only election debate as it coincided with the finale of Masterchef. With up to four million Australians expected to tune in to the final episode, the debate was moved forward an hour to avoid losing viewers.

14) A fight for the capital

Canberra city centre

Although each state in Australia has its own capital, Canberra is the nation’s capital city.

This was announced in 1913 following a long dispute between Sydney and Melbourne over who would gain the title. To compromise, Canberra was built in New South Wales – though it had to be at least 100 kilometres away from Sydney – and until completed, Melbourne was the temporary seat of government.

15) Exotic post boxes

As well as being the largest living structure in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is home to a post box. To use it you need to take a ferry and then you can have your postcards and mail delivered with an exclusive Great Barrier Reef stamp. 

We hope this has enlightened you to some weird and wonderful facts about Australia. Perhaps they’ve inspired you to visit this unique land Down Under. But at the very least, you now know that Australia has more camels than Saudi Arabia – something that may come in handy at your next pub quiz.