The state of Western Australia is big, bold and beautiful, and despite covering one third of Australia has a population of fewer than two million. It has miles of coastline washed by the Indian Ocean and a range of climatic zones from tropical through to temperate. The northern area is raw and harsh; the south is characterized by rolling green pasture; to the west is the ocean while to the east lie golden wheat fields.
The true richness of Western Australia lies in its huge mineral deposits - gold, diamonds, iron ore, bauxite, nickel, natural gas and oil lie under the ground and provide employment for much of the population.
Full county name: Commonwealth of Australia
Area: 7,682,300 sq Km
People: 94% European descent, 4% Asian, 1.5% Aboriginal
Language: English, Aboriginal languages (plus numerous other European, Arabic and Asian languages)
Religion: 75% Christian, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, 0.5% Jewish
GDP: US$418 billion
GDP per head: US$22,000
GDP growth: 3,5%
Major industries: Minerals, oil, coal, gold, wool, cereals, meat, and tourism.
Major trading partners: Japan, ASEAN, South Korea, China, New Zealand, US and the EU.
Visas: Every nationality except New Zealanders need visas. Tourist visas and Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visas are valid for three months. ETAs are just under US$11; standard visas cost US$35. Longer-term visas can be applied for.
Health risks: Sunburn, heat exhaustion, drowning
Time: There are three time zones: Eastern Standard Time is UTC +10; Central Time is UTC +9.5; and Western Time UTC +8.
Weights & measures: metric
When to go
Truth be told, any time is a good time to be somewhere in Australia. When it’s cold down south, it’s magnificent in the north and the Centre; when it’s too hot and sweaty up north, the southern states are at their natural finest. There are also the numerous festivals and other public spectacles that are on show every month, from the summertime food-and-wine banquets and large-scale concerts, through mid-year arts celebrations, to end-of-year footy finals, horse races and yachting contests.
The seasons in Australia are the antithesis of those in Europe and North America. Summer is December to February; the weather and longer daylight hours are tailor-made for swimming and other outdoor activities across much of the country. Summer is also school holiday period and consequently high season for most places.
Unless you want to compete with hordes of grimly determined local holiday-makers in ‘Are we there yet?’ mode for road space, places on tours, seats on transport, hotel rooms, camp sites, restaurant tables and the best vantage points at major attractions, you should try to avoid Australia’s prime destinations during the peak of school (January) and public holidays. See Holidays for more information. During these times, you’re also likely to encounter spontaneous rises in the price of everything from accommodation to petrol.
Winter is June to August, when temperatures drop with the latitude. This is officially designated the tourism low season for most of the country, but not the Northern Territory, Queensland and top of Western Australia.
Winter in this northern stretch offers respite from the humidity of the wet season (which runs roughly from October to March, with the heaviest rain falling from January onwards; the Dry lasts from April to September) and the temperatures are highly agreeable. It’s also when roads and tracks are most accessible up north. Autumn (March to May) and spring (September to November) both enjoy a lack of climatic extremes everywhere.
there are the Australians who feel separation pains if they stray from the coast. So they don't. They sport permanent golden hues, adopt languid gaits and wear cheeky grins. They glue themselves to surfboards, kayaks and boats and loll in the surf for hours (days even!). As if that weren't enough, they flee to the Whitsunday Islands (Qld), the Ningaloo Reef (WA) or the immense Great Barrier Reef (Qld) and spend days under the water defending themselves from kaleidoscopic marine life, colossal whale sharks, giant turtles and mischievous dolphins
Popular outback destinations that can be explored in 4-wheel-drive vehicles include The Pinnacles, consisting of thousands of limestone pillars (260km/163 miles north of Perth); and the Gibb River Road through the rugged landscape of the Kimberley region.
Walking in Western Australia can be particularly rewarding during spring (between September and November), when wild flowers blossom throughout the state.
The Margaret River Wine Region is Western Australia’s best-known destination for wine lovers. Although producing less than 1 per cent of Australia’s wine, the region is responsible for producing 15 per cent of the country’s premium wine
Attractions - Sydney
Australia s premier city is the oldest settlement in Australia, the economic powerhouse of the nation and the country's capital in everything but name. Built on the shores of the stunning Port Jackson, you would have to die and go to heaven before you see a more spectacular setting for a city. It s a vital, self-regarding metropolis, exuding both a devil-may-care urbanity and a slavish obsession with global fads. The Olympic Games, held in Sydney in 2000, confirmed the city s reputation as a civilised, fun-loving and friendly place to be.
Keep in mind that to prove you ve been in Australia, you'll have to take a photo of the Sydney Opera House, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background. The ability to pronounce Bondi will add an extra dash of authenticity.