Australian Aboriginal culture is complex and extraordinarily diverse. It is one of the world's longest surviving cultures, which goes back at least 60,000 years. There were over 500 different clan groups or 'nations' around the continent, many with distinctive cultures and beliefs. Hundreds of languages and dialects existed (although many are now extinct), as well as a variety of different customs and rituals, art forms, styles of painting, forms of food, and hunting habits. Aboriginals were supremely expert in adapting to their environments. Their 'territories' ranged from lush woodland areas to harsh desert surroundings, so each group developed different skills and built a unique body of knowledge about their particular environment. A rich indigenous culture still survives in many places in Australia, and learning more about it will add immeasurably to your experience of Australia.
Australians believe in mateship and a ‘fair go’ and have a strong affection for the underdog or ‘battler’. These values stem from convicts and early colonialists who struggled against a harsh and unfamiliar land and often unjust authority. Although originally conceived as little more than a "dumping ground" for the great unwashed and unwanted of Britian, Australia quickly became a social experiment of sorts, a valuable colony contributing agricultural products and minerals, and a loyal part of the British Empire. Expanding out from the original city settlements into the surrounding areas, plucky settlers carved out enormous landholdings from the bush. Later, during World War I, the courageous ANZAC soldiers who served in Gallipoli gave pride and a new national identity to an emerging nation.
Beaches and barbecues, coffee and wine
With more than 80 per cent of Australians living within 50 kilometres of the coast, the beach has become an integral part the famous laid-back lifestyle. From Saturday morning surf-club training for young ‘nippers’ to a game of beach cricket after a barbeque, Australians love life on our sandy shores. As well as a "barbie", Australians also love to eat out at restaurants, and have embraced the wine and coffee culture introduced by early European migrants. The food reflects the rich cultural diversity of the country, embracing most of the world's cuisines or fusing them together. Sydney and Melbourne both have numerous restaurants ranked among the world's best, and Australian wines are justifiably famous.
Since 1945 more than six million people from across the world have come to Australia to live. Today, more than 20 per cent of Australians are foreign born and more than 40 per cent are of mixed cultural origin. Over 226 languages are spoken - after English, the most popular are Cantonese, Italian, Greek and Arabic. This melting pot of cultures results many colourful festivals and celebrations throughout the year, from Chinese New Year to the annual Italian celebrations. As a nation, a rainbow of religious belief are embraced and you’ll find Catholic and Anglican churches, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist temples, mosques and synagogues all coexisting happily.
Australia is both the world's largest island and smallest continent. It is also one of the most geologically stable continents,, lying in the middle of the Indo-Australasian plate, and home to some of the oldest rocks on earth, with zircon grains in Western Australia being dated at 4.4 billion years old. This ancient landmass is home to some unique geological features, like famous Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory, Remakable Rocks on Kangaroo Island, and the Blue Mountains near Sydney. Landscapes range from the snowcapped Australian Alps to the flat red desert of the centre, from the rugged cliffs of the Great Ocean Rd to the tropical rainforests of far north Queensland.
Plants and Animals
Australia is famous for it's weird and wonderful animals - from jumping kangaroos to cuddly koalas to the most deadly snakes on earth, over 86% of the creatures found in Australia are found nowhere else on earth. It's long geographical isolation has produced unique flora and fauna, all of them superbly adapted to the harsh Australian landscape and the cycle of drought and flood. Iconic gumtrees dot the landscape from the coast to the outback, and like the animals, most of the plants are endemic to the continent. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is one of the wonders of the natural world. It has World Heritage listing and consists of more than 3,000 reefs, ranging in size from 1 hectare to over 10,000 hectares. The reef is scattered with coral cays and beautiful islands and covers more than 300,000 square kilometres.
Custom Tours to Australia
2 nights: in Kakadu National Park, taking in this amazing world-heritage-listed environment, its animals and birds.
2 nights: at Ayers Rock, marveling at the rock itself, as well as the nearby Olgas and the vibrant Aboriginal culture still present in the area.
2 nights: on Kangaroo Island, enjoying the stunning natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Visit the famous Barossa wine region en route.
3 nights: in Melbourne, a vibrant city with a distinct European flavor. Enjoy the food and wine, explore the laneways and take in the many museums, galleries and other attractions. The famous Great Ocean Rd is a day trip from the city.
3 nights: in Tasmania, an island wrapped in lush forest and rich convict history. You will visit the city of Hobart, and also spend a night at Cradle Mountain, enjoying the magnificent scenery.
3 nights: in Sydney, Australia's oldest and largest city. Famous Bondi Beach, Sydney Harbor, the historic Rocks area and the cities fabulous restaurants are all on the agenda, as well as day trips to the beautiful Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley wineries.
Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia