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Overview of Australian Geography

Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Of the many adjectives that could be used to describe the geography of Australia, unique is certainly one of the most applicable. In this lesson, we'll learn why and introduce the amazing geography of Australia.

Where in the World Is Australia?

Australia is located south of Asia, sitting in between the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Southern Ocean. That last one might be new to you; the Southern Ocean can be considered the ocean that surrounds Antarctica, around the globe. You can narrow down your search further by looking for the only continent that is completely in the Southern Hemisphere.

Since Australia is completely surrounded by water, it is, technically, an island. But, because of its size - just a little smaller than the United States - it's also considered a continent and a country. So, it is the world's smallest continent, but the world's 6th largest country. It's also the flattest and driest continent. But, as we'll discuss below, that doesn't mean there is any shortage of incredible geography in Australia.

Geographical Regions

Because of where Australia is located in the South Pacific, it has a wide range of geography and climate. In the picture of Australia below, the dark red is hot desert. This part of Australia is practically desolate with hardly any population centers and hundreds of miles between towns or cities.

Landscape and Climate of Australia
Australia Geography

Surrounding the vast deserts of Australia are the grasslands where more human and animal life can be found. The light reds and yellows are the grasslands, where flat deserts give way to rolling hills with more moisture and cooler temperatures that allow for more plant life.

The greens on the north and east coasts of Australia are the rainforests. The most popular landmarks here are the Gold Coast and the Daintree Rainforest, which is a World Heritage Site. In fact, the northeast coast of Australia is the only place in the world where two World Heritage Sites border each other, side by side. Here, the Great Barrier Reef borders the Daintree Rainforest. We'll learn more about those two amazing sites in a few minutes.

View from Mt Kootaloo by Katsutoshi Seki
Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef

Finally, the blues along the southern and southeastern coasts of Australia represent the temperate coastal geography, much like the southeastern coast of the United States, with warm summers and cool winters. The majority of the Australian population lives in this area, located in cities with rolling hills, grasses, and Joshua trees.

Geographic Highlights of Australia

Likely the most popular geographic feature of Australia is what was once called Ayers Rock but has been renamed Uluru - the name it was given by the original inhabitants of Australia. More than 550 million years old, this sandstone statue in the middle of a completely flat desert is something the native people of Australia worship and geologists find amazing. It is the remnants of what was essentially a sandbar in a large inland ocean, but how it maintained its form while the rest of the ocean floor turned into desert continues to amaze tourists.

Uluru, a sacred rock to the native people of Australia
Uluru

Another often visited and famous geographical area of Australia is the Gold Coast and, as we mentioned earlier, the Daintree Rainforest. Daintree is Australia's largest rainforest at just over 800 square miles and is unique because it can literally grow right up to the edge of the ocean in some places. A white sandy beach separates Daintree from one of the most beautiful underwater geological features of Australia - the Great Barrier Reef.

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