The Commonwealth of Australia is a continent and country comprised of mainland Australia, the island of Tasmania, and other smaller islands. Australia's capital is Canberra and its largest city is Sydney. Indigenous Australians such as the Aboriginal people and the Torres Strait Islanders inhabited Australia long before Europeans made contact with the island. In 1770, the eastern half of Australia was claimed for Great Britain and originally used to transport prisoners. On January 1, 1901, Australia received its independence from Great Britain and federated its colonies. Today, Australia consists of six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia) and several territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory). The country's official language is English and it has a population of approximately 22,799,196 people. Australia is the 12th-largest economy in the world and has the sixth-highest per capita income in the world.
While a large part of Australia is desert, it possesses a wide variety of landscapes including forests, subtropical rainforests, and mountain ranges. The country's climate is strongly influenced by ocean currents: much of northern Australia has a tropical climate, the southwest part of the country has a Mediterranean climate, and the southeast is temperate. The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest reef, can be found off the northeast coast and is approximately 1,240 miles long. Australia is also considered a megadiverse country because many different species of plants, mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles can be found there.
Some of Australia's most popular cities are Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. In Sydney, you can catch an event at the famous Opera House and hang around for a guided tour after the show. You can also look for some artsy souvenirs at the Opera House Market on the concourse. If it's nice outside, check out the Sydney Harbor Bridge for an exquisite view. Families might enjoy the Sydney Aquarium with its huge variety of sea creatures. Art lovers can check out the Museum of Contemporary Art for constantly changing cutting-edge exhibits. In Melbourne, stop by Queen Victoria Market for fresh produce and specialty items. Sports fans and families should take a tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and visit the National Sports Museum that is housed there. You can also visit the Melbourne Museum for a broad range of exhibits. While Perth lacks the hustle and bustle of more metropolitan cities, it uses its lovely weather and beautiful beaches to attract visitors. Spend an afternoon at Kings Park and Botanic Garden which boasts over 2,000 western Australian plant species. Families will enjoy the Perth Zoo and its interesting exhibits such as the nocturnal house and the Australian Bushwalk. If you're looking for the perfect tan or if you just want to enjoy the water, visit Cottesloe Beach, Scarborough Beach, or Perth City Beach.