Australia: Geography & Climate                                

  • The "Land Down Under" is about the same size as the continental 48 states of the US. 

 

  • Australia is the 6th largest country in the world in area.  

 

  • Some people consider Australia a separate continent. Others consider it the largest island on the planet and the largest part of the smallest continent of Oceania. What do you think?

     

DARLING/MURRAY RIVER SYSTEM
The Darling River, 1,160 miles (1,879 km) in length, flows southwest from the edges of the Great Dividing Range into the Murray River.

The Murray rises in the Australian Alps and flows 1,200 miles (1,930 km) to the Spencer Gulf, directly west of Adelaide. It's the longest river in Australia and is a vital source of irrigation for the country's major agricultural industries.

CLIMATE                                                                                          

Explore the world's climate zones here! Search for Australia and discover where each zone listed above is located within the country.

Australia is extremely dry. About 35% of the country receives very little rain (if any). Almost 20% of available land is some form of desert.

AYERS ROCK (Uluru) (photo)
Considered the largest solitary rock on the planet, its red sandstone surface smoothed by high winds over time is revered as a holy place and called Uluru by the Aboriginal peoples It's 1,143 ft. (348 m) high.

DARLING RANGE
This low mountain range runs through far southwestern Australia. Its highest point is Mt. Cooke at 1,910 Ft. (580 m).

HAMERSLEY RANGE
A reddish-brown low mountain range located in Western Australia is the homeland of many Aboriginal peoples. This beautiful national park is famed for its red rock gorges and waterfalls.

GIBSON DESERT
Covered by small sand dunes and a few rocky hills, this 120,000 sq. mile desert is home to numerous Aboriginal reserves. Farming and cattle raising activities are difficult here as rain seldom falls.

GREAT BARRIER REEF
This spectacular coral reef, about 1,250 miles (2,000 km) in length contains the world's largest deposit of coral. It's not one continuous reef, but rather an irregular jigsaw puzzle of over 2,800 individual coral reefs and assorted coral cays.   Famed worldwide for its beauty and wildlife (over 1,500 species of fish alone), it became Australia's first World Heritage Area in 1981.

KIMBERLEY PLATEAU
The Kimberley, much of it still unexplored, is notorious for the dramatic red landscapes of jumbled rocks and gorges, and for the very strong ocean tide that flows in (twice daily), causing dangerous river rapids and whirlpools. Dozens of islands and coral reefs dot the rugged coastline, and access to this area of Australia is most difficult, as roads are few and far between.

MACDONNEL RANGE
Made famous by Ayers Rock and a favorite of campers and rock climbers, this series of rolling hills, mountain ridges and valleys is popular because of its consistently good weather and beautiful scenery. The highest point is Mt. Ziel at 5,023 ft. (1,5312 m).

CAPE YORK PENINSULA
Described as the world's "last wilderness," and as one of the "wildest unexplored wilderness area on the planet," Cape York is home to jagged-tooth mountains, tropical rainforests, extensive mangrove forests, grasslands, swamps and fast moving rivers.

GREAT DIVIDING RANGE
Running along the eastern/southeastern edge of the country and extending on into Tasmania, these mountains and its varied ranges separate the dry Australian interior from the coastal areas. The highest point is Mt. Kosciusko in the Australian Alps at 7,310 ft. (2,228 m) high.

The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area in New South Wales, about two hours drive from Sydney, is one of the most beautiful locations in the world and one of Australia's most visited spots.

GREAT SANDY DESERT (photo)
At 150,000 sq. miles in size this arid expanse of Western Australia, south of the Kimberley Plateau, features scattered scrub vegetation and rocks. It has miles of red sand ridges (dunes) and very few people.

GREAT VICTORIA DESERT
Famous for its red sand dunes, indigenous wildlife and isolation, the Victoria Desert (250,000 sq. miles in size) extends for about 450 miles (750 km), and is mainly a barren area of red sand hills and ridges, dry salt lakes, with very little grassland.

GREAT ARTESIAN BASIN
Also know as "Channel Country," it's one of the largest artesian groundwater basins in the world and a vital source of water for Australian agriculture.

LAKE EYRE BASIN
Lake Eyre itself is over 50 ft. (16 m) below sea level and located in the driest part of Australia. Usually it holds little water. Lake Eyre Basin is considered the world's largest internal drainage system, covering about one-sixth of the country. Rivers here flow based on rainfall, and because of that rare commodity, isolated water holes are vital for local communities and wildlife.

NULLARBOR PLAIN
This sparsely populated slice of southwestern Australia is extremely dry with very little surface water and very few people. It can be crossed by the using the Eyre Highway, named after the famed explorer Edward John Eyre, who was the first person to survive an East-West crossing of Australia in the mid-1800s.

Along the southern coastline on the Great Australian Bight (a bend or curve in the shoreline) the local terrain is unparalleled. Enormous stretches of pure white sand are found in the Bilbunya Dunes and the Baxter Cliffs along the Bight are absolutely stunning.

TANAMI DESERT
Similar to the Great Sandy Desert, it has large areas of red sand plains, scrub vegetation and a few scattered hills. It's mostly uninhabited with some isolated mining and livestock farms.

SHARK BAY (photo)
Shark Bay is one of only 14 places on the planet that meets ALL four natural criteria for World Heritage listings. The criteria include: outstanding examples of the earth's evolution, biological and ecological processes, incredible natural beauty and significant natural habitats for animal and plant species. The bay has the largest area of sea grass species in one place, and supports a rich aquatic life of dolphins, dugongs, sea snakes, turtles and whales.

SIMPSON DESERT
At 56,000 sq. miles in size, this desert of sand drifts and wind-blown sand dunes receives very little rain and summer heat can be brutal. High temperatures in the desert often exceed 120º F, and even though humans are advised to be cautious here in summer, the desert itself is far from lifeless. Tourists are commonplace in winter and many visit the strikingly beautiful landscapes of the Queensland Simpson Desert National Park (photo).