Australia has been characterised by a laid back yet tough Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, a pioneering optimism of the old frontiermen and even in sentimental 80s pop sensations such as ‘Land Down Under’ by Men at Work. The writer Bill Bryson correctly observed that it has earned a legendary reputation and yet relatively little is known about it. The upside down land; Down Under – the nicknames attributed to Australia are more to do with its isolation, size, variable landscape, environment and history more than just its geography. All of which have made Australia a truly unique place in the world.
It is a land of extremes, of rain forests and deserts, of cuddly and killer animals, of fiercely competitive yet immensely friendly people and it is a Westernised island on the southern edge of Southeast Asia. It has two histories, one of which is amongst the oldest in human history and is manifested by the Aboriginal communities who have been in Australia for 40,000 years. The latter, the European history, has seen huge cities spread far and wide in a short couple of hundred years or so. Regardless of a sense of familiarity for foreigners used to city life in a global capitalist world, so much of what you can do and see is uniquely Australian.
In line with the nation’s love of competition and sporting prowess, the fondness for a flutter here and there is close behind. Whether an online game on sites like OCBB AU is your preference, or you tend to go for the green velvet of the blackjack table, a greyhound track, horse races or merely just like to throw into the Aussie Rules sweep stake down at the local pub, there is plenty to satisfy the idle sports fan who enjoys putting their money where the mouth should be.
What other Australian adventures can I pursue away from sport?
Australia’s climate, wildlife and landscapes are perhaps its biggest attributes. There are over 1,000 mammal and bird species, 4,000 fish species and around 500 reptile and marine mammal species combined. Over 80% of these are native to Australia and so are totally unique, from the iconic kangaroo to the koala bear. Do not be put off by the scare mongering on the topic of dangerous animals either. Going for a swim or a hike is not equal to gambling with your life, no matter how much you like a chance or two.
There are dozens of wildlife parks, zoos, open treks and thousands of miles of untamed country to be experienced. A visit to the Great Barrier Reef is a popular choice as it is the largest reef environment on Earth. In Australia the cliché of life being about the journey is as accurate as ever. It may be enormous but its internal network of roads and railways makes it one of the most uniquely diverse landscapes on earth to travel across.
It may not have the cult status of hitting the road as in the United States but trips between Melbourne and Adelaide on the Great Ocean Drive, for example, will show you this island at its most beautiful. Incidentally this is a popular cycling route too. There is a vibrant music, art and surfing scene in each of Australia’s major cities as its population becomes increasingly multi-cultural. There are also examples of art works that are up to 30,000 years old in the form of cave paintings by ancient Aboriginal tribes. A by-product of more and more foreign integration is the growing choice of delicious foods that go beyond the famous Australian barbeque. Look beyond and see the depth behind the iconic stereotypes for a place unlike any other.