Geography of Australia

One could easily write books on the geography (physical, social, or other) of Australia but here we only want to present some very basic aspects that traveler’s should know about before planning travel to the country.

Australia is roughly the same size as the contiguous US as shown in the two figures below. These are screen captures of Google Earth views of each country – at the same distance above the earth’s surface.  Thus the two sizes can be compared directly.


What is also evident is that Australia is more equatorward than the US.  Northern Australia extends to within about 11 degrees of the Equator while Key West in the Florida Keys is about 24 degrees from the Equator.  The Tropic of Capricorn runs nearly through the middle of Australia (everyplace north of this line (depicting vertical sun at noon of the summer solstice) is officially “in the tropics”.  No place in the contiguous US is in the tropics – only Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other affiliated states like Guam are in the tropics.  The US extends farther north – 49˚N at the Canadian border, compared with about 43˚ S in Tasmania and about 39˚ in southern Victoria (mainland Australia).  Thus Australia is approximately 10 degrees more equatorward than the US.


Comparison of the colored images above (roughly what the eye would see from space without clouds) indicates that Australia is much redder (arid landscapes) than the US.  Green (forested) area in Australia are primarily along the east coast, the southeast and southwest, and over the far north.  Much of interior Australia is arid.


(from CIA)

Note the political divisions within Australia – there are 7 states, compared with 48 in the contiguous US.  A state like Western Australia is just over three and a half times the size of Texas!



Australian states and main roads

Comparison of the shaded relief maps below show that the US (14,500 ft maximum elevation) has much higher areas than Australia (7000 ft maximum) and that the areas of high terrain are much larger.  Australia’s Great Dividing Range, just inland from the eastern coast, is roughly comparable to the US’s Appalachians that extend from Georgia to maine, though there are major differences in geology and climate.  Some low, but large mountain ranges of interior and western Australia are lightly visited by tourists and are generally only a few thousand feet high.