Geographical dimensions: size and shape
The size and shape of Australia
Australia is a larger country than many people believe. To travel from the easternmost point of Australia, Cape Byron in New South Wales, to the westernmost point of Australia, Steep Point in Western Australia, you would have to travel 4100 kilometres (km). To travel from the northernmost point of the country, Cape York in Queensland, to the southernmost point of the Australian mainland, Wilson's Promontory in Victoria, you would have to travel 3180 km. Overall, the country covers an area of about 7 682 300 square kilometres (km2). See image 1
Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world. The only countries larger than Australia are Russia, Canada, China, the United States of America and Brazil. Australia is a little less than half the size of Russia and is only slightly smaller than the United States. See image 2
Australia has an approximately oval shape, with the country wider east to west than north to south. At the north and south of the continent are two areas of water that cut into the Australian mainland, the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north and the Great Australian Bight in the south.
The Australian continent
Australia has a continuous coastline of around 30 000 km. Scattered around the coast of Australia are more than 12 000 islands, the majority being continental shelf islands, such as Rottnest Island (Western Australia), Kangaroo Island (South Australia) and Hayman Island off the coast of Queensland with a few coral islands such as Heron and Green, and just a handful of true oceanic islands, such as Lord Howe. If the coastlines of the surrounding islands are included in the measurement of Australia's coastline, along with hundreds of bays and estuaries, the total coastline extends over 70 000 km. Australia has the world's fifth-longest coastline after Russia, Canada, Greenland and Indonesia. Australia's nearest neighbours are all groups of islands, or archipelagos.
Some people believe that Australia is the largest island on Earth, while others believe it is its own continent because it has its own tectonic plate and unique plant and animal life. Some people believe that Australia is part of a continent called Oceania, which includes many islands such as New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. See image 3
While Australia is the only country that occupies the entire mainland of a continent, it is the smallest of the seven continents. The largest continent is Asia, which covers nearly 45 000 000 km2. The next largest continent is Africa, followed by North America, South America, Antarctica and Europe.
The Australian States and Territories
The Commonwealth of Australia consists of six States: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia and two mainland major territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. See image 4
Of the States and Territories, Western Australia has the greatest area, covering 2 529 875 km2, with a border length of 1862 km and a coastline length of 20 871km. Western Australia borders the Northern Territory and South Australia to the east, and accounts for 33% of the continent. Western Australia is approximately ten times the size of New Zealand.
Queensland is the second largest State of Australia, spreading over 1 730 648 km2. The coastline is over 13 347 km, touching the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Coral Sea. Queensland shares a border with New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory and its border length extends 33 369 km.
The Northern Territory
The total land area of the Northern Territory is 1 349 129 km2, with a coastline length of 10 953 km and a border length of 3179 km. It borders Queensland to the east, South Australia to the south and Western Australia to the west.
South Australia covers some of the most arid parts of the continent, and is the fourth-largest of Australia's States and Territories, spreading across 983 482 km2. It is bordered to the north by the Northern Territory, to the east by Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, to the west by Western Australia and along the south by the Great Australian Bight and the Southern Ocean. South Australia's coastline length is 5067 km, while its border length is 3185 km.
New South Wales
New South Wales is Australia's oldest and most populous State. It accounts for 10% percent of the total land area of Australia (800 642 km2). Its border length runs across 4635 km and its coastal length extends for 2137 km. It borders Queensland to the north, South Australia to the west and Victoria to the south.
Victoria is the smallest of the mainland States (227 416 km2). It also has the smallest coastline length (2512 km) and the smallest border length (2541 km). Victoria borders New South Wales to the north and South Australia to the west.
The island of Tasmania is often referred to as the 'Natural State', owing to its relatively unspoilt and natural environment. Forty percent of Tasmania's land area (68 332 km2) is formally in National Parks, reserves and World Heritage Sites. Since Tasmania is an island, it does not border any States. Tasmania is separated from the mainland by Bass Strait to the south of Victoria.
The Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory, or ACT, is located in inland New South Wales. It is the smallest State or Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia at 68 401 km2. It contains only 0.03% of Australia's total land area. The ACT is bordered on all sides by New South Wales.