Australia is at once the world's smallest continent and sixth-largest country. By far the largest part of Australia is the desert or semi-arid lands commonly known as the outback. Most of the population lives along the temperate eastern and southeastern coastline, in cities like Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
Though very modern Australia is nevertheless a place for the nature lover. Because it was largely isolated from the rest of the world for many millenia, its fauna evolved differently and became an array of truly strange creatures: the kangaroo, koala, emu, wombat, platypus and dingo, plus many interesting and colorful birds including parrots and cockatoos.
It also has some dangerous creatures, including crocodiles, very poisonous spiders and the most poisonous snakes on earth. And, of course, it has the Great Barrier Reef. Thriving in Australia's clear, shallow, coastal waters, and its tropical climate, this coral reef boatsts a diversity of species rivaled only by that of a tropical rain forest. The currency is also called the dollar, though it is only worth about 70 U.S. cents. It has $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills, 5-, 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins and $1 and $2 coins.
Australia is of interest to the U.S. Navy for several reasons. Because of good transportation and friendly people it is a good place for a sea swap, trading new arrivals on ships for rotating personnel. Two of the three ports where such swaps are conducted are Australian; Perth and Darwin. The other is Singapore. And sailors like to have liberty in a country where the people are welcoming and speak their language. The U.S. Navy's ports of call surround the continent.
PORTS OF CALL
Perth, the capital of Western Australia, has a Royal Australian Air Force Base and an International Airport, which meet the needs of the U.S. planes sending equipment to U.S. ships. It also provides excellent ship repair facilities.
And it is reputed to be one of the best liberty ports in the world, a place of incredibly outgoing people, reasonable prices and a casual atmosphere. Tours are popular with sailors, who can see the native animals up close on the Koala and Kangaroo tour, trek through the outback in a four-wheel drive vehicle, or visit Western Australia's finest vineyards on a wine tasting tour.
Darwin, at the very top of Australia, is closer than any other Australian port to the rest of the world. The capital of the Northern Territory, it is one of Australia's most modern cities. This is small wonder since it was almost completely destroyed twice in the space of 30 years, once by Japanese air raids during World War II and once by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
It has a lot to offer sailors and marines. There are markets, World War II history, world class wildlife and crocodile parks, museums, art and craft galleries, beaches, stunning sunsets and delicious food from just about every ethic background.
Sydney is the capital city of New South Wales, and, with a population of just over 4 million, the largest Australian city. Ferries provide an inexpensive way of seeing one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge is one of the world's most famous landmarks. It is now possible to walk to along the top of the bridge for unsurpassed views of the city and harbor. At the bridge's base is The Rocks, a 19th century village that is the birthplace of modern-day Australia, Captain Arthur Phillip having settled there in 1788. The Rocks contains many historic buildings, tourist attractions and boutique shopping.
Brisbane is the capital of Queensland. Among the events MWR sets up for visiting sailors are a champagne breakfast balloon flight, bus and 4WD tours, historic walking tours, specialist art tours with fine food and wine, adventure trike tours, ghost tours and eco tours. A high-rise building offers views of national parks in all directions, and the zoo features koala bears, kangaroos, snakes and other animals native to the continent.
Townsville, on the northeastern coast in the state of Queensland, is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Surrounded by a rich hinterland of tropical rainforests and waterfalls, it is the home of the Billabong Sanctuary, with crocs, koalas, kangaroos, wombats and other native species. Diving enthusiasts have access to the Yongala Wreck, Australia's best wreck dive site.
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