Australia is home to the oldest known continuous civilisations on Earth, with people crossing the long-submerged land bridge from New Guinea anything between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago. These people spread all around this vast continent over the millennia, and in time developed an incredible connection and deep understanding of their lands, and how to live off them.

Their rich heritage can be found all around the country, especially in the form of ancient rock art, often in the most remote corners of the country. One of our most memorable experiences travelling across the country so far is seeing the ancient hand prints in ochre on the roof of a cave in the Carnarvon Gorge National Park in Central Queensland, trying to imagine the people that made them over 20,000 years ago.

The fish traps in the Barwon river in Brewarrina, in northern New South Wales, could be much older – and therefore among the oldest surviving human constructions anywhere in the world. Countless sites around the country are of great importance to Indigenous people – one of the most obvious being Uluru, the world-famous monolith in the Northern Territory, which is of immense spiritual significance to the local people, the Anangu.

We cannot recommend enough joining an Indigenous guided tour of a place or area to help gain a better understanding of the land, its meaning to them, and the myriad stories connected to them.

The documented history of Australia begins in 1788 with the British arrival to turn a corner of the continent – Sydney – into a penal colony, while claiming the rights of the whole continent for the British King George III. Evidence of this convict and colonial history can be found across Australia, from Sydney, Parramatta and the nearby Great North Road to the distant extremes of the continent, in Tasmania, Norfolk Island and Fremantle.

The settlement continued through the 19th century, as Australia’s mineral wealth was gradually discovered and mined, bringing great wealth to some areas. The gold rush of the mid 19th century led to the growth of mining towns such as Hill End in NSW and Walhalla in Victoria, to name but two, and these have survived to leave wonderfully evocative reminders of this brief heyday. The hot climate of much of the country also led to the development of distinctive Australian architecture, in particular houses with wide verandahs and intricate wrought ironwork.

In the 20th century, the larger cities took a more prominent role on the world stage, with the construction of some of the world’s most iconic buildings, most notably the Sydney Opera House, which opened in 1973.

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