Australians are rightly proud of their nation, and one of the things they enjoy most is being different from everyone else. This means that facts about Australia can range from the plain weird to the utterly outlandish. World’s longest fence? Tick. Whitest Sand? Check. Using rum instead of money? You bet. Here are 20 truly bizarre facts about the land down under.
20. It’s home to the world’s longest fence
One thing Australia has plenty of is open space. And so it’s only natural that the country also has the world’s longest fence, erected in the 1880s. Nearly 3,500 miles long, the fence was constructed to keep dingoes – wild dogs – from terrorizing livestock. And a fence that’s as long as the distance from New York to London doesn’t come cheap. Maintenance is a startling $670,000 each year.
19. It has more snow than Switzerland
When you think of Oz, you don’t generally think of snow. And yet parts of the continent actually see heavy falls of the white stuff every year. Indeed, on average the Australian Alps see more snow each year than the Swiss Alps. In fact, these peaks – which form the country’s highest mountain range – even have a selection of ski resorts.
18. It also has the world’s longest golf course
You’ll need more than a standard golf buggy to navigate the Nullarbor Links Golf Course, which extends for a whopping 850 miles between the towns of Kalgoorlie and Ceduna. The 18-hole, par-72 course, which stretches an average of 41 miles between holes, was the brainwave of Alf Caputo and Bob Bongiorno. The pair are said to have dreamed up their crazy idea while enjoying a little red wine.
17. It has the world’s longest straight of railway, too
The Trans-Australian Railway crosses the south of the country from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, traversing a distance of 1,051 miles. But what’s really astonishing about this line is the stretch of track which runs for no less than 297 miles without a single bend. That makes it the longest straight section of railroad anywhere in the world.
16. Aussie men will always be your “mate”
“Mate” is a universal term Australian men use to address each other, even when they’re complete strangers. It has a pleasingly democratic feel to it – any man can be a mate, no matter what their social standing. And so when the parliament in Canberra attempted to stop security guards using the term to address MPs, there was outrage at this “un-Australian” move. In fact, the ruling was rescinded within 24 hours.
15. They bet on cockroaches
Australians love sports, and especially ones that they can bet on. But their enthusiasm for competition doesn’t stop at the conventional. The city of Brisbane actually hosts an annual cockroach race on Australia Day. Highlights at what the organizers describe as an “elite sporting event” include a steeple chase, while corporate boxes are also available for those wanting closer-to-the-cockroach action.
14. Australia has a ranch bigger than the whole of New Hampshire
Australia really is a big country. A really big country. And just to prove it, it’s home to the world’s biggest ranch, or cattle station as the Australians call it. Anna Creek Station covers some 9,400 square miles, while the state of New Hampshire covers 9,350 square miles. Droughts are fairly frequent, but when the rains are good, the station can accommodate 16,500 cattle.
13. It’s home to the world’s weirdest wildlife
Because of its geographic isolation from the rest of the world, more than 80 percent of Australia’s animal and plant life is only found in Australia and Australia alone. Indeed, when some naturalists in Europe first saw a preserved specimen of duck-billed platypus, they thought it an elaborate hoax. And no wonder, since it’s a venomous mammal that lays eggs and has what looks like a duck’s bill stuck on its face.
12. It has the whitest sand in the world
Travel writers often wax lyrical about gorgeous white sands, but when it comes to glistening beaches, Australia’s Hyams Beach has probably the whitest in the world. In fact, the Guinness Book of Records confirms that it is, indeed, the whitest in the world. Located on the eastern coast of Australia, the beach is as white as refined sugar – although not as sticky, or half as fattening.
11. Oz is a truly great place for men
Australian men apparently have it easy in the dating stakes – there are, after all, 100,000 more females than males in the country. In fact, six of the country’s eight states have more women than men. But if you’re a man that wants to take advantage of this demographic, you’ll need to hurry. Latest figures show that there are currently 105 boys born for every 100 girls, so that gender gap could soon disappear.
10. Australia is the land of 10,000 beaches
The Australian mainland has a coastline that’s 22,293 miles long, which is long enough to have 10,685 beaches, according to Sydney University’s Coastal Studies Unit. And if you decide to visit them all, spending a day at each one, that would be 29 years of your life gone. And you’d still have about another 100 to go.
9. It has a pretty pink lake
This is Lake Hillier on Middle Island, which lies just off the south coast of Australia. Yes, it is pink, and, no, it’s not photoshopped. Scientists are still puzzled over what makes this lake, and others in the region, turn a lurid shade of pink from time to time. They theorize that the color is a result of the bacteria feasting off the lake’s salt.
8. Even the trees are poisonous
Wasps, jellyfish, nettles – they’re all things that can sting the unwary. But in Australia, you’ve also got to keep a sharp eye out for the trees. Specifically, the bizarrely named gympie gympie tree packs a powerful and extremely unpleasant sting. Ecologist Marina Hurley told Australian Geographic, “Being stung is the worst kind of pain you can imagine – like being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time.”
7. It offers the best – and longest – roadtrips
If you like driving, Australia comes highly recommended. Head for Highway 1, which travels right around the Australian mainland, covering a distance of some 9,000 miles. Keep a steady 50 mph for eight hours a day and you’ll complete the circular route in a mere 18 days.
6. It was once the site of a rum rebellion
When Australia was first settled by British convicts guarded by soldiers, cash wasn’t much use, and so rum became the main currency. In 1808, when Governor William Bligh attempted to wrest control of the rum trade from the army, troops rebelled with an almighty coup.
5. Here come the rabbits
Englishman Thomas Austin thought it was a good idea to let 24 rabbits loose in Australia in 1859. At the time, he said, “The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting.” He did not think it through. Because sure enough, the rabbits did what rabbits do best: they bred with a vengeance. And consequently, by the 1920s Australia had a bunny population of 10 billion.
4. If it’s not rabbits, it’s camels
The British also introduced camels to the land down under; dromedaries and Bactrians from colonial India and Afghanistan. They were a great way to get around the Australian outback, but with the introduction of motorized transport, many were simply released into the wild where they thrived. The population was estimated at 600,0000 in 2013, although extensive culling has reduced this number by about half.
3. Pink hot pants are forbidden
Many places have some peculiar laws, but Australia’s Victoria has an especially bizarre one. There, you are forbidden to wear pink hot pants on a Sunday any later than noon. You can slip back into them at midnight, and wear them through to midday the following Sunday, but then you’d better get them off pronto.
2. Australians enjoy some outlandish sports
Australian Rules Football is a sport that makes Harry Potter’s quidditch look normal. It’s a rough, tough physical game played in sleeveless shirts with no protective padding. Aussie Rules, as it’s called, has two teams fighting for an oval ball which they can kick and handle. Simply put, goals are scored by kicking the ball through the four posts at either end of the field. After that, it gets rather more complicated.
1. Australians enjoy some alternative delicacies
The witchetty grub is a large, wriggling moth larvae, which some Australians like to eat. You can fry it, barbecue it or eat it raw, according to taste. And if you can overcome your perfectly natural revulsion, it’s actually a highly nutritious snack that aboriginal Australians have eaten for millennia. Apparently, it tastes like a combination of chicken and shrimp.