Perhaps it’s to do with the weather, or the wide-open spaces, or the quality of the light, but Australians are generally an optimistic, positive lot—and to me, that’s a big part of its appeal. Phrases like “It’s a lucky country, mate” and “She’ll be right” (meaning everything will be okay) may have become clichés, but they sum up the attitude held by most Australians. The food is good, and there’s plenty of it; the education system is mostly good (and mostly free, unless you choose to pay for a private school, or you happen to be saddled with student loans to cover university fees); gun ownership is heavily restricted; the public health-care system is universal and largely free or inexpensive; and the government—whichever persuasion it is—is generally stable. It’s a great place to live—even though it can sometimes feel a long, long way away from everywhere else.

Of course, nothing is always clear-cut. The country has plenty of socially disadvantaged areas, and many of Australias indigenous people, in particular, are struggling on the fringes of mainstream society.

As a nation, Australia is also facing tough challenges in balancing the benefits of industry with caring for the environment. Australia makes a massive amount of revenue from mining, supplying China with a significant proportion of its iron and other metals and the rest of the world with everything from uranium and coal to natural gas. This inevitably means the ruin of some once-pristine landscapes. Australia also has one of the worlds highest per capita levels of greenhouse gas emissions (nearly twice the OECD average and more than four times the world average) and suffers from severe droughts and dramatic weather events that most experts believe are the result of human-induced climate change.

Australia is also one of the world's fastest-growing industrialized nations. Today, the population stands at just under 23 million, a figure driven in recent years by immigration, with around 236,000 people settling here in 2012.

One thing Australia realized early on was the importance of tourism to its economy. Millions visit every year. Youll find Australians helpful and friendly and services, tours, and food and drink to rival any in the world. Factor in the landscape, the indigenous culture, the sunshine, the unique wildlife, and some of the worlds best cities, and, all in all, youve got a fascinating, accessible destination of amazing diversity and variety.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.