Australia, in Oceania between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean, is the world’s smallest continent, but 6th largest country. It is mostly low plateau and deserts, with fertile plain in southeast. The highest point is Mount Kosciuszko at 2,229 meters (7,310 feet). Most of the population is concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts.

Environmental issues include soil erosion from overgrazing, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices – rising soil salinity due to the use of poor quality water – and desertification. Land clearing for agricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animal and plant species. The Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, the largest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and its popularity as a tourist site. Australia also contends with limited natural freshwater resources; so, rainwater catchment is commonplace in the vast rural areas. Uranium mining in Kakadu National Park has been an issue of particular concern for tourism. (See Wikipedia Environmental issues in Australia and Effects of global warming on Australia.)

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is the government agency charged with overseeing environmental issues, as well as protected areas. The Australian Greens are active and influential at all levels of government, federal, state and local. (See Wikipedia Environmental movement in Australia and Environmental organisations based in Australia.)

There are two areas in Australia which are both Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage sites. Remote Macquarie Island, about half-way between New Zealand and Antarctica though administered as a Tasmanian State Reserve, is home to Macquarie Island Station, part of the Australian Antarctic Division. At the center of Australia, the Uluru Biosphere Reserve contains the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park World Heritage site. Theoretically, Australia’s National Reserve System, almost 10,000 protected areas covering more than 12 percent of the continent, is overseen by Parks Australia in support of the Director of National Parks; however, in reality day to day administration of “national parks” falls to state and territory authorities. In large part, national parks in Australia have been politically “rubber stamped”, and so are not the pristine national parks seen elsewhere, but more like the multi-use national forests of the United States. (See Wikipedia Protected areas of Australia, Marine parks of Australia, and Botanical gardens in Australia.)

Australia enjoys an immense wealth of special wildlife, not only on land, but in the sky and in the sea as well. The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife works to protect wildlife and habitat. Wildlife Tourism Australia is particularly involved in the role wildlife plays in tourism. The wild dingos of Fraser Island present a particular case in point; Save Fraser Island Dingoes is involved with the protection of this sub-species of the Asian wolf. Lots of people have heard of the emu, but the cassowary presents another case in point of species impacted by tourism; Save the Cassowary is a campaign working for more protection of this endangered giant bird. BirdLife Australia has been Australia’s voice for birds over a century. (See Wikipedia Important Bird Areas of Australia and Ramsar sites in Australia.) The Australian feral camel has become an environmental menace; however, Explore the Outback has become a prominent voice in the Australian camel safaris industry. (See Camels Australia Export for links to more tourism providers.)

The Dugong & Turtle Tourism project has explored sustainable management of dugong and turtle tourism. (Dugongs are the Indo-Pacific variant of “sea cows”, commonly known as manatees in North America.) The Australian Whale Conservation Society was instrumental in ending commercial whaling. Whale and Dolphin Watch Australia is the national trade association for commercial whale watching operators. Hervey Bay in Queensland is generally considered the humpback whale watching capital of Australia, with the season starting every July. According to Whales Alive, 1.5 million whale watchers in Australia generated close to $300 million worth of business in 2004 alone, with 15 percent annual growth. In Western Australia, migrating humpback whales are viewable in Coral Bay, from June to October.

In Western Australia, Monkey Mia Resort is probably the most well know place for dolphin experiences in Australia, located in the Shark Bay Marine Park and World Heritage site. The Shark Bay Dolphin Project is doing long-term monitoring of Shark Bay dolphins, including human impacts. (There is also a Dolphin Discovery Center south of Perth, in Bunbury.) Further north, Ningaloo Marine Park (Ningaloo Reef) and Ningaloo Coast World Heritage site is known for seasonal concentrations of the whale sharks. ECOCEAN (Australia) works to save the biggest fish in the ocean, as part of an international network monitoring whale sharks. In 2012, results of a 5 year study showed tourism had not affected whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef. Coral Bay Ecotours is a commercial provider of whale shark experiences.

Crocodile tourism is also popular – both freshwater crocodiles (freshies) and saltwater crocodiles (salties) – with many crocodile parks and farms around Australia, such as Hartleys Crocodile Adventures in Cairns, and Crocosaurus Cove or Crocodylus Park in Darwin. Of course, no review of Australia’s wildlife tourism story would be complete without a nod to the renowned “Croc Hunter”, Steve Irwin – now memorialized by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society flagship, MY Steve Irwin, and to his family’s Australia Zoo on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. (See Wikipedia Zoos in Australia, Aquaria in Australia, and Wildlife sanctuaries of Australia.)

In terms of ecoregions, the great Australian Outback is surrounded by the famed beaches of Australia; though, the Queensland tropical rain forests is also a noteworthy region. Before European arrival, aboriginal Australians had Songlines, or Dreaming tracks, across the land which marked the routes followed by the creators. Today, there are many hiking and bushwalking tracks in Australia, such as the well known Bibbulmun Track through Western Australia. There is also the Gibb River Road, a former cattle route through The Kimberley. Initiated by the Australian Trail Horse Riders Association, the Australian Bicentennial National Trail is one of the longest marked multi-use trails in the world, stretching from far north Queensland all the way south to Victoria. Bushwalking Australia is the national body representing the interests of bushwalkers. Rail Trails Australia works for the conversion of disused railbeds into a national network of rail trails. Tracks & Trails is a biennial conference dedicated to the business of trails in Australia. Conservation Volunteers Australia is a great way to get involved with land management initiatives across Australia.

There are also quite a few developed canopy walks all over Australia. Queensland has the most, including Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walk, O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk, Daintree Discovery Centre, and Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk. New South Wales has the Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk. Victoria has the Otway Fly. Tasmania has the Tahune Forest Airwalk. And in Western Australia, there is the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. Though not walks per se, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway lets you ride a gondola to Kuranda from just outside Cairns, and Cape Tribulation Jungle Surfing lets you tour the rainforest canopy by zip line.

Parks Authorities:

Biosphere reserves:

IUCN members:


The history of indigenous Australians is long and interesting. Scientists believe humans first arrived in Australia more than 70,000 years ago. Recent DNA studies suggest an additional influx or people from India some 4,500 years ago, bringing the dingo with them. The Australia aboriginal cultures are considered to be the oldest living cultures in the world. However, there is no doubt they have been ravaged and decimated by European colonization. The first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal claims were made until 1770, when Captain James Cook took possession for Great Britain. Six colonies were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Those colonies federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. A referendum to change Australia’s status, from a commonwealth headed by the British monarch to a republic, was defeated in 1999.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites International Scientific Committee on Cultural Tourism secretariat is based in Australia. National Trust of Australia functions as the Australian council of national trusts for regional member organizations. The National Heritage List is maintained by Australia Heritage. There are many museums in Australia. The state of Queensland maintains its own Heritage Trails Network.

Tourism in Australia has become an important part of the national economy. In the financial year 2010/11, the tourism industry represented 2.5 percent of Australia’s GDP, a value of approximately A$35 billion; this is equivalent of tourism contributing A$94.8 million a day to the economy. The government’s Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, to establish a competitive and dynamic sustainable tourism industry, ceased operation in 2010. In the third sector, Ecotourism Australia coordinates a number of industry specific certifications. The Outdoor Council of Australia is another association of outdoor industry professionals, more on the experiential education side. There is also an Outward Bound Australia for training outdoor leaders. The International Centre for Responsible Tourism Australia is a private sector initiative. The Australian Tourism Export Council maintains a Backpacker Youth Tourism Advisory Panel. On the academic side, Queensland’s Griffith University maintains the International Centre for Ecotourism Research as a strategic research center. Regional initiatives include Western Australia’s FACET (Forum for Advocating Cultural & Ecotourism). The Australasian Spa Association provides a focal point for wellness tourism. WWF Australia has been involved with a number of regional tourism development projects, such as the Sustainable Kimberley tourism partnership. Controversial tourism developments, in particular along the Great Barrier Reef, include Great Keppel Island and Ella Bay.

Australia enjoys a rich musical culture, and it’s quite possible to travel the circuit of music festivals in Australia fulltime. Folk Alliance Australia is the peak national body representing performing folk arts, with a lively Festivals Calendar. The annual Woodford Folk Festival over the New Year holiday period, which is summertime downunder, may be the most well known. Australia’s wine regions, particularly South Australia’s famous Barossa Valley, present a strong tourist draw. Somehow the craze of building outlandish sculptures of ordinary things caught on in Australia, and now people will travel around the country to visit Australia’s big things. Free Beaches Australia is an online directory, listing both legal and unofficial nude beaches. The Principality of Hutt River maintains itself as a sovereign state and tourist attraction within Western Australia. In the “Red Centre”, Wycliffe Well is known for being the UFO capital of Australia (just five hours from the secretive Pine Gap facility).

Tourism Australia now has an online portal dedicated to Aboriginal Tourism, which includes and Operator Directory. Aboriginal culture is especially known for its art and music. The corroboree is more or less the equivalent of the native North American powwow. Major aboriginal art events include Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, Alice Desert Festival, and Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. Great aboriginal music festivals include the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, the Dreaming Festival, and the biennial Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival. Desart is the “Association of Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Centres”, detailing how to visit local centers. Aboriginalart focuses on linking the community art centers of the “Top End”. EALTA is the “East Arnhem Land Tourist Association”, supporting local tourism operators and the development of tourism in East Arnhem Land. WAITOC is the “Western Australia Indigenous Tour Operators Committee”. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is a radical aboriginal presence at the nation’s capital in Canberra.

Australians consume more Cannabis per capita than any other country. The little town of Nimbin, in the “Rainbow Region” of Northern New South Wales, is arguably the alternative capital of Australia, certainly the only place where Cannabis is openly bought and sold. (Big Volcano is as good a guide as any to ecotourism in the region, centered on the ancient caldera.) Cultural life of the region is largely revolves around the regular North Coast Markets. The Fellowship for Intentional Community maintains a good listing of Intentional Communities in Australia. New Govardhana is an Iskcon farm in the Rainbow Region that accepts “WWOOFers” (work trade guests). WWOOF Australia lists opportunities for “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” throughout the country. ConFest is a long running alternative bush campout festival held in the south-eastern states of Australia at New Year and Easter, organized by the Down To Earth Co-op. Gumtree is the “Craigslist” of Australia, for rental accommodation, buying used vehicles as well as rideshare opportunities.

For such a vast and empty land, camping is generally illegal outside commercial campgrounds, known as “caravan parks”, and national parks, certainly in most touristed places. Farmstay Camping Australia is an online portal which can direct you to a wealth of interesting accommodation opportunities. Hosted Accommodation Australia is the trade association for Australia’s “Bed & Breakfast” industry. Although there are many independent backpacker accommodations available, the Australian youth hostels association – YHA Australia provides a consistent, safe standard. EcoHotel presents an online portal to Australia’s best green resorts and ecolodges, such as the North Territory’s Wildman Wilderness Lodge. Stay Global is a Sydney based agency specializing in both visas and accommodations for studying in Australia.

There are many ways to get around in Australia. Rail transport in Australia is a good option. There is also the Greyhound Australia bus (not affiliated with Greyhound in the USA and Canada). Though largely a tropical climate, meaning either hot and humid or hot and dry, with immense empty expanses and “roadtrains” (tractor trailer trucks towing multiple trailers), many people still manage touring by bicycle in Australia. A more popular option is camper van rental. Popular camper van rental companies include Wicked Campers and Spaceships Rentals among others. Propane and dual fuel vehicles are relatively available in Australia. The Spirit of Tasmania is a car and passenger ferry with regular operations between Victoria and Tasmania.

World Heritage:

ICCROM members:


  • The role of law in shark-based eco-tourism: Lessons from Australia by EJ Techera & N Klein, 2013
  • Diversification for sustainable development in rural and regional Australia: how local community leaders conceptualise the impacts and opportunities from agriculture, tourism and mining by E Miller, K van Megen & L Buys, 2012
  • Death by a thousand cuts: Governance and environmental trade-offs in ecotourism development at Kangaroo Island, South Australia by F Higgins-Desbiolles, 2011
  • Public perceptions of ecotourism activities and their ‘authenticity’ in regional Australia by S Rockloff & W Hillman, 2011
  • Impacts and opportunities: Resident’s views on sustainable development of tourism in regional Queensland, Australia by E Miller, K Megen & L Buys, 2010
  • A Rewarding Holiday: Ecotourism in Australia by J Barthes, 2009
  • Ecotourism as a Means of Encouraging Ecological Recovery in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia by E Moskwa, 2008
  • Historical progression of sustainable management concerning marine tourism activities: A case study in Eastern Australia by H Richins & G Mayes, 2008
  • Sustainable tourism development in remote regions? Questions arising from research in the North Kimberley, Australia by S Larson & A Herr, 2008
  • The bigger they are, the harder they fall! Sustainable tourism planning at Naracoorte Caves World Heritage Site, Australia by JA James & CN Wild, 2008
  • Determining Best Practice for the Sustainable Development, Marketing and Management of Regional Tourism Destinations in Australia: Project Overview by M Lawrence & J Buultjens, 2007
  • Ecotourism and indigenous rights in Australia by RA Poirier, 2007
  • Poverty, indigenous culture and ecotourism in remote Australia by D Fuller, J Caldicott, G Cairncross & S Wilde, 2007
  • An outline of Parks Victoria’s Tourism Partnerships Strategy and challenges for sustainable park tourism in Australia by M Stone & D Smith, 2006
  • Ecotourism enterprise and sustainable development in remote Indigenous communities in Australia by D Fuller, J Caldicott & S Wilde, 2006
  • Serviced apartment complexes in Australia: A critical analysis of their potential and challenges for sustainable tourism by J Warnken & C Guilding, 2006
  • Understanding sustainable tourism development from a complex systems perspective: a case study of the Swan River, Western Australia by JR McDonald, 2006
  • Wine Tourism and sustainable development in regional Australia by JG Gammack, 2006
  • Cultural tourism attractions’ contribution to ‘culturally sustainable’ tourism development: A case study of Maroochy Shire, Queensland, Australia by H Richins & G Van Hees, 2005
  • Ecotourism and indigenous micro-enterprise formation in northern Australia opportunities and constraints by D Fuller, J Buultjens & E Cummings, 2005
  • An Ecotourism Development Plan for the Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia by RK Dowling, 2004
  • An Inspection Report on the Natural Preservation Undertaking and Ecotourism in Australia by DU Wan-quan, 2004
  • The development of an indigenous eco-tourism micro-enterprise in Northern Australia by D Fuller & J Buultjens, 2004
  • Ecotourism and protected areas in Australia by J Jenkins & S Wearing, 2003
  • Ecotourism and the development of environmental literacy in Australia by GG Price, 2003
  • Pay to play in parks: An Australian policy perspective on visitor fees in public protected areas by R Buckley, 2003
  • Sharing the country: Ecotourism policy and indigenous peoples in Australia by H Zeppel, 2003
  • Sustainable forest-based tourism in Northeast New South Wales, Australia: a problematic goal by J Buultjens, M Tiyce & D Gale, 2003
  • The Natural State: Nature-Based Tourism and Ecotourism Accreditation in Tasmania, Australia by KA Matyseka & LK Kriwokena, 2003
  • Australian Aboriginal ecotourism in the wet tropics rainforest of Queensland by THB Sofield, Australia, 2002
  • Converting environmental concern into ecotourism purchases: A qualitative evaluation of international backpackers in Australia by S Wearing, S Cynn & J Ponting, 2002
  • Ecotourism on Lancelin Island, Western Australia by M Revitt & D Sanders, 2002
  • Ecotourism accreditation in Australia by RC Buckley & X Font, 2001
  • Multiple Use Management Planning in Queensland, Australia: the Koombooloomba Ecotourism Project (a case study) by J Kehl, B Waring, R Smith & D Nalder, 2001
  • Stakeholder perceptions of sustainable tourism: lessons learnt from a study in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland, Australia by A Hardy & R Beeton, 2001
  • The Ecotourism Potential Of The Barker Inlet Wetlands, South Australia by GE Higginson, 2000
  • Aspects of the biology and ecotourism industry of the whale shark Rhincodon typus in north-western Australia by BM Norman, 1999
  • ‘Best Practice’ & Guidelines: Planning Tools For Sustainable Coastal Tourism In Australia? by L Testoni, 1999
  • Ecotourism options in coastal protected area management: a case study of North Head Quarantine Station, Australia by S Wearing & S Darcy, 1999
  • The challenges posed by four-wheel drive tourists to sustainable tourism in tropical Western Australia by M Hercock, 1998
  • Potential for Participation in Ecotourism in Australia by Japanese Tourists by S Yoshikawa, 1997
  • Sustainable tourism management: lessons from the edge of Australia by G Brown & S Essex, 1997
  • Ecological economics criteria for sustainable tourism: Application to the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics world heritage areas, Australia by S Driml & M Common, 1996
  • Setting an international precedent: ecotourism in Australia by H Richins, 1996
  • The perceptions of ecotourism operators in Western Australia by SJ Finucane & RK Dowling, 1995
  • Forest Ecotourism in the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia by RE Ressom, 1993
  • Sustainable tourism in remote Australia: strategies for physical planning and infrastructure by CJ Bull, 1991

Australia Data