Sydney Harbour, Sydney, New South Wales © Destination NSW
Australian States, Territories and Capital Cities
Mainland Australia is the world’s largest island but the smallest continent. The country is divided into six states and two territories. Let’s explore what makes each one so special.
No matter where you go in Australia, you’re sure to have an amazing time. We’re home to eight states and territories – each one with its own unique mix of environments, cultures and rhythms. From rolling deserts and quaint capitals to lush rainforests and sun-soaked cities, you’re going to want to visit them all.
New South Wales
New South Wales (NSW) beckons with indulgent wine regions, pristine seaside villages and mountain wilderness. Settled on the shores of Port Jackson is the bustling capital of Sydney, the nation's biggest city. New South Wales is the ultimate all-rounder destination, with the Sapphire Coast to the south, the Central Coast to the north and the Blue Mountains to the West. There’s something for everyone here: thrill-seekers, easy-going beach lovers, wine connoisseurs and families alike.
At the top end of Australia lies the Northern Territory (NT), home to capital city, Darwin. The NT takes ‘the outback’ to a whole new level with some of the country's premier national parks – Kakadu National Park, King’s Canyon, and Litchfield National Park – though, there’s perhaps nowhere as iconic as the phenomenal Uluru.The Northern Territory is a must-do for those wishing to see quintessential Australia – sublime landscapes, emblematic wildlife and authentic Aboriginal culture.
Queensland (QLD) is known to Australians as the ‘Sunshine State’. The subtropical stretch of land on the northeast of Australia is home to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, the ancient Daintree Rainforest and the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. Queensland is the sun-loving, beach-going traveller’s paradise. The state’s capital is Brisbane (or Brissie), and it enjoys more winter sunshine and warmth than just about anywhere else in the country, making it perfect for outdoor activities and water sports.
South Australia (SA) lounges at the bottom of the central part of the country, and is one of the most laid-back destinations to visit – perfect for a relaxing getaway. The state’s capital, Adelaide, is a great base for exploring the Barossa Valley wineries, the Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island. SA is also home to a thriving arts scene and is known as the ‘Festival State’, with more than 500 events and festivals taking place each year.
Tasmania (TAS), separated from mainland Australia by the Bass Strait, is the island state that’s a microcosm of our island nation. ‘Tassie’ pretty much has it all – dazzling beaches, rugged mountains and gorging rivers winding through one of the most picturesque places on the planet. Its stunning landscapes and vast wilderness make for some of the most breathtaking walks and hikes on the continent. The capital, Hobart, is a beautiful cosmopolitan city in close range to quaint regional towns, exquisite food and wine trails and tons of great family activities.
Victoria (VIC) is the thriving heart of all things culture in Australia, centred in the state’s capital, Melbourne. The city has been the recipient of the ‘Most Liveable City in the World’ title multiple times, owing to its cultural diversity, modern cityscape and friendly atmosphere. Victoria has so much to offer visitors, from incredible museums and galleries to the majestic Grampians National Park, and the Heritage-listed Great Ocean Road.
Western Australia (WA) is the largest state, situated on – you guessed it – the west coast of the country. Owing to the vastness of this massive state there is something for everyone here, including the dramatic Kimberley Region, the idyllic Rottnest Island (home to the selfie-loving quokka) and the premium wine and surf region of Margaret River. The capital, Perth, is famed for its serene, uncrowded beaches, parklands and fresh seafood.
Australian Capital Territory
Monuments and museums, glistening lakes and wild wetlands, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) blends the best of nature and culture. Home to the nation’s capital, Canberra, the ACT is renowned for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and cool, new edge. The state boasts some of Australia’s most important national institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum of Australia and Parliament House. Not to mention, there’s a flourishing restaurant scene, a stunning wine region, and an impressive array of parks and gardens.
Australia also administers Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (or Keeling) Islands, the Jervis Bay Territory, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island and the Australian Antarctic Territory (covering 42 per cent of the Antarctic continent) as External Territories.