Australia’s unique allure is boundless. Its mystical splendor emanates from the timeless land and sea, dynamic scenery and majestic wildlife, captivating flavors and enchanting culture. A giant island afloat in the Great Southern Ocean, cut off from the rest of the world for millennia, this most ancient of continents has long hidden its startling beauty and remarkable native wildlife from the rest of the world. Inhabited by Aboriginal people who have coexisted with the land for more than 40,000 years, it was into this pristine wilderness that the British first arrived in 1788, and for the next 100 years, this beguiling land remained the haunt of convicts, explorers and spirited free settlers, who along with growing bands of intrepid gold-miners, pearlers, farmers and traders, forged an Australian spirit that is characterized by independence, irreverence, and a good dose of humor. Today, Australia dazzles with its contrasting landscapes and its extraordinary diversity. This vast, pristine land is affluent, sophisticated, multicultural and laced with natural splendor: from tropical rain forests to fiery red deserts in the vast Outback, from scenic vineyards, producing excellent Cabarnet Sauvignon and Shiraz to gleaming modern and funky cities, and from idyllic underwater paradise of the Great Barrier Reef to the Aboriginal culture and art.