Australia is famous for its natural beauty, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Blue Mountains, Whit Sunday Islands, the "Outback", bustling harbors, and miles of pristine beaches. The people of Australia, or "Aussies", are notoriously friendly, warm and fun. There are plenty of opportunities for adventure, whether rock climbing, surfing, sailing, hiking, scuba diving, or exploring the many parks, historical sites, and the downtown shopping and nightlife districts. Also, check out world-famous sites such as Uluru Rock, the Sydney Opera house and harbor, and the Sunshine Coast.
Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. Most of Australia remained un-colonized until Captain James Cook took formal possession of the eastern coast for Britain. Many of Australia's early colonies were established as penal colonies, meaning they were created as a settlement for convicts and soldiers. Free settlements were also established in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. Although Australia is a Sovereign nation today, it is a member of Britain's Commonwealth and officially recognizes the British monarchy.