Australia is a wonderful country to visit, but many people are surprised to find just how different it is to their preconceptions. It’s a huge country with plenty to see and do, much of it very unexpected for British or American tourists lulled into a false sense of security by a shared language.

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Here are some of the more surprising random facts to discover:

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Australia has more than 10,000 beaches all told – and that’s a lot of surfing and beach barbies. From the tropical north to the temperate south, there’s a beach for everyone, although before 1902 it was illegal to swim on a beach during daytime. Unfortunately for some people, that figure is matched by another fact: there are more then 10,000 species of spider to be found Down Under, many of them deadly, but all of them creepy and crawly.

Australia is very big indeed, and also very empty. From east to west, the distance across is the equivalent of London to Moscow, yet 85% of Australians live within 50km of the coast. The largest farm in the interior covers more area than the entire country of Belgium, which is room for a lot of sheep.

Not to reinforce a stereotype, but many Australians are excellent at drinking beer, a habit said to have been brought by the earliest European settlers. Former prime minister Bob Hawke still holds a record for downing 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. Australians are also, per head, the highest spenders on gambling in the world, with their favourite game pokies (slot machines) accounting for a large proportion of that wagering.