When we look at the map of the Earth, one of the first things that we see is that its surface is divided into land and water. The land consists of several continents and millions of islands, and the water is all the oceans and seas. We, humans, live on continents and islands. Do you know which continent is the smallest? This is Australia, an exotic piece of land in the southern hemisphere. Now, let’s make a journey around Australia and reach its extreme points!
Let’s get into geography and open the physical map of the Earth. You can see the two largest pieces of land on the planet- Afro-Eurasia, consisting of Eurasia (Europe and Asia) and Africa, and the America- North, and South. But Australia is different. It is the smallest continent, and it is on its own, separated from the other continents by sea. In fact, it looks like an extremely large island. However, it is too big to be an island, so it is considered a continent.
Australia’s shape is simple. There are two large bays- the Gulf of Carpentaria on the north, surrounded by Cape York and Arnhem Land peninsulas, and the large and opened the Great Australian Bight in the south. There are no other significant peninsulas and bays. However, there is Tasmania Island, clearly fit as a separated part of the mainland. And there is Oceania- a bunch of archipelagos in the Pacific, some of which belonging to Australia. Of them, the largest one is the New Guinea Island.
Australia is a very exotic and little known continent. When I say this, I mean that what most people know about Australia is only the small southeastern corner of the continent, where Sydney, Melbourne, and the other bigger cities are located. They also know a small spot on the southwest- the city of Perth. Almost everything else, especially in the deep interior, is a desolate wilderness, very sparsely populated, like a “white spot” on the map.
Mainland and islands
Let’s look at the physical map of Australia again. We can see the continent, and many islands, mostly north and east from it. Some of them are located on the continental shelf, while others are raising straight from the Pacific Ocean.
We can see Tasmania Island. It is located on the shelf, so it is a part of Australia. Let’s look at the other big island- New Guinea. The continental shelf includes it, as well as many of the smaller neighboring islands. However, we can see that in the north, the continental shelf of Australia almost merges with the shelf of Eurasia. It is somehow disconnected between the eastern islands of Indonesia.
For this reason, it is more difficult to identify where the shelf of Australia ends, and the shelf of Eurasia begins. We can see that the shelf of the eastern islands of Indonesia- Timor, Flores, Maluku, somehow sinks in the sea. At the same time, the shelf again rises while approaching New Guinea, and some islands like Halmahera are already on it.
And on the east, the shelf proceeds carrying a chain of islands and archipelagos like the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In fact, this is already the famous Pacific Ring of Fire, rather than the shelf of Australia. So, in this case, the continental shelf is somehow disconnected between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Thus, Australia and its shelf are defined.
The extreme geographic points of Australia
So, based on this, let’s define the extreme geographic points of Australia. On the east, the coastline of the continent is clear, and there are almost no islands, except for some neighboring pieces of land. And on the south, we can see Tasmania, and there is nothing beyond it, except several rocky islets, one of which is the southernmost island point of Australia.
On the north, the extreme mainland and island points are clearly distinct. When we are looking for the northernmost island point, we should look far from the mainland, somewhere on New Guinea or the neighboring smaller islands.
The East is the most complicated. To find the easternmost extreme island point, we have to determine where the Australian shelf ends (as a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire), and only the Pacific Ring of Fire proceeds further into the ocean. In this case, the question is whether the Solomon Islands belong to Australia or not. So, in this case, we can focus on two possible extreme points, with or without the Solomon Islands.
Now, let’s first start from the North.
The extreme North
As I mentioned above, the extreme North of Australia is clearly distinguishable. This is because the island of New Guinea is so big, that it looks like a mini-continent. The mainland extreme point is also clear- the tip-top of the sharp peninsula in the north called Cape York.
However, the island northernmost point of Australia is not on New Guinea, but on the northernmost island of Halmahera group. This is Morotai Island, and the spot we are looking for is its northernmost tip.
But let’s first start from the mainland.
The northernmost mainland point of Australia- Cape York, Queensland
Cape York is the name of the whole peninsula, which looks like a sharp cone pointing north. There is a narrow strait, called Torres Strait, between the cape and the southern coast of New Guinea. Its width is only 151 km, and it is “filled” by many small islands between the two main pieces of Land. Two of these islets (York and Eborac) lie only 100-200 m in front of the cape, forming a specific view of the area.
The whole of the peninsula is located in a sub-equatorial zone. It is still sparsely populated, with diverse landscapes of savannahs mixed with eucalyptus, rainforests, fields (with occasional swamps), and rivers. The coastline consists of rocks, cliffs, bays with narrow beaches, and a lot of coral reefs nearby. And the northernmost of the rocky cliffs is Cape York, the extreme point, called also “Cape York Tip-Top of Australia”, marked by a sign on the rocks.
How to reach Cape York Tip-Top of Australia
This is a wild and remote area, so forget about the “Melbourne-Sydney” type of Australia. Reaching the northern Tip-Top of the continent is not so easy, but it would be an exciting adventure.
The easiest (but less exciting) way is to get a plane from Cairns to the Northern Peninsula Airport, serving the town of Bamaga, for about 2 hours and about A$295. It travels only once per day. Once you arrive in Bamaga, you can find a local 4×4 vehicle and drive to the Tip-Top on dirt roads. You can enjoy the forests, rivers, and beaches, but beware of the salt-water crocks!
You can do it also as a long 4×4 trip from Cairns, Cooktown, or Townsville. It would be a long adventure, in which you can enjoy not only the local nature of the coast and the land interior but also to explore the local aboriginal culture. For more details and inspiration, read this guide about Cape York!
Now, let’s go further north.
The northernmost island point of Australia- Morotai Island, Indonesia
New Guinea is a large island, and it is not alone. You can clearly see on the map that it is a part of a long chain of islands, starting from Southeast Asia, and scattering somewhere far into the endless Pacific Ocean. And as we found, the northernmost point of Australia is located on the northernmost of these smaller nearby islands. It is Morotai Island, and we have to reach its northernmost tip.
Morotai is a small exotic island, a “tropical paradise”, located just north of the Equator. It is mountainous, off the beaten place, far from the tourist streams and destinations like Bali and Raja Ampat. Its main settlement is the town of Daruba, located on its south coast. And its north coast, including its northernmost tip, is the less populated, covered by rainforest and bush.
How to reach the northernmost tip of Morotai Island
The easiest way to reach Morotai is by boat. First, you have to reach Ternate- there are flights and ferries from other parts of Indonesia. From Ternate, you can take an overnight Geovani boat from Ternate to Daruba. Or you can take a “spid” boat from Ternate to Sofifi on Halmahera Island, then reach Tobelo by taxi or other local transport, and another “spid” from Tobelo to Daruba. There are also some local planes from Ternate, operated by Susi Air, three times a week, for Rp 300,000.00.
Once you reach Daruba, you can find a local taxi, or better- a “bentol” (rickshaw type of motorcycle). You have to reach a small village, north of Tanjung Sopi resort, located just near the northernmost tip of the island. Although not so popular, this is a surfing paradise, like Nias, Siargao, or other surfing capitals. Another way to reach it is by speed boat directly from Daruba.
So, you can just walk on a dirt path from the village to the northernmost point of the island. It is not a rocky promontory, and there isn’t any geographical marker. It is just a curving coastline with a narrow beach- a paradise with a stunning view of the endless blue of the ocean ahead. And of course, the whole trip to the northernmost island point of Australia can be an exciting experience in a tropical paradise, with friendly locals and surfing adventures.
Now, let’s go to the west.
The extreme West
The west of Australia looks much clear on the map. If you want to find the westernmost point of the continent, just focus and zoom on the curve of the coastline from northward to northeastward. However, you will discover two small and long peninsulas, just south of this big curve. And you can find the extreme mainland point of the west, on one of these peninsulas. It is called Steep Point.
And you can easily notice that there are not many islands located further west, but the westernmost island point is located just some 40 km from Steep Point, on the neighboring Dirk Hartog Island. So you can visit these two points in one journey. Let’s go.
The westernmost mainland point of Australia- Steep Point, Western Australia
This is the place of the last sunset in Australia. In this place, the western coastline of the continent forms two tentacle-shaped peninsulas pointing north-northwest. The bay between them is the famous Shark Bay World Heritage Site, known for its rich wildlife and stunning views.
The whole area around Steep Point is an off the beaten place, mainly due to its remoteness from the popular tourist destinations. There are some great camping places, such as Carrarang Station, Tamala Station, etc., and in general, there are only a few settlements around. Large parts of the two peninsulas are turned into national parks.
Steep Point is at the end of the eastern peninsula, called Carrarang Peninsula. It is a plain area that ends with vertical cliffs into the ocean. You can see a geographical marker, showing the westernmost point of Australia. Although the real spot is a bit west of its tip, the tip is marked as Steep Point, because it is more spectacular. From there, if you look northeast, you will see another piece of land- Dirk Hartog Island.
The westernmost island point of Australia- Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia
If you look at the map (satellite, physical, every kind of map), you will see that this island is just like a separated extension from the Carrarang Peninsula. It has the same shape- long, pointing north-northwest. Thus its western coastline surpasses Steep Point a bit further west, becoming the westernmost island point of Australia.
Dirk Hartog is a long flat island, covered by dry savannah, ending in many places with the same vertical cliffs as Steep Point. The island is uninhabited but often visited by more adventurous travelers. There are only several small resorts and lodges on the island. Today, there is a project to clean its environment as it has been in 1616, the year of its discovery.
How to reach Steep Point and Dirk Hartog Island
Same as Cape York, the westernmost points of Australia are challenging for travel. There are two ways to reach Shark Bay and these points- by plane, and by car. There are planes to Denham, four times a week from Perth. If you choose the other option, you can travel by car from Perth until you reach the Shark Bay area.
Once you arrive in Denham, you will need a 4×4 vehicle to reach Steep Point, unless you already travel by such a vehicle from Perth. Then, if you want to reach the westernmost point of Dirk Hartog Island, you have to arrange a barge from Denham, or from Steep Point to Surf Point. From there, you have to proceed driving to the north-northwest, until you reach the extreme point of the island. There is no marker or something else on the point because it is not so prominent, but the landscape is stunning. And the experience of exploring the whole Shark Bay is worth a lot.
Now, let’s cross the continent and focus on the East.
The extreme East
The East of mainland Australia is clear, but when we look for the extreme island point, as I mentioned above, it is much more complicated. Australia’s continental shelf is joined to the archipelagos chain of the Pacific Rim, so there could be different opinions on where the boundary of Australia is (again, excluding the political determination).
So, let’s point it. On the mainland, this is Cape Byron, a promontory, located in New South Wales. And concerning the islands, we can determine two island points- the easternmost island of Papua New Guinea- Pocklington Reef, and the easternmost of the Solomon Islands Archipelago (not the country)- Owaraha (Santa Ana) Island.
Again, let’s first start from the mainland.
The easternmost mainland point of Australia- Cape Byron
The eastern part of Australia is much different than the West. It is more humid, covered by more forests and agricultural fields. Most of the big cities and other settlements are located there. And the area around Cape Byron is not an exception. It is a pastoral place with mountains, hills, and a lot of green. The coastline around the Cape is rich in beaches, and there are many resorts established along the beaches.
The point itself is a rocky, but not very high promontory, surrounded by beaches from both sides. There is a local resort on the promontory with nice hotels and restaurants. But maybe the most interesting place there is the old Cape Byron Lighthouse with historic value, presenting the classical Victorian era. There is an alley with great panoramic views, leading to the rocks of the end tip, with a geographical marker on it.
How to reach Cape Byron
It’s easy. To reach the easternmost mainland point of Australia, you just have to make a trip to Byron Bay Town. It is a nice town, located at the beginning of the promontory. You can easily reach the town by plane from Melbourne, Sydney, and Newcastle to the nearby Ballina Airport, then by public bus or taxi- to Byron Bay. There are also regular coach buses from Sydney and Brisbane. And of course, you can always do it by car.
Once you reach Byron Bay, the point is just on a 20 min nice walk along the coast, where you can enjoy the old lighthouse, and the whole landscape. And, in fact, you can include the visit to Cape Byron in a long, easy, vocational journey along the eastern coast of Australia.
Now, let’s go to the islands.
Determine the easternmost island point of Australia- Pocklington Reef or Owaraha (Santa Ana) Island
Let’s focus on the islands east of New Guinea. If we look at the physical map of the region, showing the ocean bottom, we can see how the continental shelf of Australia is joined to the Pacific Ring of Fire, and at the same time, it is cut into “pieces” there. So, what we have to do is to choose which gap between the pieces is enough large to mark the end of the shelf.
We can see that the shelf is prolonged into two “tentacles” east of New Guinea. The southern “tentacle” reaches Pocklington Reef and disappears deep into the sea. And the northern “tentacle” proceeds through New Britain and New Ireland, to the Solomon Islands Archipelago. However, there is a small gap between New Ireland and the Solomon Islands.
If we consider this gap, then Pocklington Reef remains the easternmost island point of Australia. But if not- then Owaraha (Santa Ana) Island located further east would be the point. And again, the country of Solomon Islands politically possesses more islands further east, but they are beyond the gap east of Owaraha, so they are not a physical part of Australia.
The easternmost island point of Australia, version 1- Pocklington Reef, Papua New Guinea
This is an “end of the world” place, but not a desolate wilderness. It is a tropical paradise, with a lot of blue colors. Pocklington reef is a long atoll, mostly submerged underwater. Only some isolated sandbars and rocks can be seen above the surface, depending on the tide. And the easternmost of these objects is the extreme point that we are looking for.
This is just a reef, so there is almost nothing on it. But the waters around the reef reveal a fantastic hidden world. These waters are clear and transparent, so a hint of this world can be seen from above, but a diving adventure would be much more exciting!
How to reach Pocklington Reef
Pocklington Reef is an amazing remote paradise, but reaching it is a challenge. It is uninhabited, and of course, there is no public transport to this place. There are even no regular Liveaboard diving trips arranged to the reef. So, the only way to reach it is by an expedition. Theoretically, you would need a permit to visit it, although there would be nobody to check you. However, one thing is sure- you have to protect the environment of Pocklington Reef.
And if you are really inspired and want to make a journey to this paradise, read about this expedition! Now, let’s check the other easternmost island point of Australia- Owaraha (Santa Ana) Island.
The easternmost island point of Australia, version 2: Owaraha (Santa Ana) Island, Solomon Islands
Let’s open the map again. We can see the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is not exactly the same as the country of Solomon Islands. Now, we can easily identify the archipelago’s easternmost island. In fact, there are two small islands- Owaraha (Santa Ana), and Owariki (Santa Catalina). But the northern one of them which is the larger surpasses Owariki in the eastern direction.
Owaraha is a small coral island, covered by local rainforest, with a lagoon in the middle. Its inhabitants are Owa people, who live in two villages. There is a small hill at its eastern coast, and this hill, forming a curve of the coast, makes this version of the easternmost island point of Australia.
How to reach Owaraha (Santa Ana ) Island
It is a bit difficult to go there, the island is too remote. In general, there are two ways. First- by flight (several flights). You have to reach the capital Honiara, then to get a plane to Kirakira, and from Kirakira- another plane to Owaraha. Or, you have to change several ferries and local boats from Honiara to Ghupuna, the main village of Owaraha Island.
Once you arrive in Ghupuna, you can just walk for an hour, crossing the rainforest to the other village Nafinotoga, and another smaller village northeast of it. The dirt road ends there, and you have to walk on the narrow coastal beach to its easternmost point. This is the point you are looking for.
Meanwhile, you can get a great experience meeting with the local Owa people, enjoying their culture, and the beauty of their island. You can even spend a night there, but don’t look for hotels or other “luxury”, just dive into the local world, as it has been hundreds of years ago.
Finally, let’s get to the south.
The extreme South
The extreme South of Australia is much clearer. When we look at the map, we can see the continent’s two southern angles, of which the eastern one goes further south. So, we can find the southernmost mainland point there. This is Wilsons Promontory.
About the islands, it is clear again. We can see Tasmania as a natural part of Australia, separated from the continent by the Bass Strait. But if we zoom at Tasmania’s southern tip, we will see that there are several small islets located a bit further south. And we can identify the southernmost of them- Pedra Branca Island.
So，let’s go to the mainland.
The southernmost mainland point of Australia- Wilsons Promontory
This place is located in Victoria State, not far from Melbourne. It is a subtropical area with hills, agricultural fields, and nice towns. The coastline is low, with long stunning beaches and resorts along with them. And the Bass Strait in front of the promontory is filled with small islands, leading to nearby Tasmania.
Wilsons Promontory is a mountainous peninsula, connected to the rest of the continent by an isthmus between the Indian Ocean, and a lagoon, called Corner Inlet, separating it from the Pacific coast on the east. It is covered by lush subtropical forest, and today is turned into a National Park. And the southernmost tip itself is a small “tongue” of rocks, coming from the coastal hills, called South Point.
How to reach Wilsons Promontory
Since Wilsons Promontory is located near Melbourne, it is easy to reach. However, your starting point is Foster, a small city on the South Gippsland Highway. You can reach Foster by bus or by car.
Then, from Foster, you have to reach Tidal River, the entrance of Wilsons Promontory National Park. Again, there are buses from Foster to the entrance. Once you reach Tidal River, you enter the wild jungle of the park. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of animals, including kangaroos.
And if you travel by car, you can drive (but carefully) on some of the narrow roads through the forest. Or, you can park your car and just go hiking, until you reach South Point. Again, the area is still wild, with a lot of adventurous opportunities. Now, let’s go further, to the southernmost island point of Australia.
The southernmost island point of Australia- Pedra Branca Island, Tasmania
Tasmania has a triangle-like shape. It ends on the south, and only several small islands remain further beyond. Pedra Branca is one of them, and it is the last piece of land in this direction. There is nothing else but water until the coast of Antarctica.
Pedra Branca is uninhabited, steep, and rocky- like a big rock thrown into the sea. Only some grass grows on the rare places with soil among the rocks. But there is rich wildlife, consisting mainly of birds and some seals.
How to reach Pedra Branca Island
It is almost impossible unless you are specially equipped when the sea is calm. This is seldom since this islet is known for its big swell from the open ocean. But you can see it from aside. There are some local cruises from Hobart or Southport traveling south of mainland Tasmania among the islets there.
Or you can find a private boat to reach Pedra Branca. Just be careful to not approach too close, especially during windy or stormy weather. Nevertheless, the view of the ocean and the rocky islets is fantastic.
These are the extreme endpoints of Australia. But there is more- the interior of the continent, and the farthest point from any sea coast- the Pole of Inaccessibility.
The Pole of Inaccessibility of Australia- Papunya, Northern Territory
Let’s get into the interior of Australia. Again, it is much different than the area of Melbourne and Sydney. It is a wilderness- dry, hot, and very sparsely populated. There is only some bush and grass here and there, the rest is rocks, dust, and sand. And this is the landscape around the Pole of Inaccessibility of Australia- the farthest spot in the continent from any seacoast, also called “Red Pole”.
This spot is located about 30 km east-northeast of Papunya- a small Aboriginal town in the wilderness, today homeland of Pintubi and Luritja people. It has a small airport and is connected to the outside world by dirt roads. And the Pole of Inaccessibility is located in the bush, just beside one of these dirt roads, marked by a simple sign.
How to reach the Australian Pole of Inaccessibility
It is not very difficult, but due to its remoteness, it is still challenging. There is no public transport to the area, and the only way to reach it on land is by private car. And because the Pole of Inaccessibility is located near a dirt road, it is better to find a 4×4 vehicle. So, if you start your trip from Alice Springs, the nearest bigger city, you have to prepare for an exciting journey through the wilderness.
Besides, Papunya and the area around it are located in private Aboriginal land, so you have to obtain a permit to enter. Once you enter inside, you can follow this guide on how to reach the spot. At the same time, just follow your GPS. Finally, you will see it, along with the geographical marker set there.
This is the boundaries of Australia, the smallest continent on the Earth. Usually, it is combined with a larger area, called Oceania, which includes a vast part of the Pacific Ocean. But now we are focusing on its Australian part, with a dream to explore the extreme points of the continent, from the developed areas of Melbourne and Sydney to the wildest deserts in the interior. And we go further- to the tropical paradise of the Melanesian islands, to challenging places full of adventures, far beyond the horizon.
Check some books about Australia:
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