The People: They are warm and friendly as we expected. Everyone is happy to help with directions and suggestions and most can understand our brand of English.
The Size: Australia is big. The land area nearly equals the USA. At nearly 3 million square miles it dwarfs it's NZ neighbor, at 103,400 square miles.
Outline of Australia laid over the USA.
It's Empty: The USA, Australia and NZ have populations of 321 million, 7.9 million and 4.5 million respectively. Half of Australia's population is contained in three east coast cities, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. That spreads the rest of the population over a lot of real estate.
The light yellow shows the dense populations in the south and east coastal areas. Perth accounts for the bright spot on the west coast.
Another way to look at population is to look at the average number of people per square mile of country....USA-102.9; Australia-7.9; NZ-43.5. There is a lot of empty space in Australia.
And the NZ numbers are deceptive. NZ consists of two major islands, the North and the South. While the North Island contains 41% of the countries land area it commands 78% of the population leaving the South Island thinly represented.
The Food: it's pretty good. In the early years the diet was cursed with British cuisine but the countries have grown more international in taste, reflecting the influx of people for other countries. One quick staple with a British influence is the meat pie. Found in most pubs it is an easy lunch item and is meant to be eaten with your fingers.
Many desserts are available but the menu regular seemed to be sticky date pudding. It came in many forms. Sometimes it came with ice cream, fruit or whipping cream and nearly always with caramel sauce. I don't like dates but they were well concealed.
Criminal Heritage: it's true that Sydney was started as a British penal colony. But soon other settlers found the place, attracted by the opportunities that prevailed or the various gold discoveries. So most communities point out that they were founded as "free" colonies, not penal ones. And the Kiwis were never a penal colony, as they are quick to point out.
All in all a wonderful people and wonderful place to visit. It's too bad it's so far away!