Lush with beautiful tropical islands, volcanoes, and amazing underwater features, the area of the world labeled Australia/Oceania has some of the most unusual, attractive places on the planet.
If you like water, beaches, tropical jungles, mountains, and the sea, the places on an Australia/Oceania map are popular tourist destinations.
While the name sounds like a mythical kingdom under the ocean, Oceania is actually a region located on the globe.
Sometimes called the Southwest Pacific region, this area includes all the islands of this ocean, along with many nearby seas. It is home to over 41 million people and has the smallest population of all the 7 continents besides Antarctica.
The name Oceania was given to this region by a French geographer by the name of Conrad Malte-Brun around the year of 1804. On Malte-Brun’s maps, he labeled the area The Oceanic Lands.
Later on, in 1814, Adrien-Hubert Brué, another Frenchman, shortened the label to simply call it Oceania. It is surmised that the name was chosen because the ocean is what ties the many islands of this region of the world together.
Australia is the smallest of the seven continents, but it is the sixth-largest country in the world. Australia has many superlatives. It is the oldest, lowest, and flattest continent and contains the world’s largest coral reef complex, the Great Barrier Reef.
The areas known as Australia and Oceania are massive, including an estimated 8.5 million square kilometers of land area. However, most of the space that consists of Australia and Oceania is water.
The biggest land mass in this area is Australia, and not including this continent, Oceania contains over 10,000 islands.
The Three Pacific Regions
Not including Australia, the Pacific region consists of three primary subregions: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. These subregions are fluid and scholars differ on the hard limits of the subregions. Therefore, you will see some resources listing certain islands in one subregion, while a different one will include them in another area.
Micronesia is the northernmost subregion. It lies directly north of Melanesia and to the northwest of Polynesia. Micronesia covers about 7.4 million square kilometers of ocean with a land area of only 2700 square kilometers. It includes about 2100 islands. The four main island groups in Micronesia are the Caroline Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Mariana Islands (including Guam), and the Marshall Islands. Additionally, the separate island nation of Nauru and some other smaller islands and island groups are included in Micronesia.
Located to the south of Micronesia and to the west of Polynesia, Melanesia stretches from New Guinea in the west to Tonga in the east. This subregion contains about 2000 islands and 12 million inhabitants over 1 million square kilometers. Melanesia has a tropical climate and includes Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, West Papua and Makulu Islands, the Solomon Islands, and the Torres Strait Islands along with Vanuatu.
Polynesia is located the furthest east of the three subgroups of Oceania, and it is also the largest of the three groups. Polynesia is triangular in shape, including over 1000 islands stretching from the Hawaiian islands in the north, to Easter Island in the east, and New Zealand in the south. This area features numerous volcanic islands with tall mountains.
Australia and Oceania Map with Sea Names
Even the name of Oceania divulges the main feature of this area of the world map. The thing that ties this entire region together is water. The major body of water here is the Pacific Ocean, a body of water that is larger than the whole of the entire Earth’s land mass combined. However, not all the land areas that you would find on Oceania/Australia map are in the Pacific Ocean. Some extreme northwestern areas of Oceania/Australia encroach upon the Indian Ocean.
The water features of this area include three marine realms: Eastern Indo-Pacific, Temperate Australasia, and Central Indo-Pacific. These realms have common animal and plant life.
The Eastern Indo-Pacific realm stretches from the Marshall Islands in the north to central and southeastern Polynesia. One major feature of this marine realm is the inclusion of diverse coral reefs.
Temperate Australasia surrounds the southern half of the continent of Australia as well as New Zealand. This area is one of the richest places in the world for seabirds because they thrive on the cold water that is loaded with nutrients.
The Central Indo-Pacific realm is the ocean area that encompasses the northern half of Australia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji, and New Caledonia. This area of the Pacific Ocean contains the Great Barrier Reef and the New Caledonia Coral Reef, the two largest coral reefs in the world. These two reefs teem with tropical sea life, containing the greatest diversity of coral reef formations of any place on the planet.
Because Australia/Oceania is encompassed by mostly water, there are numerous seas and water features.
In the waters surrounding Australia are the Timon Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Coral Sea, along with the Tasman Sea.
Additionally, the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Great Australian Bight are on the northern and southern coasts of Australia respectively.
Surrounding Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and the Philippines are the Sulu, Celebes, Molucca, Banda, Flores, and Java Seas.
The Torres Strait is the narrow body of water that separates Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Oceania Political Map and Countries
Because of the numerous islands you would find on an Australia/Oceania map, there are multiple countries in this area of the world.
Fourteen different countries call Oceania home, plus multiple territories of other nations from outside the area.
There are three major countries, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand, plus 11 Pacific Island nations.
Add in 12 additional territories of other independent nations to complete the count on the political map of Australia/Oceania.
The largest country of this area is Australia, followed by Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand. The smallest country of Oceania is Nauru.
Independent Nations of Oceania/Australia
Australia, Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are the independent nations of Oceania/Australia.
There are other places that are territories of nations from across the globe:
- United States territories include the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and Wake Island.
- New Zealand’s territories include Tokelau, the Cook Islands, and Niue.
- French territories include New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna.
- Finally, the Pitcairn Islands are a territory of the United Kingdom.