Don’t underestimate Australia – it’s one of the biggest countries on the planet. In fact, despite the fact that it’s an island, it has the sixth largest land mass in the world, with over 7.5 million square kilometres under its belt.

Despite this size, its countrywide population is actually pretty small, due to a large percentage of the country being uninhabitable. Still, there are some dense city centres, so let’s look at the biggest cities in Australia by population before you complete your move.

1. Sydney, 4.9 million people

Commonly mistaken for the capital of Australia, Sydney is the country’s biggest and most popular city. It’s the financial hub of the country, home to a lot of Australia’s biggest businesses, as well as where a lot of international companies choose to set up their Aussie branches.

Instead of a specific industry, Sydney is large enough to offer a thriving ecosystem of businesses, imports, and exports. They make a lot of money from tourism, but Sydney’s economy also relies heavily on manufacturing – creating things with the valuable resources found throughout Australia. In fact, the reason Sydney grew so fast is due to large gold deposits being found nearby after settling, leading to eras of great prosperity!

While it’s not the capital, Australia couldn’t survive without the money brought in by Sydney, leading to a bit of contention. A lot of more rural Australians believe that Sydney gets the lion’s share of government attention, leaving them out to dry. Either way, Sydney is a jewel in Australia’s crown, and unsurprisingly has the biggest population.


We all know what Sydney looks like, so check out this picture of Adelaide!

2. Melbourne, 4.9 million people

It’s a line ball! Only 20,000 people make up the difference between Sydney and Melbourne. Melbourne is considered to be the cultural equivalent of Sydney – if Sydney was the business-focused law school sibling, Melbourne would be the rebellious, artsy child.

We don’t mean to make it sound like it’s full of burnouts – far from it. Melbourne has its own enticing culture and industry, which has led to a massive population growth over the past decade. In fact, Melbourne is projected to overtake Sydney when it comes to population!

Just like Sydney, it has a lot to offer any tourists, with a wealth of museums, events, and festivals that could entice even the most curmudgeonly traveller. Alongside their booming tourism, Melbourne allows any creative industry to thrive.

3. Brisbane, 2.4 million people

Our final stop on the East Coast is Brisbane. Capital of Queensland, Brisbane has quite a hefty population. It’ll take some work and large scale events to bring them up to Sydney or Melbourne’s neck and neck competition, but its popularity is nothing to sniff at.

Brisbane is a lot further north than Sydney or Melbourne. In most English-speaking countries, this means it would be a bit frostier, but since it’s in the Southern hemisphere, this actually means it gets a bit toastier than its Southern neighbours.

While we mentioned that a lot of manufacturing happens in Sydney, a lot more happens in Brisbane. Since a lot of the iron, lead, and gold is mined in Queensland, it helps if it doesn’t have to travel too far to get processed and reach its full potential.

4. Perth, 2.0 million people

Switching over to the West Coast now (which is a trip of almost 4,000 miles), we have Perth. Perth is the unofficial capital of the West Coast, acting as a hub for a lot of events and investment. It’s also the official capital of the state of Western Australia.

Just like Sydney, Perth sits upon earth that was once brimming with gold. Other than that long-since-exhausted resource, Perth doesn’t have any major industry going on. Instead, as state capital, it acts as a kind of administrative hub for all the agricultural and mining operations.

Recently, Perth has tried to jump on the technology startup bandwagon, with relative success. The companies that are finding their feet aren’t household names just yet, but they’re definitely looking poised to be potential heavy hitters further down the road. They range from personal food discovery apps to pro-environment aid.


Look at the blue lights running along the Perth harbour. How fun!

5. Adelaide, 1.3 million people

Wrapping up our list with our final population count of over a million people, we have Adelaide. Adelaide is nestled comfortably in the crook of South Australia, where it stands proudly as state capital.

Rather than an industry focused on food, mining, art, or anything we’ve already mentioned, Adelaide has a different focus that helps them boom (sometimes literally) – they’re the city most closely associated with Australian defense contractors.

Submarines, planes, computer systems, even space travel – Adelaide is the city that keeps Australia on the world stage as a country with valid military and scientific prospects.

And yes, you read the first sentence correctly – outside of our top five, no Australian city has a population of over a million people. 

Biggest city in Australia by area

Surprisingly, Australia’s geographically largest city doesn’t hold the biggest population. Instead, Brisbane takes the gold when it comes to being the largest city by area.

How big is it? Well, rather than just giving you a number, let’s give you some perspective. New York City, one of the most populated cities in the world, has an area of 1,213 km2. Just above that, we have London, with an area of 1,572 km2.

Moving to Australia, which is a bit more rural, let’s have a look at highly populated Sydney. Sydney has an area of 12,368 km2, which is obviously quite a lot bigger than either of those two global giants. But finally, we have Brisbane, with an area of 15,842 km2. Massive!


Here it is, a small sliver of the absolute behemoth that is Brisbane

In conclusion

Firstly, you might be thinking, “you never mentioned which city is the capital!” You’d be right, we didn’t – because none of these cities are the capital of Australia. In fact, the real capital of Australia, Canberra, doesn’t make it into the top five, having a population of only 462,000.

Secondly, if this article has whetted your appetite, you might want to know more about Australia. Here we have a wealth of articles on all facets of Australian life.

21 Things to Know Before Moving to Australia

The 7 Best Places to Live in Australia

Transferring Money to Australia

Healthcare in Australia