Which Continent in the World is the Smallest?

The Answer Depends On Your Perspective

There are seven continents in the world and Asia is the largest, but which one is the smallest? The answer is Australia and it is almost a fifth of the size of Asia. Europe is not far behind, though, as it has just over a million more square miles than Australia.

If we are looking at population, Australia is also at the bottom of the list of continents with permanent residents. Of course, Antarctica is the least populated continent because only a few thousand researchers call it a temporary home.

Just How Small is Australia?

In terms of land area, the continent of Australia is the world's smallest continent. In total, it includes 2,967,909 square miles (7,686,884 square kilometers), which is slightly smaller than the country of Brazil as well as the contiguous United States.

  • Europe is the second smallest continent in area at 3,997,929 square miles (10,354,636 square kilometers).
  • Antarctica is the third smallest continent in area at approximately 5,500,000 square miles (14,245,000 square kilometers).

When it comes to population, technically Australia is the second smallest continent. If we exclude Antarctica, then Australia is the smallest. We might say that Australia is the smallest populated continent.

  1. Antarctica - Has no permanent residents though up to 4000 researchers and personnel live there in the summer and 1000 stay through the winter.
  2. Australia - 39,506,070 (all of Oceania)
  3. South America - 413,869,568
  1. North America - 530,543,140
  2. Europe - 741,652,118
  3. Africa - 1,171,355,737
  4. Asia - 4,396,678,151

(Population count as of 2015 via the Population Reference Bureau (PRB).)

But Australia is Also the Largest...

Australia is an island since it's surrounded by water but it is also large enough to be considered a continent.

  • Though technically a continent, Australia may be considered the largest island in the world. In most cases, Greenland is accepted as the largest in the world.
  • The country of Australia is the world's sixth-largest country on earth.
  • Australia is the largest country that is entirely in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Australia is also the largest country without land borders.
  • Among the inhabited continents, Australia has the driest continent.

Australia's Relationship to Oceania

Is Australia part of Oceania? This is a question of much debate and it depends on your definition of Oceania. 

Oceania refers to the Pacific island region of the world that includes all of the small islands near Australia. It can be divided many ways and quite often, Australia is included in a sub-group of Oceania known as Australasia (Australia and New Zealand).

Quite often, when referring to this southern Pacific region, people will use the term 'Australia and Oceania' rather than adding Australia into Oceania.