Is Perth the most remote city in the world?

Is Perth the most remote city in the world?

When preparing my last blog “Perth’s population – a story of economic boom”, I initially made a statement which I’ve long believed, though I forgot where I heard it. That is the “fact” that Perth is the most remote city of more than a million people on Earth. It seems right (certainly a long flight from Sydney or Melbourne and then it’s the Indian Ocean for many thousands of km in the other direction!) It’s been quoted about the place, and I’ve always taken it at face value.


So I checked it. Turns out, it’s false.

This Wikipedia article states that this meme came from Bill Bryson in his book Down Under, but says that it was originally about cities of more than 500,000, which isn’t how I originally heard it, it was definitely a million.

The nearest city of over 1 million (or 500,000) to Perth is Adelaide, which is 2,104km away as the (Adelaide) crow flies.

If you use 1 million population as the criterion, the most remote city in the world is actually Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland is 2,153km from Sydney, and with no other million cities in New Zealand, Sydney is the closest to Auckland. This is 49km further than Adelaide to Perth.

If you use 500,000 people as the criterion, which the original statement apparently did, then Honolulu, population 953,000 in the 2010 Census wins hands-down, having about three-quarters of the population of Hawaii and being 3,841km from San Francisco the closest large city. Not only that, Honolulu’s population is rapidly growing towards the 1 million mark, and then there can be no argument.

Demographic resource centre

Maybe Bill Bryson was referring to road distance, in which case it’s about 2,600km from Adelaide to Perth. But in that case, it’s hardly fair to Honolulu or Auckland which you can’t drive to from the next equivalent size city.

Maybe it’s all about a feeling of remoteness? Certainly Perth feels more remote than Auckland, which has many other significant sized centres in New Zealand within a few hundred km, while most of the other centres in WA require a flight to reach from Perth, or a very very long drive.

As always, definitions of these things are tricky – while these sort of demographic statements can ring true, it doesn’t mean they’re always correct – anyway I won’t be using that particular meme again!

Learn more about the City of Perth’s population. You may also like to visit us at where you can access our demographic resource centre for access to information about other places in Australia and New Zealand .

If you would like to learn more about the population of Perth and how it is changing, download our new eBook, Western Australia: Is it all doom and gloom after the boom?

Glenn - The Census Expert

Glenn is our resident Census expert. After ten years working at the ABS, Glenn's deep knowledge of the Census has been a crucial input in the development of our community profiles. These tools help everyday people uncover the rich and important stories about our communities that are often hidden deep in the Census data. Glenn is also our most prolific blogger - if you're reading this, you've just finished reading one of his blogs. Take a quick look at the front page of our blog and you'll no doubt find more of Glenn's latest work. As a client manager, Glenn travels the country giving sought-after briefings to councils and communities (these are also great opportunities for Glenn to tend to his rankings in Geolocation games such as Munzee and Geocaching).

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