The following continent pairs touch, so the “distance” between these continent pairs is 0 kilometers:
- North America-South America: Connected at the Panama-Colombia border.
- Europe-Asia: Connected along the Ural Mountains and/or the Russian border.
- Asia-Africa: Connected across the Suez Canal.
NORTH AMERICA – EUROPE
If we consider Greenland to be part of North America but ignore Iceland, then the shortest distance between North America and Europe is from eastern Greenland (74.541 N, 18.512 W) to Hovden, Norway (68.815 N, 14.541 W) at 1303 km.
NORTH AMERICA – AFRICA
Including Newfoundland as part of North America, the shortest distance from North America to Africa is from Stopperside, Canada (47.485 N, 52.639 W) to El Beddouza, Morocco (32.541 N, 9.277 W) at 3991 km. This might be unexpected as most people might guess that Florida is closer to Africa.
NORTH AMERICA – ASIA
The shortest distance between the two continents is only 3.8 km from Little Diomede Island (65.758 N, 168.963 W) to Big Diomede Island (65.781 N, 169.007 W) in the Bering Strait. Little Diomede is owned by the United States and Big Diomede is owned by Russia and both are collectively known as the Diomede Islands.
NORTH AMERICA – AUSTRALIA
Perhaps one of the least intuitive of the answers. The shortest distance from Australia to North America is from Cape York Peninsula, Australia (10.689 S, 142.565 E) to Unimak Island, Alaska (54.422 N, 164.656 W) at 8734 km. Note that here I ignore the majority of Aleutian Islands since it is a volcanic chain.
NORTH AMERICA – ANTARCTICA
Not including the Lesser Antilles, the shortest distance is from the Panama-Colombia border (7.221 N, 77.892 W) to the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (63.216 S, 57.217 W) at 8004 km.
SOUTH AMERICA – EUROPE
From Touros, Brazil (5.163 S, 35.482 W) to Sagres, Portugal (36.993 N, 8.935 W) is 5423 km. Interestingly, standing on the beach at Touros, Brazil will put you at the closest point to Europe, Africa and Asia simultaneously (see below).
SOUTH AMERICA – AFRICA
The shortest link from South America to Africa also leaves from Touros, Brazil and ends up near Kabrousse, Senegal (12.349 N, 16.700 W) on the border between Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. The distance is approximately 2839 km.
SOUTH AMERICA – ASIA
This is another somewhat unintuitive result. I think some people would assume that going across the Pacific would be shortest but we depart from Touros, Brazil, once again, and end up in western Turkey near the town of Cesme (38.268 N, 26.247 E). Total distance: 7962 km.
SOUTH AMERICA – AUSTRALIA
Another answer which highlights the distorted distances on flat maps. In order to get to Australia from South America in the shortest distance, head approximately due south from the southernmost point in Tasmania at the Southeast Cape (43.638 S, 146.826 E) and end up at Isla Waterman, Chile near the southern tip of South America (55.407 S, 70.029 W). It is a distance of 8491 km.
SOUTH AMERICA – ANTARCTICA
Head south from Cape Horn in the Hermite Islands (55.978 S, 67.232 W) across the Drake Passage and reach the Antarctic Peninsula (63.752 S, 59.941 W). The total distance is approximately 961 km.
EUROPE – AFRICA
A well known crossing at the Strait of Gibraltar is 14.3 km from Eddalya, Morocco (35.907 N, 5.481 W) to a beach east of Tarifa, Spain (36.022 N, 5.564 W). Much of modern history depends on this short gap.
EUROPE – AUSTRALIA
This one depends on how you define the boundary between Europe and Asia. Supposing that European Russia west of the Urals is considered Europe, then the shortest distance between Australia and Europe goes from the Russia-Azerbaijan border (41.835 N, 48.584 E) to the Northwest Cape, Western Australia near Exmouth, Australia (21.786 S, 114.161 E). Total distance: 9748 km.
EUROPE – ANTARCTICA
The shortest distance from Europe to Antarctica is from Gavdos, Greece (34.921 N, 24.798 E) to Enderby Land in Eastern Antarctica (65.980 S, 51.129 E). This one comes in at a whopping 11,413 km, the longest of all of them.
AFRICA – AUSTRALIA
Including Madagascar as part of Africa, the shortest distance from Africa to Australia is from Taolagnaro, Madagascar (24.993 S, 47.096 E) to Augusta, Western Australia (34.256 S, 115.025 E), a distance of 6540 km.
AFRICA – ANTARCTICA
Cape Agulhas, South Africa (34.828 S, 19.990 E) to Queen Maud Land, Antarctica (69.289 S, 15.834 E) is the shortest distance at 3840 km.
ASIA – AUSTRALIA
This one is a bit tricky to define. Is Papua New Guinea part of Australia (or Oceania)? If not, does Papua New Guinea belong to Asia? To avoid the ambiguity, I’ve just ignored the entire Indonesian archipelago and take the distance from mainland Asia. In this case, the shortest distance is from Pengerang, Malaysia (1.367 N, 104.265 E) to the Northwest Cape, Western Australia near Exmouth, Australia (21.786 S, 114.161 E). Total distance: 2779 km.
ASIA – ANTARCTICA
For consistency, I’ve once again ignored the Indonesian archipelago. In this case, the shortest distance is 7353 km from Pengerang, Malaysia (1.367 N, 104.265 E) to Queen Mary Land, Antarctica (64.739 S, 97.119 E).
AUSTRALIA – ANTARCTICA
From the southernmost point in in Tasmania at the Southeast Cape (43.638 S, 146.826 E) to Wilkes Land, Antarctica (65.257 S, 135.208 E) is a distance of 2516 km.
Note: All these estimates are just based on looking at GoogleEarth and eye-balling it. If anyone finds any shorter routes, please mention in the comments.