When planning a trip to the Land Down Under, most people assume that it's simply the opposite of the northern hemisphere (northern hemisphere winter = Aussie summer, etc). However, Australia is a continent of extremes, from the tropical north, the arid centre to a temperate (and sometimes very cold) south.
It would be easy to assume that summer is the best season to travel to Australia, but it isn't unless you want to spend your time at the beach. During the summer, the Northern Territory, Queensland and a lot of Western Australia swelter and suffer the rainy season. Even Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide can be hit by 40C+ days and humid nights.
Here's our guide to the seasons in Australia and when is the best time to visit.
Summer: Dec - Feb
- South Australia
Good time to... Head to the coast!
Summer's a great time to visit the beaches in the southern parts of Australia as the water temperature is perfect.
There are also few experiences like New Year's Eve in Sydney or Christmas at the beach.
Bad time to... Travel on the cheap.
Accommodation and flight prices soar as it clashes with school holidays, Christmas holidays and Australia day (26th January). It's also not the best weather to visit the tropical or desert areas.
The Australian summer covers many peak holiday times of year: school holidays, Christmas, New Year and Australia Day (26th January), making travel more expensive. It's an incredibly popular time for Australians to go on holiday too due a lot of offices closing over the Christmas period.
Summertime in Australia is very different to the northern hemisphere. Down here the temperatures across the country can soar to well over 40C and there are several nights that don't drop below 30C. It's a great time of year for beach lovers with long, hot days and warmer sea temperatures.
The tropical areas of Australia (the North of Queensland, Northern Territory and the north of Western Australia) are all in rainy season at this time and it's incredibly humid. This can make travel difficult but prices drop. If you're thinking of heading to the great barrier reef, for example, locals described Janaury and February as 'disgusting' - so don't underestimate the power of that humidity!
It's a good time to visit the south of the country where places such as South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales have hot temperatures and long days (and is the perfect time to hit those Aussie beaches you've dreamed of). It's a great time to see the Great Ocean Road and Kangaroo Island as the southern coast has less rain than in winter.
However, this can be a time of extremes with the risk of bush fire, high humidity and periods of heavy rainfall. We've visited Melbourne and Adelaide when they were 45C!
Tasmania can be a bit of an enigma and we found that the Tassie summer is a lot cooler and more volatile than other parts of Australia. On the east coast you'll be greeted with a fairly relentless wind, but temperatures that range from 15 - 28C. Inland the temperatures were a much more stable 25C and the swimming holes were not too cold and beautiful refreshing. The alpine areas can swing significantly and we've experienced day time temperatures below 5C in places such as Cradle Mountain! We'd definitely say it is the best time to visit Tasmania overall though and will allow you to make the most of the outdoors.
Spring (Sept - Nov) & Autumn (Mar - May)
New South Wales
The Outback (Uluru and Central Australia)
Good time to... Get the best of everything.
The shoulders seasons are warm enough to go to the beach and not too hot to visit the more exotic parts of Australia. It's also when the sport seasons either start or finish.
Bad time to... Avoid the crowds in Queensland and the Outback. We've also found the last five November's in a row to be very wet in Sydney.
With generally beautiful weather in Queensland and the Outback it's a popular time to visit. Avoid the busy Easter holidays if you can. Despite this there are so many wonderful spots in these areas you don't have to work too hard to find a less busy spot and it's definitely our favourite time to travel.
The shoulder season is probably the best time to visit Australia. If you want to see the whole country, with warm days and nights then this is the time to go. It's a time of year that's great for sunrises and sunsets as the changing weather can offer the perfect conditions for a colourful sky.
Spring is possibly our favourite time of year as the temperatures are perfect just about everywhere. New South Wales and Southern Queensland have cool nights (around 10-15C) and hot days (around 25C). Victoria and South Australia are cooler too.The outback and tropical areas can have hot days (30C+) but the evenings drop (around 15-20C).
Spring is also a good time to visit Cairns and the surrounding areas as the waterfalls are in full flow after the rainy season.
The country comes into bloom and our favourite is when the Jacaranda - a tree with beautiful purple flowers - blossoms in October / November. It's also the time for major sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup (the biggest horse race in Australia), AFL Grand Final (Aussie Rules) and NRL Grand Final (Rugby League) which all happen between September and November. This can cause prices in Sydney and Melbourne to spike, but the rest of the country should be fine.
Autumn is also another great time as the temperature cools down from the hot summer and the extremes end. Prices begin to go down as the peak holidaymakers leave and areas such as the north and centre of Australia become pleasant to visit. Technically cyclone season in Queensland doesn't end until the end of April, though we've visited many times in March and April and experienced beautiful weather.
Autumn is the start of the Whale Shark season in WA and the waterholes in the Northern Territory are nice and full. There's also the famous Byron Bay Blues Festival which has an eclectic mix of artists in Australia's hippy capital.
The only downside to this time is that Easter and November regularly have very wet patches in New South Wales, Southern Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. In the four years, we've lived here, we've seen a period of two weeks non-stop rain happen in both Autumn and Spring. This time of year can be a gamble as I've had two visits from my family during April: one was washed out with two weeks of rain, the other had perfect sunshine.
Winter: June - Aug
- Tropical North Queensland
- The Top End (Darwin and around)
- Ski slopes in Victoria
- Vivid (Sydney)
- Tasmania (if you want to play in the snow)
Good time to... Go outdoors!
The weather's cool all round the country and it's the perfect time to go to the National Parks. It's also the whale migration and a great time for wildlife.
Bad time to... Go to the beach (unless you're in Queensland). Australia's winter is mild, but it's not exactly beach weather.
It may surprise many people, but Australia certainly has a winter! It's not all soaring tropical temperatures and some parts can get pretty cold and even snow.
Winter is a really underrated time of year in Australia and prices are at their cheapest in the southern states. The weather is at it's most stable and in the four years we've lived here, it's been by far the driest time of year (this year we went four months without any rain). It's a great time to do active sports, and we find ourselves doing a lot of hiking as you can go to the national parks and take on steep hikes comfortably without fearing sunburn, heatstroke, dehydration or bushfires.
In New South Wales and Southern Queensland, the temperatures are cooler, but the daytime is usually a pleasant 15-20C. However, the temperatures can drop to single digits during clear nights. Star gazing is wonderful at this time of year.
It's arguably the best time to see Australia's tropics as the humidity has dropped and the chances of rain are at their lowest (although it's the tropics so can always rain!). Outback day temperatures are warm, but the night can drop to minus temperatures, so it's best to wrap up! Victoria and South Australia are a bit more European with some bitterly cold days, but are generally quite mild.
You may be surprised that some areas of Australia have snow including the high areas of Tasmania, Victoria and the ACT. You can ski, but I've been told it's not comparable to many places in the world. If you are a skier, check out the Snowy mountains in NSW and Australian Alps National Park, VIC.
If you love your wildlife, then winter is the time for you. In Sydney and all the way up the east coast to Queensland the Humpback Whale migration is in full swing and you'll be almost guaranteed to see one. In Kakadu it's the peak of the dry season, meaning bird watchers will be able to see birds congregate around the dried up billabongs rather than vast wetlands. On Kangaroo Island it's mating season and you can see Echidna trains, where competing males follow females in long lines.
It's also when our favourite festival starts: Vivid, Sydney. This is the one time in the year when you get to see incredible projections and lightshows on the city's famous landmarks, bringing colour to the winter nights. There's nothing quite like it, but the prices around Sydney soar.
Best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef
The best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is after the rainy season (cyclones can even happen in April) and preferably after the height of the stinger season (October - May). The Australian winter is a time of more stable weather and conditions in Queensland, so we'd say that the best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is between June and October.
Best time to visit Sydney and Melbourne
Sydney and Melbourne are slightly different in terms of climate, but not dramatically so. Melbourne generally has colder winters and is slightly wetter, whereas Sydney is more humid during the summer and tends to have higher average temperatures. Melbourne's weather can be a lot more extreme and is known for having extraodrinarily hot summer days, followed by cold and rain.
Overall, the best time to visit Sydney and Melbourne is during the Autumn or Spring. Both cities can swelter in the summer and Melbourne can get very cold in the winter.
The cheapest time to travel to Australia
In general, the cheapest time to travel to Australia is the winter (May - August), outside of the school holidays. Air fares from Europe can be a lot cheaper as people don't want to leave the Northern Hemisphere summer for a Southern Hemisphere winter.
Hotels in Sydney and Melbourne are also a lot cheaper outside of the peak school holiday times and there are bargains to be had.
However, the cheapest time to travel to the north of Queensland and the Northern Territory is the summer/rainy season (December - February) as the humidity goes through the roof and rain comes down by the bucket load. In Darwin and Cairns you'll be able to get some bargains, but be aware that some resorts (especially some Barrier Reef Islands) will close during this time.
Like it? Pin it!
Have you travelled in Australia? Would you ever go somewhere during their peak or rainy season? Do you disagree with any of our thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.