Best time to visit Australia: The Land Down Under

Best time to visit AustraliaAustralia is one of my favourite countries, and there are plenty of reasons to visit this amazing country. However, what is the best time to visit Australia?

Whether you are travelling to Australia, or there on Australian working visa, it’s useful to know when the best time to visit is.

As parts of the country are located in the tropics, the weather can be completely different from one part of the year to another.

Travelling in Darwin is an example of this, as it has distinct seasons.

There are also numerous festivals and sporting events occurring throughout the year. If there are some that you want to attend, then it is best to plan your trip around that.

Answering this question mainly depends on what you want to get out of your trip, your budget and the weather. However, there are a few factors that are important in considering when the best time to visit Australia is!

What is the best time to visit Australia?

With so many places to visit in Australia, it can be difficult to know where to start. This is especially true if you are only in the country for a short period of time. The best time to go to Australia varies depending on your circumstance and intentions.

A lot of travellers visit Australia for 3 months and primarily stick to the East Coast. A mad dash to try and fit in as much as possible in those three months often results. If you go to Australia on a working holiday, then the effect is negated.

You have a year to see what you want and if you do your regional work, then you can stay for another year. You have more freedom to plan your trip than someone on a 3-month Australian itinerary! There isn’t really a best time of the year to visit Australia on this visa. You are here for the whole year, so when to visit Australia becomes less important.

A number of factors influence the best time to visit Australia. I discuss these factors and their impact on the best months to visit Australia below.

 

backpacking in Port Elliot

Weather and climate in Australia

Australia is a big country, that straddles the tropics. The climate in the country can vary dramatically from place to place, as a result. The top end near Darwin and Cairns has distinct sunny and rainy seasons, whereas the climate further south in Adelaide and Melbourne is more Mediterranean.

It is also important to remember that as Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, its summer is from November to February. Which is opposite to the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, which is from June to August. The best months to visit Australia are generally the summer months for obvious reasons!

With that said, summer in Australia can get ridiculously hot. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to go past the 40-degree mark. It is worth bearing this in mind if you plan to travel to Australia during the summer months. The heat can be very intense and if you are not comfortable travelling in this weather, then it may be best to visit outside of these months.

Centre of Australia

The centre of Australia, commonly referred to as the outback, is mostly desert, with a few settlements scattered about. Thus, it is generally hot all year round, although there is a drop off in temperature during the winter months, even if it is not by much.

It is cooler during the winter months, with temperatures around the 30-degree mark, although this is still hot. However, it is not as hot as in the summer, when it is regularly around 40 degrees in Alice Springs and Uluru. It may be worth visiting the centre of Australia in the winter to avoid the hot temperatures and travel during the off-season.

 

Lone tree in the outback

New South Wales, Queensland

The climate in New South Wales is not too dissimilar to that of South Australia and Victoria. The summers are hot, with 30-degree temperatures common, while it is cooler in the winter months with more rainfall. As such, the summer months are more popular for travellers and prices will be higher than in the winter months.

While travelling in Queensland, I found the climate more tropical. As a result, the temperature doesn’t drop off too dramatically in the winter. It remains mild at around 11-21 degrees during the day.

Summer is definitely the best time to visit Southern Queensland, as the weather is often hot and sunny. Places such as Brisbane and the Gold Coast are prone to thunderstorms, but more often than not, it’s sunny!

South Australia and Victoria

The climate in South Australia and Victoria is more akin to that of a Mediterranean country. The summers can get very hot with temperatures mainly around the 30-degree mark, occasionally creeping beyond 40 degrees. Rainfall is not so common during these months, although Melbourne’s climate is very changeable. So don’t be surprised if it does rain occasionally!

Winter is much cooler with temperatures around the 10-degree mark and sometimes dropping below that. It’s not cold by Northern European standards, but after being used to hot temperatures during the summer it can feel that way.

It’s more fun in these states when the temperatures are higher, so I recommend visiting during the summer months. There are more events going on and you can go to the beach, but accommodation is cheaper during the winter.

 

Backpacking Adelaide

Tasmania

Tasmania’s climate is different to rest of Australia. This is mainly due to Tasmania being separated from the mainland. There are four distinct seasons, with the summer months, December to March, the hottest. The capital, Hobart, is also the second driest Australian state capital after Adelaide!

Tasmania experiences significantly more rainfall during the winter months. The west coast of the island sees an average annual rainfall of 2,400 mm. Perhaps, the best time to visit Tasmania is during the summer months. However, due to the changeable climate in Tasmania, you should always prepare for the worst!

Tropics (Darwin, Cairns, Far North Queensland)

If you are planning on travelling to the Far North of Australia, then it is important to know that this area of the country has distinct seasons. The best months to visit the Far North of Australia are from June to October. This is the dry season in Darwin and Cairns.

Outside of these months, it is the rainy season. January, February and March being the worst months for rainfall. This is worth taking into consideration for your trip, as it is not much fun being in these places when it is constantly raining. However, accommodation is generally cheaper during these months, so you have to weigh up what is more important for you!

 

Darwin Waterfront at night

Western Australia

Due to its size, there are a number of climate zones in Western Australia.  The capital Perth, in the south-west, has a Mediterranean climate, whereas further North it is more tropical. In fact, Perth has the most the sunny days during the year of any Australian state capital!

Further North, Broome and Kimberly have climates that are similar to those in Cairns and Darwin. Again, it is worth factoring this into your trip. Visiting during the ‘green season, as it is known, from October to March, might not be too much fun, with tropical rainstorms a regular occurrence!

Australian weather

CityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulyAugSepOctNovDec
Adelaide29.329.426.422.718.916.115.316.619.021.825.227.0
Alice Springs36.435.032.628.223.019.819.722.627.230.933.635.4
Brisbane30.229.928.927.124.421.921.823.225.627.128.129.3
Cairns31.531.230.629.327.626.025.726.628.129.530.731.4
Darwin31.831.431.932.732.030.630.631.432.633.233.332.6
Hobart21.721.720.217.314.512.011.713.115.117.018.720.3
Melbourne25.925.823.920.316.714.113.515.017.319.722.024.2
Perth31.331.729.625.922.319.418.419.120.423.426.629.1
Sydney25.925.824.822.819.517.016.317.820.022.123.625.2
Table of the average high temperatures for major Australian cities throughout the year.

Seasonal variations

There are a few seasonal variations that influence when to visit Australia. The primary one is that prices are cheaper in the winter months than they are during the summer. Obviously, this is because most people come to Australia during the summer. Although, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best time to go to Australia. There are a few caveats to consider.

The winter months in places such as Darwin and Cairns are actually the most popular, as it is the dry season. So, prices are more expensive than they would be during the dry season. The prices in big cities such as Melbourne and Sydney don’t fluctuate too much during the year. However, somewhere like Adelaide is cheaper during the winter!

November to May is known as the ‘stinger season.’ This is because beaches in Queensland and some in New South Wales are visited by a lot of jellyfish. Although, not a reason to avoid travelling to Australia during this period, it’s useful to know. So take extra care when visiting beaches during these months. Jellyfish stings can be very painful!

 

Storey Bridge

Festivals and sporting events in Australia

There are many festivals and sporting events held throughout the year in Australia. If there are some that you want to see, then it is worth planning your trip around them so you don’t miss out!

I tried to plan my time in Australia around seeing as many sporting events as I could. Number 1 on my list was watching the Formula 1 in Melbourne, which I accomplished! There are many more events such as the Australian Open, Aussie Rules and Rugby, so be sure to know the dates before you plan your trip!

Below are a few of the biggest events that are held throughout the year in Australia. They are all worth attending if you can fit them into your backpacking itinerary! The best time to visit Australia for you could be one of these events is on!

Anzac Day – 25 April, similar to Remembrance Day in the UK, ANZAC Day honours the soldiers who fought during the First and Second World War.

Australian Open – January for two weeks, this is the first Tennis Grand Slam tournament of the year held in Melbourne. Tickets are readily available, but make sure you book accommodation in advance, as most hostels will be fully booked during these weeks!

Australia Day – 26 January, Australia’s national day. This is celebrated throughout the country and is a hugely popular day. Expect plenty of BBQs and drinking to take place!

Adelaide Festival – 2 weeks in February and March, the Adelaide Festival is one of the world’s biggest arts events. This is a great reason to visit Adelaide, and the fringe festival, held at the same time, is the second-biggest in the world after Edinburgh’s!

Australian Grand Prix – 4 days during the middle of March, the Australian Grand Prix is normally the first race of the Formula 1 season held in Melbourne. Like the Australian Open, this event is popular, so if you want to go, book well in advance! Tickets are reasonably priced, with a four-day ticket costing about $150-200.

Melbourne Cup – held at Flemington Racecourse on the first Tuesday in November, the race is one of Australia’s most prestigious. It is the equivalent of the Grand National in the UK or the Kentucky Derby in America, to give you an idea of its significance!

Perth International Arts Festival the longest running festival in Australia is held during February. It’s similar to the Adelaide Festival and both festivals are held at similar times. So, you may have to decide which one to visit, as opposed to seeing both!

Stereosonic – One of the biggest music festivals in Australia, Stereosonic is currently on a hiatus and will return in 2017. It’s normally held in November and early December in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.

Tour Down Under the first UCI pro tour cycling event of the year is held in Adelaide during January. This may only interest sports fans, but attendance is free and you receive a lot of free gifts from the fan parks! Worth a look if you are in Adelaide during this time!

 

Watching the F1 in Melbourne

The best time to visit Australia?

The answer to this question is, of course, subjective. What one person wants to see in Australia could be completely different to someone else. However, there are definitely more things to do in Australia during the summer months than the winter months.

This is when the bulk of the events occur across Australia, and of course, the weather is better. However, if you have your heart set on visiting the Tropical North in the Northern Territory and Queensland, then the opposite is true. The winter months are much better but are also more expensive as it is high season.

If you are in Australia on a working holiday visa, then the answer to this question does not matter too much. You will have a full year and potentially another one to explore the country. So, you have a lot of time to see and do what you want!

However, if you are travelling around Australia for a limited time then this does become an issue. You have to decide whether you want to pay less during the winter months or visit during the summer. The weather is much better in the summer, and there are more events going on.

Hopefully, I have given you an insight into the best time to visit Australia. As well as what you can do throughout the year in this great country. If you have travelled to Australia and agree or disagree with anything then comment below and let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

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Tom

Tom is a travel addict who first left England to spend a year Down Under. Not satisfied with this, he then went to New Zealand, about as far away from home as he could get. He is now planning his next adventures in Europe and Canada while maintaining this blog.

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30 Responses

  1. Such a big country, it’s true you got to decide what you want to do and see, and when it’s the best time to do it. Went twice and loved it every single time!

  2. Jaynie Wall says:

    Australia is such a big country, it’s intimidating to think about prioritizing where to spend time. Thank you for the tips, weather plays a big part on helping me make travel decisions.

  3. MariaAbroad says:

    Those are some great points. But if you stay longer, you tend to put things off. I’ve met people who spent a few weeks in a place that have seen more than those that spent months there.

  4. Tara says:

    Like you say, the best season will be different for everyone. For me – I’ll steer clear of extreme heat and the stinger season.

  5. I would absolutely love to visit in 2017! This was a great read, thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Claire says:

    This is a really good guide, thanks for all the information. It’s good to see it doesn’t get insanely cold in Melbourne, as that’s where I’ll be spending a lot of time (although I’ll try and make sure that’s in the summer!) I’m going to Byron Bay in September, should I expect it to be around 25 then, similar to Brisbane?

    • Joanne says:

      Being on the ocean, Byron is a little milder than Brisbane, where the bulk of the city is further back from the Bay.

      Byron in September is usually delightful. The water is still cool, but the air temperatures are balmy.

      Have fun!

  7. No matter the time of year it is always the ideal time to visit somewhere. Keep in mind the sun is a lot stronger than in the Northern Hemisphere and wear sunscreen in the summer. There is a reason Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

  8. You forgot to mention the rain season in various parts of Australia! (Or if you did I missed it)
    Darwin and N.T.: don’t go during the build-up to the rain season, around late October and mid December! It unbearably humid. Around Christmas it starts to rain, heavily. The oppressive humidity goes down but roads might be impassable, delaying travel plans.
    Roughly the same time applies to Far North Queensland, maybe delayed by month.
    Southern Queensland and Far North NSW have a rain season too, and it can be rather heavy. It usually starts sometime in March or April and lasts for 6 weeks. Depending when it started it can end in May or June. I come from Byron Bay, and during our rain season daily rainfall of 300mm or more is quite normal.
    On the other hand Southern Qld and Far North NSW have mostly sunny winters, clear days, around 20-24 degrees, cool nights with temperatures around 8-12 degrees, some light frost away from the coast.
    I often recommend for people from Europe and the USA to visit places on the east coast, north of Sydney, from late August to November, going north to south You get mostly pleasant temperatures, no extremely high peaks, very little rain, and nowhere is really crowded with visitors. It’s also a good time for physical activities, like hiking.

    • Tom says:

      Wow! Thanks for the insight Juergen, I might have left some of this out, I’ll try and incorporate it into the article in the future.

  9. Angela says:

    Great information! I didn’t realize there were other places to visit during the “off season” which is when we love to travel since it’s less busy. I can’t wait to get to Australia at some point!

  10. Lara Dunning says:

    I’ve read lots of posts about Austrailia, but not one about when to go and what weather to expect. This is great. I’m saving.

  11. Australia is such a vi-polar country. 4 seasons in one day. Especially lately. It’s been nuts. I think come to Australia whenever you can, and let the weather decide where you go here 🙂

  12. christine says:

    One of the things I love about OZ is that the country has different climates all over! I am here now and its fall but in a week I am going up North which is still sunny and warm. You get the best of all weathers!

    • Tom says:

      Yep that’s one of the best things about Australia! You can always find great weather if you go the right place at the right time!

  13. Elena says:

    Interesting! What would you say about coming to Australia for 2-3 weeks in either April, October or August? My vacations are linked to public holidays and school holidays in my country, and almost no way to come in summer (Jan-Feb).

    • Tom says:

      October might be best, the weather is good in most parts of the country this time of the summer. It’s slightly out of season as well, so might work out cheaper for you!

  14. Lots of great information for planning a trip to Australia. Looks like you have seen it all! 😉

  15. Bernard Tan says:

    This is such an indept post! there is tons of information about Australia! Thanks for sharing!

  16. the weather widget is awesome which gives the weather information, the post is very informative

  17. Lily says:

    This is so useful I’ve saved it for next year when I go to Australia. I love the weather chart and that you’ve added festivals and holidays in too.

  18. Joanne says:

    Spring and Autumn are a lot more pleasant in Queensland than Summer, which tends to be hot and humid on the coast and just hot elsewhere.

    I live in Brisbane, where it is short sleeve weather much of the year, with 6-8 weeks of sweater weather in Winter, especially very late June, July and the first half of August, when you might want a coat for the cool wind.

    It is notoriously humid here in Summer, with high temperatures (35-40 Celsius). The Gold and Sunshine Coasts are slightly milder, with more on shore breezes. However, most of Spring and Autumn are pleasant to warm, with high temperatures in the upper 20’s in most of South-East Qld.

    Sydney is relatively similar to Brisbane but a bit less humid. Spring and Autumn are lovely there, too.

    Melbourne has glorious parks in Spring (lovely flowers) and Autumn (Autumn foliage). It can be changeable, but the weather is milder than their sometimes very hot Summers and cold Winters (though any Melbourne weather can change to another extreme quickly!).

    I hope you all enjoy your visits down here!

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