The best time to visit Australia
When is the best time to travel to Australia? I often get this question from first-time travellers, and it’s impossible to answer it in one sentence because of many factors.
Being Australia a vast continent located in the southern hemisphere, which means summer starts in December, as opposed to winter in the northern part of the globe. Many factors have an impact on when it is the best time to visit Australia.
Before answering this question, I need to spend a few words about its geography and Australia’s weather. With twice the size of Europe, the Australian continent stretches from North to South and from East to West, covering over six thousands kilometres crossing different climate zones. As climate and weather conditions change, Australia is a country with all types of weather and climates, so there are multiple answers to this question.
On this page, you can read about the various types of Australian weather by month, climate zones, and seasons to give you an idea of choosing the best time and when to travel to Australia.
Australia Weather Map
With summer starting in December and ending in March, and winter starting in June and ending in September, Australia has three central climate and weather zones:
- Southern coastal regions from West to East
Cities like Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide are in the West’s southern coastal regions to Australia’s East Coast. Here winter is between June and August, and summer months are between December and February. While the west coast has good and stable weather all year round, the east coast is more changeable.
- Inner central areas of the Outback
When we refer to the Outback regions, we generally think of the Red Centre, but the Outback areas are much larger. They cover most of the entire inland’s territory of Australia. So winter from June to August has the coldest nights with warm days.
- Tropical Queensland, Northern Territory and North Western Australia.
Northern Australia and North West Australia are also Outback areas with cold winter nights and warm days and wet with high humidity on hot summer days. You must be sure to travel off-season in spring between September and November or Autumn between March and May. Winter the best time of year to travel to tropical Australia.
Here below is a recap of the Australian weather zones and seasons to help you identify when is the ideal time to travel to Australia.
Australia in December through February (Summer)
In December, January and February, the Australian weather has the hottest temps, which is the time with the warmest months throughout the country. Temperatures can reach 35-45°C all over the southern coastal areas. In the Outback areas (central Australia), temps can reach over 45°C with extremely high air humidity.
It is the peak season to travel, with six weeks of school holidays. It is the busiest time and most expensive to travel around Australia for locals and international travellers alike. So if you do not like crowds, want to save money, avoid going to Australia in Summer from December to February.
However, travelling to Australia in summer have benefits too. Here are some:
- Summer is the best time for visiting Tasmania as temps are around 25-28°C and therefore very pleasant for hiking and enjoying the great outdoors.
- Most outdoor events occur in summer in South West Australia and South Australia, and the South East Coast of Australia.
- Spending Christmas in Australia is also something extraordinary as it is different to celebrate the festive holidays on the beach and Australia Day.
- If you are a beach lover and love all water sports, then the Australian summer is the best time for planning a trip along the entire East Coast of Australia, including the Gold Coast. However, the Gold coast lies in a subtropical destination and temperatures are great to visit.
Australian Weather in March through May (Autumn)
The weather in Australia in March, April and May is pleasant, mostly all over the country. Temperatures can vary a lot, though. On average, they are around 20-25°C; they gradually decrease towards the winter months. This is my favourite time of the year to visit Australia. Here are some excellent reasons why you should the weather in autumn is great to travel around:
- It is the best time to visit many Australian Outback Regions, including Uluru, as the weather is mild, warm days and cold nights.
- It is the ideal time to visit South Western Australia and South Australia with sunny days. It’s also a great time of the year for tasting local produce, wine and seeing many events.
- Another part of Australia worth visiting between March and May is the Top End and the Kimberley in North Western Australia.
April usually marks the end of the rainy season, so this month is great if you still want to see some of the lush green vegetation, gorges filled with water and enjoy active birdlife and wildlife in the beautiful Australian national parks.
Australian weather in June, July and August (Winter)
The Australian winter starts in June and goes through July and August. The winter months have the coldest weather in Australia as far as the southern regions are concerned. Winter in Victoria and Tasmania can have icy weather, sometimes with temperatures around zero degrees. For this reason, it is not ideal for visiting this part of Australia in the winter months.
The winter months in Australia are suitable for visiting the following areas:
- The Australia Top End, with Darwin, and the Kakadu National Park. Most Top End events are held between July and August. The weather in the Top End is dry with very low humidity and cool nights.
- North Tropical Queensland, with lots of sunshine and the best dry weather you can have.
- Central Australia and North-Western Australia for the Outback regions. Here temperatures are around 20-25°C, ideal for Australia’s best road trips and camping.
Winter in Northern Australia is a busy time of the year; in fact, everyone wants to escape the cold weather of the south and spend a few days at the sunny beaches of North Australia. That’s why I would plan a trip to Northern Australia to secure cheap flights and the best accommodation and tours.
Australia in September through November (Spring)
From September to November, the Australian weather is good almost everywhere across the country. In Northern Tropical Australia, spring, it’s a transitional period from the dry winter months into the rainy months, December to February. With pleasant temperatures around 20-30°C from the West Coast to the South East Coast, this is the best time to go to Australia, especially South Australia, South East Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.
- South Western Australia is best to enjoy it between September and November with wildflowers blossoming. Moreover, you can enjoy activities like whale watching, hiking, biking and more outdoor activities.
- South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales and the entire East Coast of Australia. Spring and autumn have mild weather, and this time of year is not as busy as in the summer months when locals take their Australian holidays.
- Spring is the best time to go on road trips, biking and walking tours and any outdoor activities.
To recap, the best time of year to visit Australia is March to May and October to December.
Best time to visit Australia’s top destinations
Apart from cities like Melbourne and Sydney that can be considered city hubs for most travellers coming to Australia, these are some of the most popular destinations on the trip itinerary of many visitors. I have experienced the following places with all kind of weather and can give you my best tips for making the most of these iconic places in Australia.
When to visit Melbourne
When you plan your trip to Australia to the main Australian cities like Melbourne and Sydney, make sure you consider all the following tips. Here below a breakdown of the best time of the year to visit Sydney and Melbourne.
From March to May and October to December is the best time to visit Melbourne. It implies milder weather with cooler temperatures. An advantage is that there are lots of great festivals, events and fewer tourists around. A con is that the weather can be rainy and windy too. The weather in Melbourne in summer is okay because it allows planning more activities in the outdoors. Still, due to the ever-changing weather (the famous four seasons in one day that you typically experience), it can go from a rainy summer day with lots of humidity to a dry and hot day with temperatures over 40°C—the so-called scorcher.
When to Visit Sydney
March to May and October to December are the best months to visit Sydney. In Summer, it is way too busy, and Sydney’s weather can also be quite hot. If you plan a beach holiday, the summer months of January and February are probably the best. And if you love to celebrate New Year’s Eve in style and don’t mind the crowds, then you should visit Sydney in the summer.
Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef
Being located on the North East Coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is a tropical destination that attracts many Australians throughout the country in the cold winter months of June, July and August. They are also the busiest months for international visitors coming from Europe and the US too. It is the busiest time for tropical Northern Australia.
So, as a general rule, try to avoid travelling during these months and prefer April and May, marking the beginning of the dry season. I visited Cairns and Cape Tribulation in September.
The weather was just perfect and quite pleasant. I would also book at least 3-6 months ahead to secure accommodation and the best car rental deals. December to February is the worst time of the year to visit North Tropical Queensland because of the wettest and hottest weather with the highest humidity you can get in Australia.
As said, the best time to visit the Top End of Australia is winter. Still, being August the peak season with the Darwin Festival, it is also costly, and it won’t be easy to find accommodation at a reasonable price. As the main attractions, Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land are located far 3 hours drive from Darwin; I found this region a bit tricky to plan. From December to February, roads are closed in all national parks and from October to April, tours are limited.
Local tour guides will tell you that the best time to visit Kakadu is March or April when waterfalls are still filled with water. While this is true, it is risky.
You may end there in March and get stuck in town for days because of the rain (this is what happened to me). In my opinion, the best solution is to travel off-season and soon after the rainy season is over.
May to June is the best time to visit the Kakadu National Park, in my opinion. If you want to go camping in the Kakadu National Park with its lush green and beautiful gorges, this is the best time to travel to the north.
Red Centre and Uluru
Among all Australian destinations, a trip to Uluru represents for many travellers the journey of a lifetime. June to August is packed with tourists’ loads; airfares are the highest, and accommodation is limited. So if you cannot avoid travelling during this time of year to the Red Centre, you need to book at least six months ahead to get a good flight deal. December to February is a no-go due to the excessively high temperature (up to 45°C or 115F).
I have experienced Uluru twice at the end of March and once at the end of April, and it was terrific. I can highly recommend a visit in April-May as this is, in my opinion, the best time to visit Uluru.
Temps are around 25-27°C or 77-80F, making it perfect for walking around the Uluru base and enjoying its stunning settings and outdoor activities. When temps start going over 30°C or 86F, then you will be limited to morning explorations.
Another benefit of planning a trip to Uluru between April and May is that these are the less busy time of the year, this being cheaper and less crowded.
Be sure you don’t plan your visit for 25th April, a popular public holiday in Australia. This time of the year is busy with families and school children. June-August is also great for the weather but extremely busy regarding visitors.
When to go on a Great Ocean Road Trip
One of the most famous drives in Australia is the Great Ocean Road. It is, however, a destination that you need to plan with the right weather conditions. It can get rainy and very windy in winter, so I would recommend travelling on warm sunny days to make the most of this fantastic coastal drive.
From October to December and February to March, it will be a good time when the weather is more predictable. Try to avoid the peak season and school holidays, between Christmas and January, as it will be difficult to find accommodation (including campsites) along your way.
If you can only drive the Great Ocean Road over Christmas or public holidays, make sure you book your rental car and accommodation a good time ahead.
Best time to visit Broome
Broome is a popular destination for southern Australians who want to escape the cold winter months between June to August. It is a beautiful destination and one of the most scenic landscapes you can see in Australia. Again the dry season with cooler weather from April to September is the best time to visit Broome in North-West Australia. The hot and steamy weather makes it a no-go from December to March when it rains heavily.
I have been to Broome in February, many years ago, and couldn’t even walk because of the high humidity. Being Broome the getaway to the Kimberley Outback, you need to know that no tours will operate the Kimberley region between October through March.
So my tip is to visit Broome in May when the dry weather starts, landscape show all its splendour and the green vegetation, the red earth and the blue sky create a fantastic contrast. July and August is also an excellent time to visit Broome. August is less busy than in other months. Nights are cooler at 15°C and lovely warm days with about 28-30°C.
Final thoughts about when to visit Australia
Having travelled extensively around Australia on my own, by covering over 100Km from west to east, from bottom to top, I have established that March to May and September to November is the best time to visit Australia hassle-free.
It is, in fact, the milder months when you can travel almost anywhere around the country with warm days in the southern regions and dry, sunny days in Western Australia and dry weather in Northern Australia. Before planning any trip around Australia, check out this site for the weather zone forecast in Australia.
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First published in 2013, last updated in April 2021
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