The Best Time to Visit Australia

Sydney Harbour at sunset with bridge, city skyline and boats on the water

Prasit photo / Getty Images

Australia's landmass is only slightly smaller than the U.S. contiguous 48 states, covering an area of around 2.9 million square miles. The continent experiences very different climates in the north and south regions, as well as dramatic variation between the coast and the interior, so it's important to plan your visit with the weather in mind. In general, the best time to visit is in the spring or fall due to the fluctuations in temperature and rainfall in the northern and southern extremes of the country. Due to its location in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia also has different seasons to the U.S., with summer from December to February and winter from June to August.

Of course, the best time to visit also depends on what exactly you want to see and do in Australia, from snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef to hiking the mountains of Tasmania. For more details about the time of year you should plan your trip, check out this complete guide.

Weather in Australia

Australia has a reputation as a warm and dry country and that is not too far from the truth, although there are some exceptions. It is generally hotter in the center of the country than the coast and cooler in the south than the north, with regions like the Australian Alps in the south-west even receiving snowfall in the winter.

Most of central and southern Australia has four distinct seasons, with average temperatures between 68 degrees F and 95 degrees F in summer and 37 degrees F to 68 degrees F in winter. Cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth fall into this category and can be easily visited all year-round.

However, the far north of Australia has a tropical climate, with a wet season running from November to March and a dry season from April to October. Destinations like Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef and Darwin fall into this category and are best visited in the dry season.

Even in a southern city like Sydney, summer temperatures can easily reach 100 degrees F, so make sure you are prepared for the heat if you decide to visit in December or January.

Peak Season in Australia

With a population density of only nine people per square mile, Australia is rarely crowded. (For comparison, the U.S. has a population density of 94 people per square mile.) Tourism levels vary throughout the year and across the country, with most domestic travelers generally on the move in summer and international visitors arriving in winter.

Larger cities like Sydney and Melbourne are busiest on holidays like New Year's Eve and during special events and festivals. The Great Barrier Reef is most popular at Easter and in early July, while Uluru is also relatively busy in June and July due to the Australian school vacations and the milder weather. Even so, you will be easily able to find an escape from the crowds if you're willing to venture off the beaten track.

Popular Events and Festivals

Many of Australia's cultural and sporting events are held in the cooler months between April and October, especially in the north of the country. Music festivals, on the other hand, are most common over the summer as Australians celebrate the holiday period. You can find a list of major events below.

Accommodation during city-wide festivals in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne can book up quickly, as can smaller resort towns on the coast and near the major natural attractions at peak times. Booking a week or two in advance is usually a safe bet.

Best Time to Visit the Beaches

If you're planning to spend the majority of your vacation relaxing by the beach, we recommend visiting Sydney between November and May, when average ocean temperatures remain above 68 degrees F. Other popular beach destinations, including the Gold Coast, Byron Bay and Perth, are all warm and sunny almost all year-round.

Further north, the weather allows for swimming no matter when you visit, but you may need to take precautions to protect yourself from dangerous jellyfish. Box and Irukandji jellyfish (also known as stingers) can be fatal to humans and are present along the Far North Queensland coast from around November to May.

Many popular beaches around Cairns remain open with stinger nets in place during this period, but you can also wear a full body wetsuit as a precaution. These jellyfish are less common around islands than the mainland, so the Whitsundays can be a good option if you want to visit Far North Queensland during stinger season.

Best Time to Visit the Outback

In its broadest definition, the outback describes the majority of the Australian continent. This vast, isolated region is largely desert with an arid climate and pockets of vegetation around rivers and mountain ranges. Of course, there are towns in the outback (the largest, Alice Springs, has a population of 25,000), but settlements are few and far between.

Popular places to visit in Australia's interior include Uluru, the Flinders Ranges, the Bungle Bungles, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, Lake Mungo, Kings Canyon, and Nitmiluk Gorge. The biggest consideration when visiting these regions is the heat, especially if you're not used to the fierce Aussie sun. For this reason, it's best to plan your trip sometime between April and October.

Driving through the bush land
Posnov / Getty Images

January

Highs hover just under 80 degrees F in Sydney and Melbourne, while Perth and Brisbane are generally warmer. In Alice Springs and the Outback, temperatures can be over 100 degrees F. Expect heavy rain in the far north and clear skies in the rest of the country.

Events to check out:

  • The Sydney Festival runs for most of the month, with theater, circus, music, dance, and visual art on show.
  • January 26 is Australia Day in most of the country, also known as Invasion Day or Survival Day, which marks the date on which the continent was officially colonized in 1788. 
  • The Parkes Elvis Festival in regional New South Wales attracts thousands of Presley impersonators and fans.
  • The Australian Open is a tennis Grand Slam tournament held in Melbourne.
  • Mona Foma brings cutting-edge art and music performances to Tasmania.

February

The climate is similar to January in most of the country: hot, sunny, and perfect for a day at the beach. However, the northern cities of Cairns and Darwin receive their highest rainfall in February, often in dramatic thunderstorms.

Events to check out:

  • Perth Festival has a focus on performance, literature, music, film, and visual arts.
  • Brisbane Comedy Festival is a month-long event that attracts local and international performers.
  • Chinese New Year celebrations take place in Sydney, Melbourne and other major cities.

March

As Australia moves into fall, days remain warm and pleasant in most of the country. Many Australians prefer to take their beach vacations around this time, as you will usually find fewer crowds and less extreme heat.

Events to check out:

April

Temperatures are generally just above 70 degrees F in the southern cities and the rain disappear in the tropical north. The Easter break is a busy travel time in Australia, with many families heading to the beach or the outback.

Events to check out:

  • Similar to a county fair, the Sydney Royal Easter Show celebrates the state's agricultural produce.
  • The five-day Byron Bay Bluesfest attracts 100,000 music fans each year.
  • The ANZAC Day public holiday commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in the countries' armed forces.

May

The water is still warm enough to swim on the east coast and clear skies prevail across the country. Low humidity levels make for excellent sightseeing conditions.

Events to check out:

  • Wide Open Space is an music and arts festival that takes place in the mountain ranges outside Alice Springs.
  • Another off-beat music event, Big Pineapple Festival, comes to regional Queensland.

June

The first month of winter brings chilly temperatures to most of Australia, although the outback and the far north remain pleasantly warm during the day. Average temperatures in Sydney and Melbourne are around 60 degrees F, while Perth and Brisbane are slightly warmer.

Events to check out:

  • Barunga Festival: This three-day program of music, sport, traditional arts, and cultural activities open to visitors takes place in the remote Aboriginal community of Barunga (near Katherine in the Northern Territory).
  • The ski season usually opens on the Queen's Birthday weekend, which is the second Monday of the month.
  • Dark Mofo may be Australia's weirdest arts festival, with experimental and challenging performances and exhibitions in Hobart.

July

Australia's coldest month can still be a good time to travel with daytime temperatures rarely below 50 F and nighttime lows of around 40 degrees F. In fact, winter is the peak season in the outback and the tropical north.

Events to check out:

August

Cooler winter temperatures continue throughout August, making this your last chance to visit the ski slopes of the Australian Alps.

Events to check out:

  • Vivid is a popular festival in Sydney known for its light projections on iconic landmarks.
  • Darwin Festival is a quirky calendar of music, comedy, theater, art, cabaret and more that makes the most of cooler temperatures in the Top End.

September

In spring, temperatures bounce back up into the 60s F in southern Australia and even higher in the north and the center. Beach days are back on the agenda and crisp evenings offer a welcome respite from the heat.

Events to check out:

  • Brisbane Festival is the city's top arts and culture event.
  • As Western Australia's wildflowers are in full bloom, Kings Park Festival curates impressive floral displays in Perth.

October

Like fall, spring in Australia is mild and a good time to travel almost anywhere. Pack a medium-weight jacket and you'll be able to transition from the 85 degree days in Alice Springs to the 50-degree nights in Melbourne.

Events to check out:

November

The wet season rolls into Australia's north, bringing humidity and plenty of rainfall. However, it is still possible to visit the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest if you're willing to be flexible with your plans.

Event to check out: Australia's top horse race, the Melbourne Cup, is also the social event of the season in Victoria.

December

The heat and humidity intensifies again in December as Australia heads towards the end-of-year vacation period. Avoid the crowded city beaches in favor of smaller coastal towns.

Events to check out:

  • Falls Festival rolls into Byron Bay with international headliners, while Meredith comes to regional Victoria and Woodford to regional Queensland.
  • New Year's Eve fireworks are a big deal across Australia's capital cities and are best enjoyed from rooftop bars or waterfront restaurants.
Was this page helpful?