Summer in Australia: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Summer morning at Port Macquarie's Flynn Beach, New South Wales North Coast
Summer morning at Port Macquarie's Flynn Beach, New South Wales North Coast.

Tourism New South Wales

Summer in Australia is generally a season of fun, sun, and festive times. It begins on Dec. 1 and continues until the end of February due to Australia being in the southern hemisphere. For those visiting Australia from northern hemisphere countries such as the United States, Canada, England, and the northern countries of Asia and Europe, the Australian summer almost exactly coincides with the northern winter. So northern travelers should keep in mind that they are journeying from winter to summer and should accordingly pack for the season.

Beachtime in Australia

For a country enamored of sun, sand, sea, and surf, summer is the peak of the beach season. Many of Australia's most popular destinations are on the coast or on islands off the coast and beaches are not only numerous but also within easy reach by car or public transport. If you have oceanfront accommodation, you can of course simply step out to the sand.

Sydney, for instance, has numerous beaches around Sydney Harbor and all along the coast, from Palm Beach in the north to the Cronulla beaches in the south. Melbourne, not quite as famous as Sydney for beaches, has a number of beaches close to the city center. You can also drive out to the beaches of Mornington Peninsula just south of the city or to the many other seaside areas of Victoria.

Queensland has a large number of holiday islands, particularly on and along the Great Barrier Reef. In South Australia, consider crossing over to Kangaroo Island and in Western Australia to Rottnest Island.

Australia Weather in the Summer

While there is a wide temperature range within the continent itself, summer is generally how it is perceived to be: warm and sunny. In Sydney, for instance, the average midsummer temperature can range from around 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius) at night to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) in the daytime. It is possible for temperatures to rise above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).

Bear in mind that it gets warmer as you travel north and cooler as you travel south. In northernmost tropical Australia, the seasons are more appropriately divided into the dry and the wet, with the Australian summer falling within the north's wet season, which begins around October and November and continues through Australia's summer months.

The wet season in the north can also see incidences of tropical cyclones in varying degrees of intensity. In the south, the summer temperatures can cause the flare-up of bushfires. While the incidence of cyclones and bushfires can cause serious destruction, generally travel to Australia is not critically affected by these forces of nature which, more often than not, occur in unpopulated areas.

What to Pack

As is typical for summer weather, you'll want to bring breezy cotton clothes as well as light outfits such as dresses, shorts, T-shirts, and skirts. You may want to bring a cardigan or jean jacket for the evenings when it gets a bit chillier after the sun goes down. While swimsuits and flip flops (called thongs in Australia) are appropriate for the beach, you'll want to bring a cover-up and nicer sandals for the restaurants and shops.

Summer Events and Festivals in Australia

There are a number of major events and festivals in the Australian summer.

  • Australia's national public holidays in December are Christmas Day and Boxing Day; and on Jan. 26, Australia Day. Note: When a public holiday falls on a weekend, the following workday becomes a public holiday and businesses tend to close.
  • The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race starts on Sydney Harbor in late December with around 100 boats of different sizes competing for line and handicap honors.
  • The Sydney Festival celebrates a broad spectrum of the performing and visual arts. It is usually held around the second week of January until the weekend after Australia Day.
  • The Australian Open, the first of the world's Grand Slam tennis tournaments in the calendar year, takes place in Melbourne starting around the middle of January.
  • The Tamworth Country Music Festival normally takes place in late January around Australia Day. A highlight of the festival is the annual country music awards.
  • The Sydney Chinese New Year Festival is arguably the largest and most popular Chinese New Year festival in Australia. It includes lantern parades, food markets, dragon boat races, and music and dance events.
  • The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a major multi-week event, culminating in a glittering nighttime parade. The festival begins in February.