Australia's Northern Territory, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from top to bottom, is divided into two main regions: the semi-arid Red Centre and the tropical Top End. If you're visiting Uluru and Alice Springs, for example, you will find yourself in the Red Centre, while the Top End is home to the capital city Darwin and the waterfalls of Kakadu National Park.
The most popular time to visit the Northern Territory is from May to October, allowing visitors to avoid the wet season in the north and the extremely high temperatures in the center of the country.
The Territory is renowned for its national parks and unique landscapes, so the weather is an essential factor to consider when planning your trip. Read on for a complete guide to the weather in the Northern Territory.
Wet Season in the Northern Territory
The Top End experiences a wet season from November to April. Average temperatures range from 75 to 90 degrees F, with rain almost every day and a high chance of monsoonal storms from October to December. The wet season is also the most humid time of year, with humidity levels hitting 70 percent in January and February.
Although there is steady rainfall throughout the season, January is the Territory's wettest month. It can be challenging to reach some of the Top End's more remote destinations during this time due to flooding and road closures.
There are some positives to visiting during the wet season: the national parks are green and vibrant thanks to the much-needed rain, and tour and accommodation prices may also be lower. However, unless you're willing to be extremely flexible with your travel plans, the wet season is best avoided in the Top End.
Regions of the Northern Territory
The Top End
The Top End covers the northern tip of the Territory, including destinations like Darwin, Katherine, Kakadu, and Arnhem Land. The maximum temperature here sits around 90 degrees F all year long, with the wet season running from November to April and the dry season from May to October. Expect humidity and sunshine in the mornings, followed by tropical showers in the afternoons if you choose to visit in the wet season. The wind is low throughout the year.
Swimming at Darwin's beaches is not recommended due to box jellyfish (October to May) and crocodiles, but there are plenty of pools, swimming holes, and waterfalls that are open to the public. Kakadu and Litchfield National Park are at their most accessible during the dry season, and many of Darwin's popular events and markets are held during this time.
The Red Centre is home to destinations like Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, and Uluru in the heart of Australia. Days are usually hot and sunny, but nights in the desert can be unexpectedly cool. Temperatures reach summer highs of 95 degrees F and winter lows of 40 degrees F.
Even during summer, the Red Centre doesn't experience the oppressive humidity that you'll encounter further north, and it is possible to get an early start to beat the heat. However, if you're planning to make the most of the region's national parks, the ideal time to visit is between April and October. Like in Darwin, events in Alice Springs are often scheduled outside of the summer months.
Summer in the Northern Territory
From December to January, temperatures soar across the Northern Territory. Highs hover around 90°F in the Top End and above 95 degrees F in the Red Centre. In the Top End, these warmer days are accompanied by near-constant rain and high humidity. There are between 12 and 13 daylight hours in the Territory throughout summer.
What to pack: Protect yourself from the harsh sun with long sleeves, a hat and high SPF sunscreen. In the Top End you'll need a rain jacket, while the climate of the Red Centre requires light, breathable fabrics. Make sure to carry plenty of water, especially if traveling through remote areas.
Fall in the Northern Territory
Temperatures dip slightly in the southern part of the Territory in fall, with highs of 92 degrees F in April and 74 degrees F in May. However, the Top End maintains its wet season conditions, with heat, humidity, and rain throughout March and April. It's still warm enough to swim in many places, with between 11 and 12 daylight hours.
What to pack: A rain jacket will come in handy up north. If you're visiting the Red Centre, pack a sweater for the cooler evenings.
Winter in the Northern Territory
Winter is peak tourism season in the Territory, as the clear skies and more bearable temperatures allow for hiking, camping, and kayaking. Expect plenty of sunshine all over and the occasional morning frost in the Red Centre.
Temperatures in Alice Springs range from lows of 40 degrees F to highs of 65-75 degrees F. In Darwin, temperatures remain steady in the 70s and 80s with almost no rain and much lower humidity levels. There are between 10 and 11 daylight hours across the Territory.
What to pack: We recommend comfortable enclosed shoes for outdoor activities, as well as a jacket or sweater for after dark. If you're camping in the Red Centre, you'll need a sleeping bag rated to at least 30 degrees F.
Spring in the Northern Territory
Spring is a lovely time to visit the Red Centre, with wildflowers blooming and pleasant walking conditions. Maximum temperatures hit 85 degrees F in Alice Springs and lows range between 50 and 65°F.
In Darwin, the two months leading up to the wet season are called the build-up, with rising temperatures and humidity and storms rolling in off the Timor Sea throughout October and November. Temperatures climb into the 80s and low 90s, with humidity rising as well. There are between 12 to 13 daylight hours across the Territory during spring.
What to pack: Be prepared for wet weather in the Top End, with waterproof footwear and a rain jacket. In the Red Centre, you'll need to dress for a wide range of temperatures with loose layers.