is the Best Time to Visit Australia 1
The weather varies across this huge
The vastness of this
'island continent' gives it a huge variety of different
of a new series on travel to and in Australia -
click the links on the right hand side for more articles.
(More articles coming soon)
Torrential downpours and
tropical cyclones in the north, snow in the south, but no rain
for years in the middle. What country
has more weather contrasts than Australia?
The conventional wisdom of 'the
weather is best in the summer' doesn't hold uniformly true for
Australia, and even if it did, you should also remember that the
seasons are reversed in the southern (compared to northern)
So when is the best time to
visit Australia? Actually, there's a lot to like in
Australia year-round, but, for sure, some times are better than
Australian Climate and Weather
It is not too much of an
over-simplification to think of Australia as a huge empty desert
with only a thin patch of greenery and civilization running
primary around the southeast corner of the country, with the key
'corridor' being between Melbourne and Sydney, and the fringes
of this corridor extending north up to the Brisbane area and
west over to Adelaide.
The overwhelming majority of
the country's population can be found in this small band.
Not uncoincidentally, the weather in this region is good to
great year round.
But for you as a tourist,
Australia's tourist attractions are spread further afield,
literally to all four corners of the country (well, that's not
very literal, is it; because Australia doesn't have corners per
se) as well as into its dry desert center.
So let's consider
Australia's weather on a regional basis.
The Tropical North of Australia
term 'tropics' refers to a band north and south of the equator,
marked by the Tropic of Cancer at the northern end and the
Tropic of Capricorn at the southern end. These parallel
horizontal lines on
the globe represent the northernmost and southernmost positions
of the sun (at the summer and winter solstices).
The Tropic of Capricorn
passes through Australia (click the image on the left to see a full map of
Australia), being the dashed line just north of the 24°
latitude. You can see it in this small map segment
running through Rockhampton.
theory, everywhere north of that point experiences a tropical
climate, which typically is considered to have two seasons - wet
or monsoon, and dry - rather than the four season experience
we're probably more familiar with. The further north you
travel, the more pronounced this will be, and by the time you're
in Cairns and Far North
Queensland (places that should be prominent on your 'must visit'
list), it is very apparent.
other main tourist region that experiences the tropical type of
weather is around Darwin and the Kakadu National Park.
season is centered around the southern winter months (June -
October), and the wet season is centered around the southern
summer months (November - May), with of course the two seasons
blending into each other in the fall and spring months.
these areas you can expect warm to hot weather in their dry
season, and hot to very hot weather, in
their wet season. Humidity is moderately high much of the
year. The wet season may also be occasionally
enlivened by tropical storms, featuring enormous downpours of
rain (many inches in a single day) and very powerful winds such
as we'd associate with northern hemisphere hurricanes.
Cairns area, in the rainy season, average monthly rainfalls can go
as high as 17.7" (Feb) with rain an average of 2 days out of
every 3 (Feb and Mar). In the dry season, there is still
measurable precipitation one day in four (Aug - Oct) and more
than an inch of rain a month, even in the driest month (Sep).
a good weather chart for Cairns on
estuaries and inlets of rivers in northern Queensland are home
to some particularly virulent kinds of jellyfish that can cause
painful and even lethal stings if encountered while swimming.
rainy season, the rains tend to wash these jellyfish out to sea
a way, and they then get brought back on the tides to the coastal beaches,
waiting in the water to surprise any unsuspecting swimmers.
peak period of danger from jellyfish is similar to the rainy
season - ie, November to May, but they can be present at any
time of year.
beaches have jellyfish nets that in theory block out jellyfish
from protected parts of the beaches. Personally, I don't
trust the nets, because there are occasional stories of
jellyfish being thrown over the net by a wave and appearing
that these jellyfish are rarely (but occasionally) found on the outer parts of the
Great Barrier Reef.
information on jellyfish and current reports on their prevalence
can be found on
Considerations for the best time to go diving or snorkeling on
the Great Barrier Reef and off the coast of Queensland may
involve whether the sea will be calm or rough, whether the water
will be cold or warm, and what the under-water visibility may be
is the least calm in the June-August period. The
water is 80°F (27°C) or higher from November through April. The
visibility is best Sept - March along the Great Barrier Reef and
June - September in the Coral Sea.
seems the generally best time to visit is outside of the
June-August period, but the chances are you'll have a wonderful
experience at any time of year.
This page has an interesting summary of monthly weather
conditions for diving.
is a school of thought that suggests the best time to view the
rainforest (ie the gorgeous world heritage rainforest areas
north of Cairns in the Daintree area in particular) is in the
rain. That may be true, but you
may also find yourself risking washed out roads, and of course
having massively reduced visibility when driving in torrential
other hand, if you're visiting in the later parts of the dry
season, the rain forest can be dusty and drab. Extended
periods of hot dry weather can coat everything in dust, changing
the verdant greens of the forest into a drab brown.
the best time to see the rainforest would therefore be either at
the very end of the rainy season or at the very beginning - ie,
avoiding the driest months of the dry season (August, September
Outback Red Center Desert Areas
could be said that in Australia's vast outback desert areas,
there is only one season - the dry season, with a slight
modification being that some times of the year it is impossibly
hot and some times of the year it is bearably hot.
Alice Springs, located right in the heart of the 'Red Center' of
Australia and with weather conditions that are reasonably
typical for much of the outback, average daily high temperatures
range from a high of 97°F (36.3°C) in December down to a high of
67°F (19.6°C) in July, with the average daily lows (at night)
varying from 70.5°F (21.4°C) in December to 39°F (4.0°C) in
July. The highest recorded daily temperature was 113°F
(45.2°C), again in December.
November through March there is an average of more than 1" of
rain a month. There is on average about one rainy day a
week during Nov - Jan, and the driest months, August and
September, struggle to have two days a month with measurable rain.
In some years, even the theoretically rainiest of the months may
have no rainfall at all.
Avoiding December and January (due to extreme heat) might be
advisable, and maybe you might prefer to avoid June and July
(due to the relatively cooler months) too.
Temperature Southern Regions
Brisbane more or less marks the north-eastern limit of the most
densely populated band of the country, and its climate is a
blend of two season tropical and four season temperate.
Its summer is hot but also wet - January is the hottest and
wettest month, with July being the coolest and September the
driest month. Expect average daily highs of 84°F (29°C) in
January, and a far from cold 69°F (21°C) in July. May - September
has less than 4" a month of rain.
is further south, and Melbourne even more so, with Adelaide
marking the south-westerly limit of this quadrant.
Melbourne is the southern-most of these cities, but it is not
very far south. Its latitude (38° S) is comparable to that
of San Francisco, Washington DC, Lisbon and Athens (which are as
far north of the equator as Melbourne is south). It still
has hot and sometimes very hot summers, and cool rather than
frigid winters. Although the average high temperature for
January is 78°F (26°C), I've been there for several days in a row of
100°F+ (38°C+) days.
the temperatures follow the typical summer peak (February is the
hottest month, and Nov through March all have daily averages
over 70°F (21°C)), the rain has no discernable pattern. The
wettest month is October, followed by April, the driest month is
March, followed by July. The driest month comes
immediately after the wettest month. With monthly
rainfalls varying from 1.3" to 2.4", rain is never a major
also struggles to remove the mantle of a tropical two-season
approach to rain, with its three rainiest months being January,
February and May. Its driest two months are December and
September. Average daily high temperatures are over 70°F
from October through April, and even Sydney's coldest month
(July) has an average high of 62°F (17°C) and an average low of 49°F
not really too seriously cold at all.
the temperate region, any time of year is probably a good time
to go. If you can avoid June - August you'll be avoiding
their coldest time of year, and if you avoid Jan & Feb you'll be
avoiding their hottest time of year.
Continued in part two
second part of When is the
Best Time to Visit Australia we discuss other seasonal
issues, airfares, daylight, times to avoid because the
Australians are on holiday themselves, and the best way to
sequence an itinerary around Australia.
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30 Apr 2010, last update
19 Dec 2013