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Australia is a vast land of contrasts, including some very different weather conditions.

Keep weather in mind when you choose when and where you go.

 
 
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When is the Best Time to Visit Australia 2

More considerations for choosing the best time

Australia has some amazing weather, including occasional huge dust storms (see the buildings in front for a sense of scale).

Part 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)

 

 

The best time to visit Australia is certainly dependent on the weather you can expect to experience there.

But other factors should also be considered.  For example, changing your travel dates by a few months might save (or cost) you as much as $500 in your airfare alone.

And avoiding times when the Australians themselves are vacationing will mean less crowding and better rates at attractions and accommodations.

This second part of our 'When is the Best Time to Visit Australia' series considers all the other factors associated with when you should head on 'downunder'.

Continued from part one

If you arrived directly on this page from a search engine, please note this is the second page of a two part article.  In the first part of When is the Best Time to Visit Australia we discuss the great regional differences in weather, and tell you the best and worst times to visit each part of Australia.

Skiing Season

Many Australians go to ski in New Zealand, indeed there are special seasonal flights from Sydney to Queenstown to cater for Australian skiiers.

But there are places to ski in Australia, too.  The main Australian ski-fields are in the Snowy Mountains of southern NSW and northern Victoria, although there is some skiing to be had in Tasmanian to.

The Australian ski season runs sort of between June and October, but unpredictably so of course due to the vagaries of weather from one year to the next.

One Constant - Daylight

The discussion to date has been largely focused on temperature and rain.  Both are important issues, of course, and happily, for most of the year, in much of Australia, temperatures are comfortable and rain is not too bothersome.

There is a third consideration.  Hours of daylight.  This is not so much a factor in the northern parts of Australia - due to being closer to the equator, there is not so much variation in daylight hours between summer and winter - but the further south you go, the more pronounced the variation between summer and winter.

Just keep in mind that the longest day in Australia coincides with the northern hemisphere's shortest day (ie about 21 December) and the shortest day coincides with our longest (ie about 21 June).

If you avoid the couple of months from late May through late July, you'll avoid the time when the daylight is shortest, giving you longer days and the ability to spend more time outside seeing and doing things in daylight.

To give a feeling for the implications of the longest/shortest days on hours of daylight, here's a quick listing of hours of daylight in parts of Australia.

City

Daylight 21 June

Daylight 21 December

Cairns

11 hrs 7 mins

13 hrs 8 mins

Brisbane

10 hrs 24 mins

13 hrs 52 mins

Sydney

9 hrs 54 mins

14 hrs 25 mins

Melbourne

9 hrs 32 mins

14 hrs 47 mins


Looking specifically at Sydney, you get a maximum of 14 hrs 25 mins of daylight on 21/22 December.  If you are there a month earlier (or later), you are still getting 14 hrs 1 minute of daylight, and if you are there two months earlier (or later), you get 13 hrs 7 mins.

So there's no need to rigidly use maximum daylight times as a consideration for planning your journey, but do realize that there can be up to five hours more daylight during summer than winter in the southern parts of Australia, but only two hours difference in the northern parts.

Air Fares

Until recently, air fares to Australia had a classic low/shoulder/high season, with an occasional 'super high' season inserted for a couple of weeks around Christmas time.  Low season was in their winter/our summer, and high season was in our winter/their summer, reflecting the general perception of good and bad times to travel, and the general popularity of travel.  There was up to $500 difference in airfare (ie $1000 low season, $1500 high season for travel from Los Angeles to Sydney) between the lowest and highest seasons, and there was also more likelihood of discount fares being placed on sale for low and shoulder season than for high season.

With the happy appearance of two new airline competitors (Delta and V Australia) the earlier traditional air fare pricing has been upset, and there can now be low promotional fares ($800 or less, sometimes dropping down to as little as $500) at any and all times of the year.

Delta and V Australia have now created a joint operating arrangement and competition is becoming slightly less severe, with airfares becoming steadier and higher again, but the earlier traditional low/shoulder/high seasonality no longer applies with such predictable force.

Nonetheless, you'll typically find lower fares when traveling to Australia outside of the Nov - Feb timeframe.

Australian Holidays

Australia has their summer holidays in their summer - okay, so that is an obvious statement to make.  But remember that their summer is December - February, and remember also that Australian people have more annual vacation time than we do in North America.

With the schools out from early December to early February, and with most of the country taking time off for a week or two over the Christmas and New Year period, the country can be difficult to travel in and most tourist places and accommodation may be full with local Australians on vacation, making it harder and more expensive to make arrangements.

For this reason, you might want to avoid Australia between mid December and mid January.  It won't be terrible if you do travel at that time, but it will probably be nicer if you don't.

The Easter holiday is the only other multi-day holiday in Australia, with both Good Friday and Easter Monday being official holidays, so you can expect some flurry of local tourism activity the week before and after the Easter weekend too.

And, to answer a question that is asked more often than it should be; no, there is no Thanksgiving or 4 July holiday in Australia.  Australia does have an 'Australia Day' which is perhaps analogous to 4 July (on 26 January) but there is no holiday comparable to the uniquely North American Thanksgiving holiday.

Which Order to Travel Around in Australia

While many people enjoy brief one week or ten day visits to one or two places in Australia, some people treat themselves to considerably longer visits, and to many more parts of the country.

If you are planning an extensive itinerary, going from top to bottom, and spread out over three or four weeks, it becomes relevant to consider varying the sequence of places you visit based on weather and daylight considerations.

For example, look back up at the specifics of daylight hours in Sydney.  A change between visiting Sydney/Melbourne at the start of a month vacation and the end of the month vacation might mean the difference of an hour a day of daylight, while the trade-off up in the north might be less than half that.

While you don't want to get involved in costly and time-consuming back-tracking, it makes sense to plan the sequence of places you visit so as to get the best weather compromises at each place.

Rule of Thumb

From a weather and daylight point of view, if the temperatures are getting successively cooler and you're past the fall equinox (21 Sep), it makes sense to start off in the south and move northwards.  The opposite applies from the spring equinox (21 Mar), when perhaps it makes sense to start in the north and work successively south.

Summary

If all the preceding confused you, don't worry.  Most, if not all of the year, is good in Australia, but - for sure - some times are better than others.

Our recommendation is to skip both the depths of winter and the heights of summer.  October/November is our favorite time to go, followed by March.  But we've enjoyed time in Australia every month of the year, and you probably will too.

See also part one

In the first part of When is the Best Time to Visit Australia we discuss the great regional differences in weather, and tell you the best and worst times to visit each part of Australia.

 

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Originally published 30 Apr 2010, last update 19 Dec 2013

 
 
 
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Information about planning a vacation in Australia
When is the Best Time to Visit Australia
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