Australia is vast. Roughly the size of Europe, in fact. And being so vast, Australia has a great range of landscapes and ecosystem types, and greatly varying climates, not only between regions, but within them. This means there’s no one best time to travel to Australia, so to help you plan your next adventure, we’ve broken down the best times to visit by region.
When deciding the best time to visit Australia, remember that the seasons are “reversed” down under, so when it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, it’s summer in the southern hemisphere, and vice versa. If you’re looking to escape the cold climes of the UK this Christmas, look no further.
When to visit Darwin & the Northern Territory
Australia’s Northern Territory spans an area of around 1.35m sq km (more than six times the size of the United Kingdom), and encompasses two starkly contrasting landscapes and climates.
The ‘Top End’ to the North is tropical and known for its lush wetlands, rainforests, and cascading waterfalls. Here you’ll find the city of Darwin, the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, the Katherine area, and Arnhem Land (home to the Yolgnu people). Meanwhile the ‘Red Centre’ to the south is semi-arid desert, best known for the town of Alice Springs and the massive sandstone monolith Uluru, or Ayers Rock.
The best time to visit the Northern Territory is during the dry season, from May to October, when you can expect warm sunny days and refreshing winter nights. This is the coolest, driest and most comfortable time of year in the Top End, with temperatures between 21C and 32C, a drying heat occurring throughout the day, and far lower levels of humidity. In the Red Centre, temperatures are cooler still, ranging from 3C to 22C, with cold nights.
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When to visit Tasmania
Australia’s most southerly state, Tasmania, is a land of extremes – a pristine wilderness comprising rugged mountains, ancient rainforest, stunning beaches, and outstanding national parks such as Freycinet and Cradle Mountain – not to mention it’s fascinating wildlife, from wombat and wallabies to platypus and the Tasmanian devil, the last of which is surprisingly quiet and timid despite its name and appearance.
In short, it’s an adventure playground for lovers of the natural world, offering world-class opportunities for trekking, kayaking, rafting, climbing, swimming and scuba-diving.
The best time to visit Tasmania is in the Australian Summer between December and February, when the weather is dry and mild with an average maximum temperature of around 21C – perfectly comfortable for enjoying Tasmania’s fantastic range of outdoor activities. If you want to avoid peak season, look to visit in the Autumn months (March to May), when the weather is cooler and crowds are thinner.
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When to visit Melbourne & Victoria
Although Australia’s smallest state, Victoria is nevertheless its capital of art and culture. The state capital, the metropolitan melting pot of Melbourne, is renowned as a foodie and cultural hub. There’s a wealth of restaurants, bars and bistros, and an abundance of museums including the Melbourne Museum, the National Sports Museum, and Scienceworks, a science and technology museum.
Venture outside Melbourne and you’ll find a region of undisturbed bushland and coastline, with lush national parks such as the Grampians and Port Campbell, the rugged splendour of the famous Twelve Apostles rock formation, as well as the glorious stretch of land along the Great Ocean Road – the source of the best road trip in Australia.
Victoria is great to visit all year round. You’ll get the most out of the state’s beautiful beaches during the Australian Summer, from December to February, with average temperatures of around 26C. If you’re heading to Melbourne, Autumn (March to May) is a great time to visit, when the city comes alive with festivals and celebrations, and the leaves start to change colour providing excellent photo opportunities.
GROUP TOUR from £1031 for 6 days
When to visit Perth & Western Australia
Western Australia is Australia’s largest state – at over 2.6m sq km, it covers nearly a third of the country. Indeed, it’s second only to Russia's Sakha Republic as the largest state in the world. But despite its size, it only has a population of around 2.5 million, most of which live in the southwest part of the state near its capital, Perth. This leaves much of Western Australia with a sparse, frontier-like feeling.
Considering its size, it’s little wonder that Western Australia has such a diverse landscape, from wild ancient forests and beautiful vineyards to a spectacular coastline peppered with coral reefs and sprawling stretches of outback. Head north towards the canyons and waterfalls of the Kimberley for an unforgettable wilderness adventure.
And because of its size, there’s never a bad time to explore Western Australia. It’s best to visit Perth and the southern part of the region between November and March, when temperatures are higher and there isn’t so much rain. If you’re heading further north to the Kimberley region, you’ll have a more comfortable experience during the dry season between May and October, when temperatures are a little milder.
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When to visit Brisbane & Queensland
Seven times larger than Great Britain, Queensland is Australia’s second-largest state, and certainly its most naturally diverse. With 27 different bioregions supporting more than 1,000 different ecosystem types, including rainforest, savannah, dry tropics and wetlands, Queensland is home to 70% of Australia’s mammals, 80% of its native birds, and more than 50% of its native reptiles, frogs and plant species.
Dotted among these incredible landscapes are lively cities such as Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, Cairns, considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and the Gold Coast, with its 57km of coastline. Indeed, Queensland offers one coastal paradise after another, from the atmospheric dunes of Fraser Island to the white beaches and turquoise waters of the Whitsundays to the tropical Port Douglas on the Coral Sea.
With that in mind, it’s tempting to think Queensland would be a summer destination, but in fact the summer months can be uncomfortably warm, wet and busy. If you visit during the dry winter season instead, from May to October, you’ll still experience warm temperatures around 26C – 28C, but with lower levels of humidity, resulting in comfortable temperatures for relaxing on the beach or taking part in some adrenaline-pumping activities.
GROUP TOUR from £2730 for 8 days
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When to visit Sydney & New South Wales
Australia’s oldest and most populous state is also home to its largest city, the glitzy and intoxicating Sydney. You might be mistaken in thinking Sydney is the country’s capital (it’s actually Canberra), since the city is in many ways synonymous with Australia itself. The Harbour City is home to many of New South Wales’ highlights, including the iconic Sydney Opera House, but as Hollywood star Russell Crowe has said, “The best things about Sydney are free”: Bondi Beach is a haven for surfers, the city is littered with parklands, and the sparkling harbour side is a sight to behold.
Beyond Sydney, New South Wales is similarly blessed with scenic National Parks, unspoiled beaches, the imposing mountains of the Great Dividing Range and the Blue Mountains, as well as Australia’s oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley. You’ll also want to take the time to visit Byron Bay, Australia’s easternmost town, and renowned worldwide for its beaches and relaxed lifestyle. Take a swim in the ocean, indulge in a massage, or explore the town’s cafes and boutique shops and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
New South Wales is blessed with a subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The weather here isn’t as dramatic as it can be in Queensland or the Northern Territory, and generally there isn’t a bad time to visit. There’s plenty of sunshine all year round, with temperatures reaching up to around 30C in summer, and winter only slightly cooler with maximum temperatures of around 20C.
GROUP TOUR from £1780 for 7 days