Australia, a huge country of more than 7.5 million square kilometers (3 million square miles), crossed by the Tropic of Capricorn, has largely an arid climate, desert or semi-desert, except in the extreme north, where it is tropical (with a rainy and a dry season), and on the southern coasts, where it is more temperate, oceanic or Mediterranean. However, even non-desert areas are subject to sudden increases in temperature, caused by hot and dry winds coming from the desert, sometimes accompanied by sand.
Being in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia has, of course, reversed seasons in comparison with Europe or North America.

Index


Arid climate



The area with an arid climate

Outback

In the vast area generically called "Outback", the climate is arid: it's desert where precipitation drops below 200 mm (8 in) per year (see the area inside the burgundy line) and semi-desert in the area where annual precipitation is between 200 and 400 millimeters (8 and 16 inches) per year (the area within the blue line).
In Australia, there are several deserts, such as the Great Sandy Desert, the Gibson Desert, the Great Victoria Desert, and the Simpson Desert. In this area, there are no large cities and population density is low.
In the semi-desert area (between the burgundy and the blue line), the rains fall in the form of downpour or thunderstorm in the hottest period, at least in the north-central part, while in the southernmost part they occur mostly in winter. In the aridest area, the rains are very rare and sporadic, however, every now and then a thunderstorm may erupt, most likely in summer.
Temperatures vary depending on areas: winter is milder in the northern part, while summer is hot almost everywhere, except in the southernmost part and in the short western coastal stretch.

Port Hedland

On the north-west coast of Western Australia (see Eighty Mile Beach), the heat is intense even along the coast, for example, in Port Hedland, the average daily temperature in January, the hottest month, is 31.5 °C (88.5 °F).
Here are the average temperatures in Port Hedland.
Port Hedland - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)262525211714121315182124
Max (°C)373637353128272932353637
Min (°F)797777706357545559647075
Max (°F)999799958882818490959799

In this coastal area, the rainfall is scarce, since it amounts to about 300 mm (12 inches) per year. Here is the average precipitation.
Port Hedland - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)65100452025208511215310
Prec.(in)2.63.91.80.810.80.30.2000.10.612.2
Days67423321111334

At Eighty Mile Beach, the sea is warm all year round, as you can see from the sea temperature near Port Hedland, which is located south of the beach, and therefore is slightly cooler in winter. Here the heat is intense from October to April.
Port Hedland - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)292930292726242424252628
Temp (°F)848486848179757575777982

In Oodnadatta, in the state of South Australia, the maximum temperature exceeds 35 °C (95 °F) from December to February, but the temperature can sometimes exceed 40 °C (104 °F) from September to April, with peaks of 48/50 °C (118/122 °F) in December and January. The climate is milder from May to August, when daytime temperatures are around 20 °C (68 °F), and nights can be cool or even cold (the cold records are around freezing from June to August). Here, only 180 mm (7 in) of rain fall per year.
Further north, the hot period is longer, so much so that highs normally exceed 35 °C (95 °F) from October to March at the Tropic of Capricorn. Some cities are located a few hundred meters (more than one thousand feet) above sea level and are therefore slightly cooler.

Alice Springs

For instance, Alice Springs, located in the Northern Territory, in the area of the MacDonnell Ranges and at 500 meters (1,650 feet) above sea level, is still hot in summer, though the highest recorded temperature is "only" 45 °C (113 °F). However, it can be more easily cold in winter, when at night the temperature can drop to a few degrees below freezing, though during the day, when the sun shines, the temperature rises a lot and the air becomes pleasantly mild. Here are the average temperatures.
Alice Springs - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)22211813854611151821
Max (°C)373633292420202328313436
Min (°F)727064554641394352596470
Max (°F)999791847568687382889397

Precipitation in Alice Springs amounts to 250 mm (10 in) per year, mainly because of the rare showers and thunderstorms in the warm period. Here is the average precipitation.
Alice Springs - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)45353010151889183040249
Prec.(in)1.81.41.20.40.600.30.30.40.71.21.69.8
Days33322112123326

In Alice Springs, the sun shines all year round. Here are the average sunshine hours.
Alice Springs - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours101010108891010101010

The best time to visit this arid area is from May to August: it can get cold at night, but at least you avoid the intense heat of the rest of the year.

Ayer's Rock

Mediterranean climate



Area with a Mediterranean climate

In the two southern areas indicated on the map, the climate is Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and warm, sunny summers. The proximity to the ocean makes the summer windy, but on the other hand, being not far away from the desert, sometimes heat waves can occur, with highs around 40 °C (104 °F).

Perth

In Perth, Western Australia, the daily average temperature ranges from 12 °C (54 °F) in July to 24 °C (75 °F) in January and February. In a typical year, 800 mm (31.5 in) of rain fall, most of which occur from May to August, with a maximum of 170 mm (6.7 in) in July, the central month of winter. In Perth, the temperature never drops below freezing, although in the metropolitan area there may be slight frosts at night in the winter months. From November to March, the hot wind from the desert can raise the temperature to around 40 °C (104 °F) for a few days, with peaks of 45 °C (113 °F), but normally the temperature is more pleasant, with highs around 28/30 °C (82/86 °F) and lively sea breezes blowing from the ocean in the afternoon. Here are the average temperatures.
Perth - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)16171512108778101214
Max (°C)313129252118171820222528
Min (°F)616359545046454546505457
Max (°F)888884777064636468727782

The ocean temperature in Perth is cool all year round, but all in all, it becomes acceptable for swimming from January to May, when it reaches 22/23 °C (72/73 °F).
Perth - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)222223232221201919192021
Temp (°F)727273737270686666666870

South of Perth, in the south-western tip of Australia, in towns such as Denmark and Pemberton, the rains reach 1,000/1,200 mm (39/47 in) per year, but still with a Mediterranean pattern (ie with rainy winters and dry summers); summers are a bit cooler, but short waves of intense heat are possible here as well.

Adelaide

In Adelaide, South Australia, the climate is similar to that of Perth, although summer is slightly cooler and winter less rainy. The average temperature ranges from 23 °C (74 °F) in February to 11.5 °C (52 °F) in July. Here, too, in summer the heat of the day is cooled by sea breezes, and here too from November to March, short heat waves are possible, with peaks around 40 °C (104 °F). Here are the average temperatures.
Adelaide - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)171715131088810111416
Max (°C)293027231916151719222527
Min (°F)636359555046464650525761
Max (°F)848681736661596366727781

In Adelaide, rainfall amounts to 530 mm (20.9 in) per year, with a maximum in late autumn and winter. Here is the average rainfall.
Adelaide - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)202025457075656550403025530
Prec.(in)0.80.811.82.832.62.621.61.2120.9
Days333791011111086485

In Adelaide, the sun normally shines in summer, while in winter there are sunny periods, but also cloudy periods.
Adelaide - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours101097555678910

The sea in Adelaide is cooler than in Perth, as we can see in the following table. However, in the nearby Spencer Gulf, the sea is a bit warmer than in Adelaide.
Adelaide - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)192019181817161515151718
Temp (°F)666866646463615959596364

The best times to visit these areas with a Mediterranean climate are spring and autumn, and in particular April-May and September-October, although May and September are quite rainy.

Tropical climate



Area with a tropical climate

The vast northern area of Australia has a tropical climate, with a dry, sunny season ("the dry", usually from May to October) and a rainy and muggy season ("the wet", usually from November to April). Annual rainfall exceeds 400 mm (15.5 in), and it's more abundant along the northernmost and the eastern coasts, where it exceeds 1,200 mm (47 in). The tropical rains mainly occur in the form of downpour or thunderstorm in the afternoon or evening. In the south-eastern part, where Brisbane is located, winter is cooler, so the climate is sub-tropical instead of tropical. In the driest areas, we find a savanna-type vegetation, while in the wettest areas of the north-eastern coast we find rainforests.
In the far north, in Arnhem Land and the Cape York Peninsula, the weather is hot and summer-like all year round, while the more you go to the south, the greater the difference is between the seasons.

Darwin

In Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, 1,500 mm (58.5 in) of rain fall per year, the majority of which occur from November to early April. The rainiest month is January, with almost 400 mm (15.5 in) of rain. On the contrary, from May to September it almost never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Darwin - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)385310255951521113501202401487
Prec.(in)15.212.2103.70.60.1000.524.79.458.5
Days151414511002481478

The heat in Darwin is intense throughout the year, but it's muggy and sweltering in the rainy season, while it's more bearable in the dry season: from June to August, however, the maximum temperatures are still around 31 °C (88 °F). Needless to say, this is the best time to visit this area.
Darwin - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)252525242220192123252526
Max (°C)323232333231313133333333
Min (°F)777777757268667073777779
Max (°F)909090919088888891919191

In Darwin, the sun often shines in the dry season, while in the rainy season it can shine for some hours, but the sky becomes cloudy with a certain frequency.
Darwin - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours66791010101010987

Cairns

Along the north-eastern coast, in cities like Cairns (Queensland), the rains are abundant, in fact, almost 2,000 mm (80 in) of rain fall annually, including more than 100 mm (4 in) from December to April. Here is the average precipitation.
Cairns - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)3804503902159040303035501101801995
Prec.(in)1517.715.48.53.51.61.21.21.424.37.178.5
Days1818181914998781214155

Here, too, summer is hot and humid, while winter is the driest season, but lying more to the south, the city in winter is also more temperate, since the daily average of June and July is 21 °C (70 °F).
Cairns - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)242423222018171819212324
Max (°C)323131292826262728303132
Min (°F)757573726864636466707375
Max (°F)908888848279798182868890

In Cairns, the sun shines quite often throughout the year, in fact, the rains, however intense, generally do not last long.
Cairns - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours766777789988

At some distance from the east coast of Queensland, in the Coral Sea (belonging to the Pacific Ocean) we find the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, up to 2,300 km (1,400 miles) long. In the north-central part of the coast, the sea is warm all year round, as we can see from the water temperatures near Cairns.
Cairns - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)292928282625242425262728
Temp (°F)848482827977757577798182

Between Cairns and Innisfail, Mount Bellenden Ker is rain-soaked, so much so that at the top, at 1,593 meters (5,226 feet) above sea level, up to 8 meters (315 inches or 26.2 feet) of rain fall every year! Innisfail is the rainiest city in Australia, and it's the only city in the Australian tropical zone not to have a dry season, in fact, even in winter and spring some showers may occur: on average, 3,500 mm (138 in) of rain fall per year, with a maximum of as high as 660 mm (26 in) in March and a minimum of 85 mm (3.3 in) in September and October.

Brisbane

Proceeding towards the south-east along the coast, the temperature gradually decreases, so the climate is more enjoyable. In Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, the summer, from November to March, is hot and moist, with some chance of thunderstorms; however, the sun often shines. Winter, from June to August, is very mild, with average highs around 20 °C (68 °F) and lows around 10 °C (50 °F); however, sometimes it can get cold at night, to the point that the temperature can approach freezing. In winter, there are many sunny days, but some rains are possible even in this season. The average rainfall is 1,100 mm (43.5 in) per year, with a maximum in summer. Every now and then, there is some risk of heavy rainfall in almost all the months of the year, except maybe in August and September. In Brisbane, waves of scorching heat from the desert are rarer than in other cities of Australia, but they are still possible, from October to March. Here are the average temperatures.
Brisbane - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)21201916131191013161819
Max (°C)292928262321202224272829
Min (°F)706866615552485055616466
Max (°F)848482797370687275818284

Near Brisbane, the sea is warm in the summer months: it exceeds 24 °C (75 °F) from December to April, so it's good for swimming, while in winter, from June to September, the sea is cool, around 21 °C (70 °F), but all in all, it's not impossible.
Gold Coast - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)262626252422212121222325
Temp (°F)797979777572707070727377

Winter, from June to August or September, is the best time to visit this area with a tropical or sub-tropical climate, since it's the least hot and the driest of the year.

South-east



Climate of the South-east

In the south-east, in the states of New South Wales and Victoria, the climate is temperate, and the rainfall is generally not abundant, but it's well distributed over the seasons. The weather is cooler in Tasmania and along the southernmost coast, but also in the hilly and mountainous regions of the extreme south-east.

Canberra

Canberra, the Australian Capital, is located at 600 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level and has an average temperature of 20.5 °C (68.5 °F) in January and 5.5 °C (42 °F) in July. Summer is therefore not so warm, also because of the altitude, while winter is quite cold, at least by Australian standards (in fact the winter temperatures resemble those of Madrid, Spain), and sometimes it can be foggy. In winter, frosts and even some light snowfalls are possible, but sometimes a bit of cold at night can occur even in summer. During summer, from November to February, even here there can be some heatwaves, during which the temperatures can rise to around 40 °C (104 °F). Here are the average temperatures.
Canberra - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)1313117310136911
Max (°C)282724201512111316192226
Min (°F)555552453734323437434852
Max (°F)828175685954525561667279

Rainfall is not abundant, since it amounts to 630 mm (24.7 in) per year, but the rains are distributed fairly evenly throughout the year; in late spring and summer, the rains are mainly due to thunderstorms that form in the surrounding mountainous area. Here is the average precipitation.
Canberra - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)605555505040404555656555630
Prec.(in)2.42.22.2221.61.61.82.22.62.62.224.8
Days87778910111011108106

In Canberra, the amount of sunshine is acceptable, though not great, in winter, in fact there are 5/6 hours of sunshine per day even in June and July, while in summer it is good because, as mentioned, the rains usually occur in the form of downpour or thunderstorm, so they do not last long.
Canberra - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours1098765678999

Sydney

Sydney, lying on the coast, is much milder, especially in winter: here, the average temperature ranges from 22 °C (71.5 °F) in January and February to 12 °C (53.5 °F) in July. Rainfall is fairly abundant, since it amounts to 1,200 millimeters (47 in) per year, and it's more abundant from January to July, although it does not vary by much in frequency (in fact it rains on average 8/10 days per month); in summer, the rains can occur in the form of downpour or thunderstorm. The amount of sunshine is acceptable: it is neither great nor poor, as befits a mild oceanic climate, which means that even in winter there can be sunny days. Waves of scorching heat are not so rare, and are possible from November to March, often accompanied by strong gusts of dry wind that can spread fires in the hills surrounding the city.
Sydney - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)181817141198911131617
Max (°C)262624221916161719222325
Min (°F)646463575248464852556163
Max (°F)797975726661616366727377

At Bondi Beach, near Sydney, the sea is pretty cool in winter, while it is warm enough for swimming from January to March, when it reaches 24 °C (75 °F).
Sydney - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)242424232120191919192122
Temp (°F)757575737068666666667072

Sydney

Melbourne

Melbourne is located further south, in the state of Victoria, and overlooks a bay (Port Phillip Bay) which opens into the strait that separates Australia from Tasmania (Bass Strait). The latitude is still quite low, but the ocean makes the climate cool, in fact, the average temperature ranges from 20 °C (68 °F) in January to 9.5 °C (49 °F) in July. Here too, sometimes there may be heat waves (which are more intense from November to March), though usually short-lived. Summer is usually pleasantly warm, in fact, the Australian Open tennis tournament is held in January, but there'a rule called Heat Policy, whereby matches are suspended with extremely high temperatures. In summer, the sun frequently shines (though not always), while from May to August there are 4/5 hours of sunshine per day. The rains are not abundant, since they don't reach 600 mm (23.5 in) per year, but they are well distributed, with a relative minimum in summer.
Melbourne - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)141413118766891112
Max (°C)262624201714131517192224
Min (°F)575755524645434346485254
Max (°F)797975686357555963667275

The sea temperature in Melbourne is significantly lower than in Sydney, it's also a bit lower than in Adelaide, and remains quite cool even in the summer months.
Melbourne - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)181918171615131313141516
Temp (°F)646664636159555555575961

Australian Alps

In south-eastern Australia, between Melbourne and Canberra, there is a mountain range, called Australian Alps; the highest mountain in the chain and across Australia is Mount Kosciuszko with its 2,228 meters (7,310 feet). This area is humid and rainy, cold in winter, even snowy above 1,500 meters (5,000 feet), and cool in summer.
There are also resorts equipped for winter sports. Here are the average temperatures of Thredbo, located at 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) above sea level.
Thredbo - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)77420-3-4-3-1135
Max (°C)212118141065610131619
Min (°F)454539363227252730343741
Max (°F)707064575043414350556166

Tasmania

Further south we find Tasmania, the southernmost island, which, being exposed to the westerly winds, has an oceanic climate, though mild; rainfall is more abundant in the west, where it exceeds 1,200 mm (47 in) per year. The capital, Hobart, is located in the eastern part and receives only 570 mm (22.5 in) of rain, which, however, is well distributed throughout the year, and occurs in the form of frequent showers or drizzles.
The average temperature ranges from 8.5 °C (47.5 °F) in July to 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) in January and February, so winter is mild and summer is cool. Anyway, every now and then during winter a cold air mass can reach the island, and snowfall can occur in inland hills and mountains, while in summer even Tasmania can sometimes be reached by the hot desert wind, although here this wind comes generally weakened. Here are the average temperatures in Hobart.
Hobart - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)13131198556781011
Max (°C)222220181512121415171920
Min (°F)555552484641414345465052
Max (°F)727268645954545759636668

The temperature of the sea in Tasmania is cold all year round, and it reaches at most 17 °C (63 °F) from January to March in the southern part (see Hobart) and 18 °C (64 °F) in the north.
Hobart - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)171717161514131313131415
Temp (°F)636363615957555555555759

You can visit this area of south-east Australia in spring and autumn, that is, in April-May and September-October (or even March-April and October-November in Tasmania), with a preference for spring, since autumn (April-May) is often rainy.

Cyclones



Australia can be affected by tropical cyclones, intense low-pressure areas that are formed when the sea is very warm, and therefore it's able to provide enough energy. Cyclones bring strong winds and torrential rains and affect mainly the northern coasts, although sometimes they can penetrate in the interior (especially in Western Australia), weakening along the way but still bringing heavy rains. Cyclones are generally formed between mid-November and mid-May, but the phenomenon is more likely from January to mid-April.
In the following image, we can see the areas that have been affected by cyclones in the period 1950-2005 (the points refer to the eye of the cyclone, so the affected area is larger).

Area affected by cyclones in Australia

El Niño and La Niña



Australia's climate is affected also by the phenomenon known as El Niño, which is associated with more or less severe drought throughout the country, particularly along the north and east coast, where it reduces the summer rains, and in the south, where drought is accompanied by hot winds from the desert, which can cause fires. The opposite phenomenon, La Niña, brings rainfall more abundant than usual in the north and east, especially in spring and summer, and also an increase in the number of cyclones.

Best Time



If you plan to visit all of Australia, not just the south but also the vast arid Outback and the tropical north, you may prefer winter, from June to August, since in this way you can avoid the heat, which can be intense in the other seasons, especially in the north-central, and in summer in the south, but also to avoid the rains (and sometimes the cyclones) that can affect the north in summer. Of course, winter in the south is quite cold, it can be very rainy in Perth and in western Tasmania, but if you don't like the heat this is the best solution.
If you intend to visit mainly the southern areas, where the major cities are located, and maybe you want to make a quick tour in the central and northern regions, trying to avoid the heat as much as possible, you can choose spring and autumn, and in particular April-May and September-October.
You can visit the southern areas also in late spring and summer, especially in November-December in Sydney, and from November to February in Melbourne, taking into account that sometimes there may be some scorching days.

What to pack



Winter (June to August). In the tropical north and Darwin, bring lightweight clothing of natural fibres, a sun hat, a scarf for the breeze, a light sweatshirt for the evening and air-conditioned places.
In the desert, bring spring/autumn clothes, light for the day, a sweater, a wind jacket, a warm jacket for the night, a scarf for the sand.
In the north-east (see Cairns, Innisfail), light clothes for the day, a sweatshirt for the evening, possibly a raincoat for the rain showers. When going to the reef, you can bring snorkeling equipment, including water shoes or rubber-soled shoes.
In the center and south and the major cities, spring/autumn clothes, a sweater, a warm jacket for the evening and for windy days, a raincoat or umbrella. In the southern mountains, warm clothes, such as a fleece, a down jacket, gloves. In Canberra and Tasmania, warm clothes, such as a sweater, a down jacket, a hat.

Summer (December to February). In the tropical north and Darwin, and in the north-east down to Brisbane, bring lightweight clothing of natural fibres, a scarf for the breeze, a light sweatshirt for the evening and for air-conditioned places, a light raincoat for thunderstorms. When going to the reef, you can bring snorkeling equipment, including water shoes or rubber-soled shoes.
For the desert, bring lightweight clothing, loose-fitting and made of natural fabric (cotton or linen), a desert turban, sunglasses, a light sweatshirt for the evening, a sweatshirt for the night, a sleeping bag for overnight stays outdoors, desert boots.
In the center and south and the major cities, light clothing, a sweatshirt for the breeze and for cool days, a scarf for the wind-borne sand and dust, possibly a light jacket and an umbrella, especially in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. For Tasmania, spring/autumn clothes, a sweater, a jacket.