CHOOSING THE BEST time to visit Australia depends on two things: who you ask and where you’re going.
Australia’s size means that any given time of the year is the best time to visit somewhere. During the winter months (June-August — southern hemisphere, remember?), the southernmost parts of the country are very cold. These months, however, are the dry season for the tropical north, making it the best time to dive in Queensland or sunbathe in Broome, Western Australia.
The wet season in the far north runs from October into March and generally sounds pretty awful. The hot and humid weather mellows out the farther south you travel, making the summer months of December-April an ideal time to learn to surf in Byron Bay or take a bike ride through Melbourne.
As a northern hemisphere resident, all this summer-in-December/winter-in-June talk has my head spinning. Luckily, I know just who to ask for the true story. Brave New Traveler editor Carlo Alcos lived in Melbourne for two years. He finds the spring/summer to be the best bet for visitors:
Not only is the weather better, but a couple of sweet events happen during this time. One is the Melbourne Cup in November, a chance to get gussied up in your best gear and get smashed with the rest of the Aussies. It really is the “Race That Stops a Nation,” as the entire country comes to a standstill when those horses leave the gates (it’s actually a state holiday in Melbourne).
The Australian Open, one of tennis’s Grand Slams, is held in January and should not be missed (unless you hate tennis). There are too many events to list though, so you’ll just have to do your research. Winters in Melbourne can be uncomfortably cold, rainy, and windy, with temperatures at times nearing 0 degrees Celsius. In the peak of summer, temps can hit the 40s and it’s as dry as a bone. But “four seasons in one day” is a cliche for a reason — it’s always best to layer, no matter what time of year you’re there.
Aussie native Luke Goodsell agrees:
From December through March, the place is one long haze of beach weather, arts festivals, and music festivals — but be warned, it can get incredibly hot and humid, so those of a weaker Arctic constitution may want to consider the milder, though no less pleasant springtime from around September.
Lewis Winkle, a photographer from the Gold Coast in Queensland, also votes for summer, which he says is perfect for beach days and touring the sights:
Some summer days can get quite hot, so if you can’t handle the heat and would prefer cooler temperatures, I would suggest visiting in the spring — around September/October, before the summer heat arrives.
Though all that December sunshine sounds tempting, Australia natives be damned — I’m a snowboarder.
Mainland Australia’s only ski and snowboard resorts are clustered around the mountains between New South Wales and Victoria, and the general consensus is that they, well, suck. While their season is far shorter than many North American resorts, the glorious part is that it runs from June through mid-September: just when things are winding down here in the northern hemisphere.
Consensus or not, I think I’m going to have to find out for myself.
So, what’s the best time to visit Australia?
Short answer: The southern hemisphere’s spring into early summer: November through January.