Making the Most of Your Time in Australia: Knowing the Weather

Travelled by Brucini on 3 November 2008 | 0 Comments

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Brucini Brucini

Brucini started seriously travelling after attempting to move to Queenstown, New Zealand, in 1996.Inspired by drunkenly meeting a world of travelers on a Kiwi Experience bus, he changed his plans and roamed the world for a year. ...Find out more!

Making the Most of Your Time in Australia: Knowing the Weather
Making the Most of Your Time in Australia: Knowing the Weather
Blue sky days and white sandy beaches in the Whitsundays, Australia

Blue sky days and white sandy beaches in the Whitsundays, Australia

Australia’s vast size means it’s worth considering the tropical and seasonal conditions of the areas you plan on visiting. North to south, and east to west climatic differences affect seasonal wildlife viewing and access to major tourist areas. For the savvy backpacker, travelling to the best places at the best time has many benefits.

Some basic climatic geography to start with.

Find Brisbane on a map of Australia, draw a lateral line from this eastern coast to the west coast. Generally speaking, north of this line is tropical, south is temperate. December to May north of this line is prone to high humidity and heavy tropical rainfall. May to October in the tropical north might be winter but it is also warm and dry - beautiful days of 30+ degrees celsius and perfect for sailing and diving.  December to May south of the tropical line is more likely to be hot and dry.

Some traditional backpacker flows are:

December

In December each year large numbers of backpackers arrive in Australia escaping the Northern Hemisphere cold. Most will land in Sydney or head there to stay for Christmas and New Year celebrations. A Christmas on Bondi Beach for many is something uniquely Australian and not to be missed. The best backpacker hostels in Sydney book up well in advance because there are so many events on in the city, including Harbour Cruise Parties to go to and free New Years fireworks displays centred on the Harbour Bridge.

January through April

From 2 January onward, the majority of travellers take buses, cars, campervans, and planes north out of Sydney.  By the time most people have have stopped in Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Noosa and Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay on their northward journey, it’s usually mid February.

Unbeknownst to most, February through April is the traditional cyclone season for North Queensland.  The last three years in particular have seen weeks of torrential rain, significant flooding, and road closures from Bundaberg north to Cairns. It is the case that for most backpackers coming to Australia, travelling between Sydney and Cairns is the most favoured route. If you only have 30 days to visit (the most common amount of time people have) your holiday could well be adversely affected - poor visibility for scuba diving, too much wind and rain for pleasant Whitsunday Islands sailing, sporadic road closures and flight cancellations meaning your tight schedule cannot be kept to.

A better plan might have been to either arrive in Australia earlier and travel from Cairns to Sydney in November or December; or, alternatively head south to Melbourne after New Years.  Or if you simply have to travel at these times allow more time to ride out the vagaries of inclement weather.

January through April is the best time to be in Victoria and Tasmania. The Australian Open tennis, Formula 1 Grand Prix amongst other festivals in Melbourne are a huge drawcard. Make the short hop across to Tasmania for the best of a temperamental climate here also.  Once in Mebourne many travellers continue west across to Adelaide and onward to Alice Springs during the summer months.  It seems like the logical thing to do - you’ve been heading west so why not keep going?

Travelling through the desert north of Adelaide and to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in summer is arguably not the best time to travel there. Continuous days of 35+ degree Centigrade temperatures make the going tough for those coming from a northern winter. The environment is so dry and in a kind of heat-induced summer hibernation that you could be forgiven for thinking nothing is alive.

May through October

If Whale Sharks are your thing, then travel up the coast from Perth to the small townships of Coral Bay and Exmouth after the first new moon in April (when the coral spawns) and huge plankton-eating Whale Sharks the size of buildings cruise along Ningaloo Reef.  It is even possible to swim with these harmless monsters whilst they hang around into June.

In the Northern Territory during May through October, you’ll have a chance of seeing desert flowers and animals, with cooler days (although cold at night) and you can add the Top End (Darwin and Kakadu National Park) to your Central Australian journey. Most people see Kakadu from June to October when 4WD access to the most popular waterfalls is possible.  My tip is to get the Top End at the end of ‘the Wet’ season (late April/May). It’s a matter of timing to get there just after the monsoon but if you can most waterfalls are pumping and importantly accessible; animals are on the move and everything is green and not the dried-off brown colour you’ll see later in the tourist season.

The movie ‘Australia’ is primarily set in Darwin and ‘the Kimberley’ region (between Darwin and Broome) of north-west Australia.  It’s sure to inspire thousands of tourists to go to the Kimberley - one of the last great wilderness regions of the world. If you are planning to visit, be aware that access to the best areas along the Gibb River Road and Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles) are only accessible by road from May through November. As elsewhere, make the most of this window of opportunity.

Tips:

  • Use cheap internal flights to get to the best spots.
  • Give yourself time to visit areas you think might be affected by inclement weather. Watch the weather forecasts.
  • Don’t try and see too much too quickly or you’ll end up in places that might be better off missed and your time could have been better spent elsewhere.
  • Plan your travels around animal migration (Whales on the East Coast (July to October), Whale Sharks on the West Coast (April to June).
  • Be in places on the cusp of wet to dry for the best experience and less tourists ie. April/May in Kakadu National Park.
  • Be at places in time for major events (New Years Eve fireworks, Melbourne tennis open and Grand Prix, arrival of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race into Hobart, Tasmania)
  • Book accommodation in advance for peak periods. Sydney in December. Byron Bay at Easter and immediately after New Years, Melbourne around the time of the Tennis Open in mid-January

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