Australia is an enormous country and its climate varies. The north can be hot and tropical and the south cool with the occasional snow. When you’re planning your trip, remember that summer lasts from December through February in most of the country. It’s also the wet season for the north. The winters, between June and August, are fairly mild. The north has dry, sunny days and the south is dry with some snow in the mountains. It’s very important to protect yourself from the sun in Australia. Cover up with a hat and use plenty of high-SPF sunscreen.
When to fly to Australia
Christmas to the end of January is high season. This is when children are on school holidays and the popular resorts are packed. In the north of Australia, high season is the winter months (June, July and August) when visitors from the southern states come up to escape the colder winters.
The summer months (October-March) are characterised by heat, humidity and rain in the northern states (the Top End, the Kimberley, and North Queensland, including Cairns).
When airlines release discounted flights to Australia they're usually for between mid-April and mid-June. The weather can be chilly in the southern Australian cities (Sydney and Melbourne). Up North, the wet season ends by mid-May and this can be a great time to visit.
Getting around Australia
Flying is the quickest way to get between cities in Australia.
Virgin blue flies mostly on the eastern side of Australia connecting Sydney with Melbourne, Cairns, the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It also flies to Adelaide, Perth, Broome and Darwin.
Jetstar - Operating out of Melbourne, the airline flies to six destinations within Australia including Sydney, Cairns, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth.
Skywest flies in Western Australia (Broome, Perth) and the Northern Territory.
There are also bargain fares from Qantas - regular red e-deals - that the airline is quick to put in a newsletter and send out.
Train is a great way to see the country no matter what your budget. A trip on the Ghan or Indian-Pacific offer unforgettable experiences.
Coach and bus travel is economical and comfortable.
In the cities there are several types of public transport - buses, trains, ferries, light rail, monorail and trams. In Melbourne, the tourist bus and tram tours are free.
Australia insider information
- If you can afford it hire a car to make sure you can see the unspoilt environment in all its glory. In some major cities, you can find rent-a-wreck style hire companies that allow you to hire a secondhand car very cheaply, though mileage limits might mean you may not be able to get as far away from the city as you need.
- If the thought of a banger on the barbie sounds delicious, remember that beef, rather than pork sausages in Australia are the norm. It's unusual to find pork sausages.
- Be very, very careful when disposing of cigarette butts in the country, most of which is national park or Crown land. The vegetation is so dry that the smallest spark can start an inferno and land you in jail.
- Queensland is home to the Great Barrier Reef and averages 300 sunny days a year. Brisbane, political and art capital of Queensland, has a world-class cultural calendar, thriving nightlife, and perfect climate. When you’re not visiting the islands, take in the town’s sights: Queenslander cottages converted to cafes, restaurants, and shops; excellent cuisine; fine arts; and sporting events.
- Also in Queensland, Cairns is the only place in the world with side-by-side World Heritage sites: the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforest. In the north, the rainforest touches the reef, and you can go from the beach to snorkelling in the reef. An international tourist destination, Cairns has a nightlife, shopping, and accommodation for all budgets.
- Australia’s oldest city, Sydney, has international style, superb dining, and exuberance. The nightlife offers the renowned Sydney Opera House and theatres as well as trendy clubs, bars, and rowdy pubs. The Harbour Bridge is a must-see and must-climb, and beaches are around the harbour and along the oceanfront. A true cosmopolitan city, the shopping is excellent, especially for opals.
- The sunniest Australian capital, Perth is a city of skyscrapers, yet great beaches are just a bus ride away. Rottnest Island has snorkelling, fishing, golfing, and hiking. Nearby Fremantle has heritage-listed buildings, restored warehouses, museums, and selections of crafts and Aboriginal souvenirs. Or head over to the Darling Range and bushwalk to the oldest rocks on Earth, waterfalls, and forests.
- Melbourne is known for the good things in life: fashion, food, entertainment, nightlife, sports, and shopping. International festivals are held year-round, and sports venues include the Australian Open, Melbourne Cup, car racing, and Australian-rules football. A shoppers delight, there’s everything from high fashion to unique souvenirs and handcrafts. A cultural melting pot, Melbourne has old-world charm with its Victorian architecture and ethnic restaurants.