February 10, 2023

How’s The Climate In Australia?

Modern social media humor has often painted a picture of Australia as a country where everything from the bugs to the weather is out to kill you.  And while it’s hard to argue that funnel web spiders are peaceful creatures, the Australian climate is diverse, and not all of it is quite as harsh as you may think. 

Australia is divided into three primary climate zones.  The northern edge resembles a tropical climate and typically has a distinct wet and dry season.  The large central stretch is a hot and dry sub-tropical desert.  Still, the eastern and southern edges where most people live have pleasant, temperate climates. 

In truth, large stretches of Australia are accurate to the harsh and unforgiving stereotypes of the outback desert you see in the movie and on TV.  But, on the flip side, some areas are more temperate than large portions of Europe. 


Australia Has Several Climates

Western Australia South Australia New South Wales Northern Territory Northern Australia Australia Climate

Australia is a big country.  In fact, many people don’t actually realize just how big it is, but to give you a rough idea, Australia is more or less the same size as the whole of Europe.  In other words, it would be a big mistake to assume that a country so big has a single climate.  

Western Australia South Australia New South Wales Northern Territory Northern Australia Australia Climate Europe Maps

An excellent way to know more or less what type of weather and climate patterns you can expect is by looking at which climate zone you are planning to visit.  

Another way to figure out which climate zone zone might most suit your taste is a rough approximation of various climates around the world and overlaid onto Australia such as here:

Western Australia South Australia New South Wales Northern Territory Northern Australia Australia Climate

As you can see, Western Australia has very similar weather conditions to Southern California, only it works counter to how we are used to in the Northern Hemisphere. As you drive South, it get’s cooler and as you head North, it get’s warmer. Southern Australia and the East Coast are also quite temperate and comparable to Northern California, Central Italy and parts of Argentina and Sought Africa whereas in the Northern Parts of Australia it’s more tropical and compares well with India, Florida and Brazil. 


The North Of Australia Is Tropical

Northern Australia is Tropical with average temperatures and summer daytime temperatures part of Australia Climate

Australia is located just south of the equator, which means that the northern part of the country falls into a tropical climate zone.  As a result, this part of the country is rather unique in that it doesn’t experience the typical four-season year.  Instead, this stretch has distinct wet and dry seasons. 

In other words, if you’re headed to Darwin or Cairns, you can expect to hardly ever be truly cold, but you can expect to be wet.  

May to October is the dry season, during which the area typically has warm, sunny days with lower humidity and cooler nights than the wet season.  The wet season is slightly warmer, especially at night, and the humidity often exceeds 80%. 

As the name suggests, the wet season between November and April is when this area experiences lots of rainfall.  It’s also quite common to have monsoon-like rains in this region. 

The maximum temperatures range from 30 to 34 degrees Celsius throughout the year and don’t change much during the dry season, which is technically winter in the southern hemisphere. 

Most Of Central Australia Is Sub-Tropical

Central to South Australia is Sub Tropical according to Australia climate data. Average Rainfall is low

As you move south from Darwin, the country becomes gradually dryer and hotter until you reach the desert commonly known as the Australian Outback.

About 70% of the Australian landscape falls into the sub-tropical zone, which stretches right across the earth, about 30 degrees north and south of the equator.  This zone has climate patterns that aren’t conducive to inviting rainfall, making it primarily semi-arid with portions of complete desert.  

The effect of this zone can perhaps best be seen on a satellite image of Africa, where the lush central jungles on the equator are bordered by arid and semi-arid deserts to the north and south. 

In the Outback, the average summer temperature is between 37 and 40 degrees, but it’s not uncommon to see temperatures reach 50 degrees Celsius.  And when winter does arrive, it brings freezing winter nights. 

The minimal rainfall also means that there isn’t much relief from the heat during summers and little in the way of shady trees for you to cower underneath. 

The South Of Australia Is Temperate

South Australia located in Souther Australia Adelaide in Australia Climate  

If you continue south through the Outback, you’ll eventually reach the temperate zone, characterized by the more commonly known four-season year.  

Melbourne is an excellent example of this climate zone.  Summer temperatures don’t often hit 30 degrees Celsius, and winters will see temperatures between 6 and 20 degrees Celsius.  Rainfall is also more evenly spread throughout the year but does increase slightly during spring, which is from September to December. 

Cities like Adelaide and Perth fall are closer to the border of the Temperate zone and, as a result, still have some of the characteristics of the neighboring Outback.  For example, both Adelaide and Perth are warmer than Melbourne, with temperatures reaching the low 30s, and both get substantially more rain between autumn and winter. 

Once you get all the south to Hobart, the temperate zone impact becomes more significant, with summer temperatures in the low 20s and rainfall almost entirely evenly spread throughout the year.  

Why Is Eastern Australia So Lush?

Queensland Australia on the East Coast above New South Wales has great Australia Climate

Take one quick look at a satellite image of Australia.  You may immediately notice that the Outback doesn’t stretch all the way to Brisbane, the eastern Gold Coast, which is very lush and green.  But, at least laterally, Brisbane is located right in the middle of the sub-tropical zone, so shouldn’t it be desert?

Interestingly, Brisbane’s escape from the sub-tropical zone is entirely thanks to the wind.  This is because the prevailing wind direction across Australia is easterly, meaning that the wind blows from the east to the west.  

In other words, the wind that reaches Coral Bay on the west coast brings the heat and dryness it has gathered across the entire Outback.  However, the wind that hits Brisbane brings the cool and damp conditions of the ocean, completely altering the climate zone over the whole eastern coast of Australia. 

Being central, Brisbane is still quite a bit warmer than the lower temperate cities, with summer temperatures reaching the low 30s and winter temperatures rarely dropping below 10 degrees Celsius.  

Brisbane also has a more distinctive rainfall season, receiving substantially more rain in the summer than the rest of the year.  

As you move down the east coast toward Sydney, you start seeing a mixture of this eastern shore climate and the temperate zone.  Sydney, for example, is slightly cooler than Brisbane, with temperatures in the high 20s.  However, it still has a more focused rainfall period during summer and autumn. 

Interestingly, this combination of coastal influence coupled with warm sub-tropical temperatures makes the eastern part of Australia more vulnerable to bushfires.  The wetter climate is brilliant for vegetation growth, while the warmer weather is brilliant for bushfires. 

Western Australia And It’s Diverse Climates

Western Australia has a great average temperature with few tropical cyclones and the summer months are great

Australia’s largest state, Western Australia has some of its most diverse due to its size. It varies from a tropical climate in the north to more temperate in the south, which is the opposite of what is typical in the Northern Hemisphere.

The northern part of Western Australia has wet a dry seasons where the temperatures range does not vary as much (according to bureau of meteorology data). Whereas the Southern part of Western Australia has four seasons with summer, autumn, winter and spring and enjoys a more Mediterranean climate than Southern Australia or the East Coast.

The same prevailing wind pattern that helps the east of Australia to flourish also explains why Perth is hotter than other cities on the same latitude because its prevailing wind comes through the Outback.  


Australia is a huge country that spans a few climate zones.  The north of Australia is quite tropical, with warm weather throughout the year and a distinct rainfall season.  Most of Australia is semi-arid to arid desert, while the southern parts are temperate, and the east is warm and lush.