When is the best time to visit Australia – especially its waterfalls?
The answer depends on which part of the country you’re visiting.
That’s because with a country this size (think of it as being the equivalent of the United States), you can imagine that there are distinctly different climatic regions depending on which part of the country you’re in.
In one state, it could be very wet and muggy while at the same time in a different state, it could be very cold.
So we’ll try to break this down in terms of the various climatic regions…
The Tropical North
This region encompasses most of Australia’s north around the Tropic of Capricorn and above.
That said, lines tend to get blurred when it comes to Nature so some of the northern sections of New South Wales and central Western Australia as well as Uluru in the Red Centre are also prone to this type of climate.
The climate in this region is most simplistically characterized by a wet and dry season.
The wet season is typically from November through April where temperature and humidity are at their highest, and monsoonal thunderstorms dump buckets of rain at a time.
Tropical Cyclones also tend to occur at this time due to warmer waters providing the energy needed to feed such tropical storms.
As you can imagine, waterfalls at this time are flowing their best, but you may have to deal with impassable roads (especially in the Outback regions) either due to flooding or muddiness.
If you’re into seeing the aquatic wildlife (especially at the Great Barrier Reef), you really have to watch out for box jellyfish which can kill in a matter of minutes (though they’re not the only wildlife you have to watch out for).
The dry season typically starts in May and goes through October.
It is best characterized by lack of rain and cooler temperatures (though it can still be above 30 deg Celsius).
Many of the tropical north waterfalls start to dwindle until they eventually go dry as this season wears on.
Thus for waterfallers, you’ll want to be here at the start of the dry season to enjoy the benefits of waterfalls flowing under relatively comfortable weather.
The Temperate South
This region encompasses most of the populated areas including Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, and the Tasmanian cities of Hobart, Launceston, and Devonport.
Naturally, the farther south you go, the cooler the temperatures.
It is in these regions that you can expect more “typical” four-season weather where winter (June through September) tends to be cold and rainy while summer (December through March) tends to be hot and sunny.
Then of course, you have the transitional seasons of Spring (September through December) and Autumn (March through June) where weather can be very unpredictable.
When it comes to waterfalling, your best bet to see waterfalls flowing is during the latter parts of winter and early spring.
However, the rainfall patterns tend to be a little fickle as evidenced by the severe droughts followed by power thunderstorms.
When it comes to comfort (regardless of your activities), Spring and Autumn seem to have the optimal temperatures and reasonable chance of sunny skies and fine weather.
But at the same time, we can attest to the unpredictability of such seasons because we’ve also had to deal with flooding rains as well as consecutive days of over 30C temperatures on the same trip in November.
Unlike at home in California, it seems like with Australia, there’s really no hard and fast rule regarding the seasons and weather patterns in the temperate regions our experiences. So it’s hard to say when is the “correct” time to visit, especially for waterfalls.
Just like with the United States, on any given season, you can have powerful rain storms in one part of the country and sweltering heat in another. But in the case of Australia, there also seemed to be a clear band of temperate versus tropical. In the US, such zones were not as pronounced.
And while there are indeed patterns and rhythms to the seasons that farmers and wildlife heavily depend on, the big variable to what we think we know about patterns is Global Warming and/or Climate Change.
Indeed, such extremes that come from the man-made actions (largely economically driven) that continue to de-stabilize the climate can definitely throw a wrench into any semblance of predictability.
For example, you could have a Wet Season that’s mostly dry, and have this pattern persist for several years. That’s what happened when we made a visit in 2006, which was just one of several consecutive years hitting the states of Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales really hard.
So under such patterns that span more than a year-over-year basis, the notion of seasonal changes as it pertains to climate and weather is probably getting to the point that they’re no longer applicable.
I guess since a lot of this stuff is out of your control, the best you can do is to make plans based on historical information, but still keep an open enough mind and enough flexibility in trip planning to be able to roll with the punches as best you can.
Finally, for weather, climate, almanac data (i.e. temperatures, rainfall, sunshine hours, etc.), and more from the Australia Government’s Bureau of Meteorology, you can check out their website.