Summer in Australia: why it’s the worst time to visit

Summer in Australia – it’s regularly heralded as being the best season. This is a lie. As a born and bred Aussie, I can assure you that summer is the worst time to visit Australia. Here’s why.

Sun breaking through the leaves of a tree on a blue-skied day. Discover why summer in Australia is a terrible time to visit.

I’m just going to come right out and say it.

I hate summer in Australia.

Often, I feel like mine isn’t the popular opinion. Many Australians spend the entire year lamenting the fact that it isn’t summer yet.

This endless complaining tends to start on roughly the 1st of March and carry right onto around mid-November. That’s commitment for you and then some.

But beach! Sunshine! BBQs! Christmas! Friendship! Festivals! Isn’t an Australian summer the best?

As an Aussie myself, my immediate answer would be a loud, emphatic “NO!”

There are many reasons why summer is generally the worst time to live in, or visit Australia.

Before your start gathering your pitchforks and lighting your torches – hear me out.

I believe there are many reasons why Oz is a much nicer country to be in pretty much any other time of the year.

Here are some of them.

Why summer in Australia is awful

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Australia doesn’t actually have four seasons

First things first.

A four-seasoned year is a European concept.

After being colonised, Australia too was shoved into this calendar pattern – except topsy turvey, due to being in the Southern Hemisphere.

It’s incorrect really to suggest that Australia has four seasons. In fact, many of Australia’s First Nations peoples followed a completely different system, with a different number of seasons.

Add to that the fact that Australia is a continent the size of the USA or Europe (excluding Russia).

So summer in Australia is going to feel completely different across the country. The warmer months in Far North Queensland for example, do not resemble the often crappy excuse for summer that the people of Melbourne get.

It’s generally hotter than hell outside (and often, inside too)

Depending on where you are, (because it is a damn big country) Australia can have a fairly pleasant climate throughout the rest of the year.

The northern states like Queensland and the Northern Territory have winter temperatures that are warmer than what is considered to be “summer” in some parts of the world (England, I’m looking at you) – yet their summer temperatures, combined with the extreme humidity that the region experiences, can and will make you weep.

Even the mid-level cities like Sydney and Perth can get unbearably hot in the summer, a phenomenon that is worsening as climate change increases temperatures across the world.

In the summer of 2016 in NSW, the thermometer was inching above forty degrees celsius (that’s above 100°F, folks) every few days.

My grand plan of “days at the beach!” turned into “days spent slumped in front of the air conditioner at home”.

It was so hot and humid that moving was rendered really difficult.

Not to mention that utilities in Australia are frightfully expensive, so you’re lucky if you can afford to run the air conditioning.

For many of us, the options are limited to an $11 fan from Target or Bunnings, coupled with an ice pack at night. Fun times.

…And the weather can be quite erratic

What do you picture, when you think of summer days in Australia?

Perfect weather?

Cloudless blue skies followed by those beautifully barmy summer nights? Yes, sometimes this is the case. But not always, my friend.

I am writing this on what is technically day three of summer.

This has been the weather pattern for the last hour:

  • rain for five minutes
  • stop
  • sun pokes out for five minutes
  • stop
  • rain for five minutes… etc.

Make up your mind, weather!

Previously, it was in the mid thirties for several days in a row (nineties Fahrenheit so we’re all of an understanding) in the city of Melbourne, a place which can’t seem to deal with extreme heat.

It then dropped down to 13°C (55°F) while we were hit by torrential rain, in a city that also can’t really deal with flooding.

That has been the weather for the last three weeks. Unbearable heat, followed by wet weather and storms.

The constant rises and drops in temperature means that there are sinus infections for all!

Uluru in the Australian outback on a sunny day.
Zero fun in extreme heat.

Many Australian hotspots (no pun intended) are terrible to visit in the summertime

Here’s a fact about summer in Australia that seems little known.

You will be seriously limited by what you can see during the summer months in Australia.

Many tourist destinations are far too hot to navigate.

Want to visit the Red Centre, far north Queensland or Darwin?

Save it for the winter months, when the temperatures are pleasant and the entire region isn’t undated with flies.

There are bugs EVERYWHERE

Speaking of flies, summer is the season when ALL THE BUGS start crawling out of the woodwork, in the most literal sense.

The advent of the Australian Christmas beetle is usually a sign that the silly season is upon us, but they are usually the only bug that is welcomed with any kind of enthusiasm.

Expect to see an increase in spiders, cockroaches (keep your dirty dishes lying in the sink overnight at your own peril) and worst of all… it’s when the flies return.

Out of mind, out of sight, but when they reappear after the winter, you’ll recall that they are the most annoying creature to ever be birthed into existence.

A parrot cocking its head.
How I felt about the “pockets sticking out of denim shorts” trend.

Summer fashion is the worst

Personally, I love clothes and fashion in general, but often hit a wall in the summer months.

Winter is all about the layering and I appreciate this fact, but in the summer your options are: skirts, dresses, shorts… or bust. (And remember that swimwear worn anywhere other than the pool or beach, defaults to underwear).

You always have to spend the first few weeks re-breaking your feet into your sandals or thongs (flip flops) as well, which can be a most upsetting affair.

When I look behind me while doing downward dog at my local yoga studio, I see a sea of feet, covered with band-aids.

Plus summer always tends to feature the most unforgivable fashion faux-pas.

Like the pockets-hanging-out-of-shorts trend of a few years ago.

Or shorts-hiked-so-high-they-become-denim-underwear.

Or shirt-becomes-optional-for-dudes.

Not to forget the current wave of dressing like it’s 1997.

And remember when the bucket hat was made fashionable in the early-2000s?

I have spent fifteen years trying to erase this period of time from my memory.

Chafing becomes a daily occurrence

That being said, I do love a flirty skirt or brightly-coloured summer dress – but I do not enjoy the thigh-rubbing-upon-thigh action that comes along with it.

Unless you have legs like a giraffe, chafing in the summertime is unavoidable.

Thank goodness for bike shorts.

Ornate pub in the town of Orange, NSW.
Head straight to the nearest air-conditioned and preferably licensed building.

You’ll sweat puddles, which can be upsetting if you’re not used to it

Us Aussies are generally really sweaty people – and apparently your childhood has an impact on that.

Sweat is after all, your body’s way of attempting to cool itself down, so it makes sense that people in warmer climates will have more active glands than those who have grown up elsewhere.

So, at least when we complain about the fact that puddles of sweat are pooling at our feet, we know our bodies are coping with the heat the best way they can.

If you’re not used to extreme temperatures, it can be far more upsetting, as your body may find itself in a flutter, unsure of what it should do.

EVERYONE is on holiday, so there are people everywhere

Summertime is holiday time!

Folks across Australia start knocking off work and school from around early-November onward, with the school holidays officially in swing just before Christmas.

This means that there will be at least six weeks where there are people absolutely everywhere (particularly clogging up the freeways as they drive northward for their annual camping holidays).

I’ve often requested to work over the Christmas break just to avoid this phenomenon.

An empty beach with a person riding a horse across it.
An empty beach (NOW WITH ADDED HORSE) during not school holidays.

Local pools & beaches become overcrowded

If the weather is warm and all these people are off work, where are they going to go? Why, straight to their local beach or pool, of course!

Even in Sydney, visiting a beach on a weekday during any other time of the year means you might get a bit of space to yourself.

Thank goodness we have 10,000 beaches, so if you head elsewhere you might get lucky… but is it truly worth the five hour drive?

Probably not.

…Along with cinemas, restaurants, shops & all the places

And if people aren’t at the beach, they’ll most certainly be wherever the free air conditioning is!

Pretty much everywhere else will be packed to the rafters – the shops, the cinema, places to eat, bowling alleys.

You name it, there will be a stack of folk and most certainly children screaming their way around there.

Don’t try to go see a movie on Boxing Day without booking a ticket in advance. You have been warned.

Sunrise behind the Opera House in Sydney. Summer in Australia is the most expensive time to see the sights.
A view that is slightly more affordable during the cooler months.

Accommodation prices go through the roof

As this is the time of year most people are traditionally on holiday, you’ll be paying out the nose for accommodation in what is already a pretty damn expensive country to visit.

Particularly around New Year’s Eve in Sydney, as it is one of the premiere destinations for the event in the world.

I remember a friend telling me last year she’d had to pay $400 AUD to rent a room in Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney that is a forty minute journey to the centre of the city.

Can you imagine how much the accommodation in the CBD (Central Business District) is during this event?

I don’t want to even think about it. It’s probably roughly the same price as selling your kidney on the black market.

You will probably get the worst sunburn of your life

If you’re coming to Australia in the summer, please look after your skin.

Wear a hat (and sunglasses too) and sunscreen – we have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

A tip for sunscreen wearers – make sure it is free of toxins like octinoxate and octocrylene, as they have a detrimental effect upon the coral of the world’s oceans.

Goodness knows the Great Barrier Reef needs all the help it can get.

Eucalyptus tree in evening slight.
Very pretty and highly flammable.

Fire ban season is in full swing

Growing up, I was always very jealous of teenagers in American television shows who would follow on from a long summer day spent at the beach, gathering around a sand-based campfire with first marshmallows and then beer.

It’s just not a thing here. It can’t be.

As soon as the weather gets hot, a total country-wide fire ban is put into place.

Hot dry conditions, coupled with wind can lead to complete and utter disaster, where bushfires become a real and frightening threat, responsible for the loss of homes and life – both human and that of local fauna, every summer.

It’s not helped by the fact that our native and very prolific eucalyptus trees are highly flammable.

So, no late night campfire gatherings for Australian teenagers in the summertime. Better to be safe, than burnt out.

It’s too hot to even go road tripping

Road trips make sense in Australia.

Our public transport and infrastructure generally sucks and it’s the best way to see the country by far… plus it’s worth getting out of the cities, to check out what regional Australia has on offer (short answer – a lot).

But if you’re planning on doing one in the summertime… well, ensure your car has good air-conditioning.

Take this from someone whose first car had a barely working fan. The suffering was real.

Boots in front of graffiti on the ground that reads 'How much plastic do you use?'
My feet just want to be free.

You HAVE to wear shoes which is basically un-Australian

Australians have a thing against shoes, which is probably why a slip of rubber is considered our national footwear.

This seems utterly ridiculous in a country where pretty much everything is trying to kill you, but that’s just the way it is.

Less fun is trying to walk barefoot across burning hot asphalt or sand… It’s just not advisable.

So in summary, avoid Australia in the summertime! Visit ANY other time of the year (you roughly have 3-5 months to work with here, so it’s doable!).

Any commiserations you’d like to share about the Australian summertime?

If you are heading to Australia, here are some of the best places to travel to. And you may want to check out these facts about Australia and urban legends.

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  1. LOL this sounds exactly like where I’m from. I hated it growing up and loved the autumn/winter (which were still mild). I always said I’d never EVER move back to my home area and I’ll go somewhere north when I move back stateside (or PNW). I love that you mentioned chafing because that is easily my least favorite thing about summer. All these people wearing flowy and beautiful dresses and im literally wearing pants in a bigger effort to avoid that.

  2. Haha, I can totally understand where you’re coming from, but I loved Oz in the summer! Granted, I’m always cold and don’t mind 40-degree weather. The bugs were definitely a bit much, though.

    1. Haha yeah I think that’s why I like cool weather… sometimes you just need a break! The bugs are horrible. Waging a constant war against a summer cockroach invasion in my house.

  3. Omg! Did you ever as a kid have to sit on your parent’s vinyl car seats when it was 40 degrees outside? I can almost remember smelling the hairs on my legs being singed off and thinking that would probably be the closest experience to being burnt alive. Oh, the joys!

    1. Yes! ? oh gosh it was the worst. I hated getting into my car on hot days, the stupid reflector did jack all to help with the temp!

  4. Haha! I’ve visited in Spring and Autumn and next year I’m visiting in Winter…think I made the right choice (all the dates usually get decided around work and jobs)! Even when I visited in the Autumn the bugs were unbearable and I got burn despite constantly wearing suncream!

  5. Wow. I love an honest travel post. Thanks. I’ve only been to Aus in winter so only know how it feels when it’s hot rather than baking. You paint a good picture.

  6. Hello, I am originally from Cairns, now I live further south in Queensland. I visited my home town in summer once since relocating and it was so hot and humid, I needed the air-conditioning on at night as well. Plus there are stingers up there during summer and there are tiny jellyfish called irukandji that get through the stinger nets at the beaches. These jellyfish can make you really sick if you get stung by one of them. These are the reasons why I don’t visit up there during summer. However, Cairns and the surrounding areas are nice to visit at all other times of the year.

    1. Hello Anne – ugh! That doesn’t sound pleasant. I can’t imagine not being able to go to the beach in summer. The very thought makes me feel upset. North Queensland definitely seems like an ideal winter destination.

  7. The first time I came to Australia, I came in February, which is one of the worst parts of winter in Canada. So I didn’t have sunscreen on hand, and thought I’d just pick some up when I got here. While I was walking to the mall to buy sunscreen, I got a sunburn on my back so bad that I could hardly move for over a week, it was blistering, and I had tan lines there for literally over a year after it healed. It was horrible. On vacation recently, I got a pretty bad sunburn, despite only being outside for about 1.5 hours, *and* wearing 50 spf sunscreen. The sun is so brutal here!

    When I was back in Canada, I had plans to come here over Christmas, meet up with my husband in Sydney, and we’d head to Queensland to visit his sister and her boyfriend. My coworkers were all like, “Oh you’re so lucky! It’ll be so warm, and green, and you can lounge on the beach and get a tan” and I just laughed. I was like, “Clearly, you’ve never been to Australia before…. it’s Queensland in the summer. We’ll be avoiding going outside during the day, covered in sunscreen, sweating a ton, and not going to the beach cos it’ll be full of crocodiles and box jellyfish” and they gave me a look like I was being such a negative Nancy, but it’s true!

    I always tell my family to come visit us, now that we’re living here, but I tell them to come any time *but* summer. Coming from the Canadian prairie, the best time is definitely late February or March, when the summer heat has gone down to something approximating Prairie summer weather. Also there’s the bonus of avoiding the worst part of winter over there 😛 (ie. the part where it’s been winter for months and you’re sick of it).

    1. I love, love, love Australia in late February/March. It’s definitely the best time to visit. Couldn’t live in QLD because of the summer heat, plus all the flooding from the tropical storms is heartbreaking. I guess it’s hard to imagine that kind of heat and humidity unless you experience it yourself!

      But yeah, sometimes it feels like the best option is to spend the entire summer indoors, which is not a great option. At least it’s quite nice for the rest of the year, depending on where you are. Although on 40+ degree days, a prairie winter sounds rather alluring!

  8. If the accommodation price goes so high, the tourist will not be interested to go there. I think the govt. should take necessary steps to eradicate this problem. Other wise the tourist industry of Australia will face a huge problem.

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