Updated September 21, 2017
Australia is a continent that experiences a variety of weather patterns due to its sheer size. And while the country is justifiably famous for its sun-blasted beaches and swathes of blue sky, it's not immune to the effects of a low-pressure system. There isn't one single seasonal calendar that applies to this so-called sunburnt country. Instead, there are six climatic zones, which translate as two main seasonal patterns: temperate or tropical. While there are huge differences in temperatures across Australia on any day, the farther north you travel, the warmer it gets. While the peak season in the south of Australia is during summer (December to February), winter (June to August) is the best time to cruise in the north, where the days are warm and mild and the humidity isn't as harrowing as it is in the height of the wet season (summer). Be it torrential rain in the tropical north in summer or spectacular electrical storms in the south during the spring, the weather can certainly impact your plans. With that in mind, here's our guide to looking on the sunny side, no matter the weather.
Wet Weather Plan: If you're going to get wet, you might as well get saturated. The best place to be when it rains in the tropics is actually in the rain forest, as that's when the jungle comes alive. Don a poncho, and jump puddles along the boardwalk from Cairns Botanic Gardens to Centenary Lake, or enjoy an immersive experience under cover at The Rainforest Dome, where you can get up close with Goliath, a huge saltwater crocodile that lives in a glass tank. Another great wet weather option is to soar over the rain forest on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, where you'll enjoy a bird's-eye view over the area before making your way back to Cairns onboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a gentle journey that slices through spectacular natural surrounds. The Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, just 15 minutes from the city centre, recently underwent an AU$12 million transformation. Visit the centre to view the area through the eyes of indigenous Australians.
What You'll Miss: You'll miss out on staying high and dry while onboard an Ocean Spirit Cruise to Michaelmas Cay and enjoying the brilliant visibility that comes from snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef under a ceiling of blue sky.
Wet Weather Plan: Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Sydney Opera House with a VIP Sydney Opera House Tour and Tasting Plate. See through the smoke and mirrors of theatre production as your learned guide reveals backstage rituals and shares colourful anecdotes that will give you a glimpse into the machinations and near misses that create the magic on stage at the world-famous concert hall. Not far from the shadow of Sydney Harbour Bridge is the oft-overlooked suburb of Walsh Bay. If you have an evening in town, book tickets to see a show at Sydney Theatre Company, and then enjoy waterfront dining at The Gantry Restaurant & Bar. You might also want to head to The Rocks district for a beer and pub meal at Australia's oldest continually licensed hotel, the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel.
What You'll Miss: Unfortunately, you won't be reaching giddy new heights after climbing through the girders of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney or, if the seas are rough, mooching over to Manly on the ferry.
Wet Weather Plan: The National Gallery of Victoria is a great place to visit, whatever the weather. More than 68,000 works of art are housed within the NGV space, Australia's oldest and most visited gallery. It is definitely worth jostling umbrellas to get to Federation Square, where you'll find the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Ian Potter Gallery of Australian Art. Check the Fed Square schedule for film screenings and displays, markets or performances. Enjoy a whistle-stop tour of Melbourne while lunching onboard the heated Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, where you can enjoy lunch on the go and watch the city through a curtain of rainwater.
What You'll Miss: When the sun breaks through the skies in Melbourne, the thing to do is catch tickets to cricket, tennis or the AFL (Australian football), depending on the season. Failing that, just bunker down at the Riverland Bar on the banks of the Yarra River, which commands impressive views over the mighty MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground).
Wet Weather Plan: If there's snow blanketing Mt Wellington and the rain is bucketing down sideways, make your way to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), which is the hottest hangout in town. Take your time meandering around David Walsh's art collection, which includes works that veer from the socially conscious to the intensely confronting. Shelter from the winds that blow in from Antarctica at the adjacent Moorilla Cellar Door, where you can taste cool-climate wines straight from the barrel. If it's a taste of history you're after, head to the historic Cascades Female Factory, where you can learn about Hobart's convict heritage and discover the stories of the women who spent time in the prison. To get a taste of Tassie, nab a table at popular eateries, such as Franklin Hobart or Ethos Eat Drink.
What You'll Miss: This time around, you won't be diving in the 30-metre-tall giant kelp forest off the coast, one of the most rare and magnificent ecosystems on Earth. The best time to explore the towering kelp cathedrals with Eaglehawk Dive Centre is when the sunlight filters through the underwater canopy.
Wet Weather Plan: A lot of the action in Brisbane, or Bris-Vegas as it is affectionately known, takes place around South Bank, located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River. South Bank is full of buildings that, in addition to making bold architectural statements, provide cover from all the elements. What better place to escape a tropical downpour than at the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art or Queensland Museum and Sciencentre? Winter escapees from colder countries might not find Brisbane's wet weather too harrowing. You can admire Brisbane River from the comfort of your waterfront table at Stokehouse Q or from a climate-controlled gondola in the Wheel of Brisbane, which offers 360 degree views of the State's capital.
What You'll Miss: You'll have to pick another time to walk along the river from Newfarm to Toowong and visit the wonderful West End Markets and Brisbane's City Botanic Gardens, which offer guided walking tours around the 18-hectare site dotted with sculptures and ornamental ponds.
Wet Weather Plan: There's nothing like the Fremantle Ferris Wheel to lift the mood -- even when it's pouring. After enjoying views over Freo's fishing harbour, learn about the area's maritime history at the Shipwreck Galleries. There's nothing 'dry' about this display, with salvaged items from ships wrecked along the coastline painting a colourful picture of the 19th-century port. If the seas are stormy, you'll most likely hear the waves before you see them. On sunny days, the surf curls in turquoise tubes, but Port and Leighton Beaches are no less spectacular when the Indian Ocean transforms into a bubbling cauldron. Even if the clouds don't part to do the big reveal at dusk, it's worth heading to the Left Bank for a beverage as the sun sets over the sea. Don't forget the Fremantle Markets, which are housed in a Victorian-era building, keeping you dry.
What You'll Miss: Fremantle's architecture won't be on your to-do list if the weather's not cooperating. The port is a heritage hotspot, with more than 3,000 Heritage-listed 19th-century sandstone buildings that tell a story about the town's pioneering past. The Fremantle Indigenous Heritage Tour also takes visitors back in time to hear Dreamtime stories that span some 40,000 years.
Wet Weather Plan: About 25 minutes out of town is Waterfall Gully in Cleland Conservation Park, where the earth is riven in roots and the sound of the waterfall roars through the stringy bark forest. Back in Adelaide, it's worth taking a detour to the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, the oldest indigenous-owned and -operated cultural centre in Australia. Tandanya is the local Kaurna word that means 'place of the red kangaroo', and while the centre honours the traditions passed down through the generations, it also showcases how contemporary life has influenced indigenous art and culture. Adelaide is known as the City of Churches, so check out a few of these historic landmarks, including St Peter's Cathedral, built in 1901, and St Francis Xavier Cathedral. Pray the rain continues so you can enjoy a warming cup of tea at Grind It in Glenelg (10 km from the city) or graze at Adelaide Central Markets, South Australia's most visited attraction. Port River Dolphin Explorer is also a popular all-weather pursuit.
What You'll Miss: Between May and October, your holiday checklist (on a nice day) should include whale-watching off the south coast. Victor Harbour is on the Fleurieu Peninsula, just 1.5 hours from Adelaide.
Wet Weather Plan: When the Northern Territory skies are chucking it down in Darwin, you must expect that you might well be ankle deep in water within minutes. If you're feeling adventurous, invest in a pair of thongs (flip-flops), and venture out into the tropical rain. The deluge will be warm, and it usually comes in waves, so expect it to be over not long after it starts. If you really don't enjoy being bedraggled, join Darwin Tours, and delve underground to explore the old WWII tunnels that were built after the Japanese bombing of the harbour in 1942. Even in the wet season (summer), Darwin will have days of dry weather. Wet or dry, one of the best places to be is at the local Ski Club, where you can join the laid-back locals sprawled on the lawn toasting the sunset. There are signs all over the NT warning of the danger of crocodiles. And then there's Crocosaurus Cove, where visitors are invited to enter the water with a 5-metre-long saltwater croc inside a Perspex tube dubbed The Cage of Death. The Museum & Art Gallery is a more sedate option where you can learn about the cyclone that tore Darwin apart and admire a wonderful indigenous collection of art.
What You'll Miss: You'll have to encounter the magic of Mindil Beach on your next trip. While the famous sunset markets don't operate during the wet season, the sun will still paint the sky red. Some of the best street food to be found in Darwin is at the Mindil Beach Markets, which run from April to October.