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The best time for cycling Australia

Alia Parker's picture
Cycling in Australian weather. Cycle Traveller

Australia may be an island, but it's the biggest island on the planet, or the smallest continent. Whichever way you want to look at it, it takes up a lot of space and as a result, the weather can vary dramatically at different times of the year.

Many parts of Australia are great for cycling all year round, but some parts at some times of year have the ability to break your spirits. For instance, you don't want to end up in a crocodile infested flood zone in the 'Top End' during the wet season, nor do you want to be cycling into a pedal-stopping prevailing headwind across the Nullarbor, or pushing your bike through the snow (yes, for our overseas friends, it does actually snow here in some parts).

There's also a very good chance those little blue lines and blobs on your map that indicate water probably haven't seen water for a very long time, especially in summer or the dry season up north.

So as you can see, knowing a little about how different parts of Australia respond to different seasons will make your trip a little more pleasant. The best place to research weather conditions is on the Bureau of Meteorology's website, which provides detailed weather information, both historical and forecasts, for all regions of Australia.

The seasons

For those unfamiliar with Australian weather patterns, here's a little background. The country can pretty much be divided into two parts: The tropics, or 'Top End', and the south.

The southern half experiences four seasons: Summer (Dec-Feb), Autumn (Mar-May), Winter (Jun-Aug) and Spring (Sept-Nov), while the Top End (which encompasses northern Western Australia and central and northern Queensland and The Northern Territory) has just two seasons, the Wet (Nov-Apr) and the Dry (May-Oct).

The Wet season can be a beautiful time up north as the rain brings life back to the deserts, but the season brings more than just rain. Temperatures can get as high as 50°C (122ºF), there are electrical storms, cyclones and floods. Roads can be inaccessible for long periods of time.

If you're planning to travel up north, June to September is generally a good time of year, that is, it's not the wettest nor the hottest. Down south, it's much easier to get around at all times of year. If you're travelling through 'The Red Centre', be aware that temperatures can swing from being very hot in the sunlight to rather chilly at night.

Likewise, mountainous regions in lower NSW, Victoria and Tasmania can get snow in Winter, particularly around the aptly named Snowy Mountains.

Parts of Australia can be very flat, exposing you to the wind. Watch out for this in particular if you're attempting to cross The Nullarbor Plain. As a general rule of thumb, the prevailing headwind is east, south-east between November to April and west, north-west between May to October. You can find more information in this document.

Image: Rain on the Stirling Ranges, Western Australia. Source: Cycle Traveller Copyright.

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