When it comes to what to pack for Australia, layers are your best friend. Australia is a large country, with diverse climates, so what to wear in Melbourne may vary greatly to what to wear in the tropics. Layers however will allow you to move from the searing heat to cooler nights whilst still packing light.
The Australian summer runs from December to February, however in areas the temperatures can still soar over 30°C (86°F). Conversely in other areas it can be in the mid teens (around 59°F). We will comprehensively cover what to where in Australia based on the capital cities and most popular regions to visit, so no matter where your journey takes you, you’ll have all of the essential travel items.
What to pack for Australia - Key Items
These essential travel items are a must have, regardless where you are visiting in Australia.
Make sure you include sun protection
The sun in Australia is harsh. Between 10 – 3 it is essential that you cover up. An SPF sunscreen should be applied and reapplied during the day. If you are at the beach, make sure you buy one that is water resistant. In Australia the highest factor you can buy is SPF 50+.
A wide brimmed hat is also essential. It will help keep the sun off your face and cool you during the peak heat of the day. Glare is also a factor in Australia, so make sure you pack sunglasses.
If you plan on spending a lot of time out and about in the heat, make sure to pack a water bottle and light tops that cover your shoulders and arms. It’s easy to inadvertently get sunburnt on the back of your neck and shoulders, even if you’re not outside for long.
Insect repellant is also essential
When the sun goes down, the bugs come out. Whether it is mosquitoes, or sand flies on the beaches, getting bitten is no fun. If you’re visiting the cities, your run of the mill insect repellants will suffice. Make sure your repellant includes DEET if you’re heading to the tropics.
Comfortable shoes are a must if you're exploring
Packing for Australia should be with the outdoors in mind. Whether it’s the beach, the mountains or exploring our cities, prepared to explore by foot.
By all means pack your flip flops and party shoes, but your Australia packing list must include a sensible pair of shoes that are made for walking. Travel sandals, or light weight runners are a great option.
Swimwear is essential - Aussie beaches are incredible!
When it comes to what to wear in Australia, swim wear is essential. It’s not a trip to Australia is the summer, without a trip to the beach, or the pool. Many Australians chose to wear a rash vest over their swimwear for additional sun protection, so if you’re susceptible to getting burnt, this may well be an item to include when you’re packing for Australia.
We always ensure we pack a light weight scarf
When you are packing for Australia, don’t forget to include a scarf. Not the woolly knitted kind, but a large light cotton scarf. A scarf can shelter you from a hot day, wrap around your waist to become a sarong or warm you on a cooler evening. For its size and weight, a scarf is a versatile and essential travel item.
Summer is dry and warm in Adelaide. The average temperatures range between 16 °C – 29°C (60.8°F – 84.2°F) however it is not uncommon for Adelaide to experience heatwave conditions in excess of 40°C (104°F) for a week or more at a time.
Essential travel items for Adelaide include floaty dresses, long sleeved cotton/muslin shirts, shorts and cotton trousers. The temperature can shift quite rapidly in Adelaide, and it’s not uncommon to experience a hot day followed by a cool night. Ensure you pack a light jacket that can be layered with a scarf to ensure you don’t feel cool of an evening.
Adelaide, and the South Australian Coastline is home to a large number of beautiful beaches, so swimwear is essential.
Brisbane, The Gold Coast & Sunshine Coast
Brisbane and it’s neighbouring regions, The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are synonymous with beautiful beaches and warm weather. The average summer temperature ranges between 21°C – 29°C (69.8°F – 84.2°F) so it doesn’t really get ‘cold’ as such.
This region of Australia can be very humid during the summer, so make sure you pack natural fabrics. Think cotton shirts and linen dresses and shorts. You’ll want clothes that are comfortable and easy to get on and off around the water. Embroidered cotton dresses are a great option that can be dressed down with sandals or dressed up with heels.
Essential packing items for Brisbane and its surrounds include light make up. Heavy foundations and eye make up will just melt off in the humidity. Embrace the beachy look with tinted moisturiser (bonus points for picking one with sun protection), head bands or even a hair scarf.
Whilst the beach is a big draw card to this region, packing for Australia always involves being prepared for different environments. Just a few hours drive inland and you’re in the hinterland. Comfortable shoes, shorts and t-shirts / light shirts are a great option to wear whilst you enjoy walks or hikes. Make sure you pack a hat, sun protection and water. Insect repellant is also useful if you’re going into rainforest areas.
An Australian packing list can’t discount the time you’ll spend exploring the city. Canberra is the capital of Australia. It is a territory landlocked by New South Wales, and just a few hours south of Sydney.
Summer in Canberra is cooler in comparison to Adelaide and Brisbane. The average temperature ranges between 12°C – 29°C (53.6°F – 84.2°F). Heatwaves are uncommon and the nights and mornings are cool. Layer your look with cotton and denim jackets. Maxi dresses are a great option. You can throw a jacket on in the evening, or layer with a scarf during the day to protect your shoulders.
Attractions in Canberra are quite spaced out, so you’ll be on your feet quite a bit. Comfortable walking shoes are essential, especially for a tour of Parliament house (yes, you can go inside and walk on the roof!).
When packing for Australia, the sun is always a consideration. It might be cooler in Canberra, but the sun is still strong. Don’t forget to apply and reapply sunscreen and cover up with a hat and sun glasses.
Cairns & Far North Queensland
Cairns and the tropics are a huge drawcard for Australia. Unlike much of Australia which experiences four distinct seasons, Cairns and Far North Queensland experience two. The warm dry season from April to November and the wet season from November to March. This is an important consideration when planning what to pack for Australia.
Over the ‘summer’ months of December to February, the temperatures range between 23°C- 31°C (69.8°C – 87.8°C). The weather in monsoonal during this time, so expect high humidity and tropical rain.
If you do visit over the summer months, breathable and quick drying fabrics are essential. Light cotton shorts and linen shorts are both great options. It is quite often overcast so you may not feel the need for a hat. The sun still burns, so ensure you apply a water resistant sun block and wear sunglasses.
Comfortable travel sandals are an essential travel item. Lightweight dresses that don’t crinkle easily are easy to throw on. Many beaches are unsafe for swimming due to crocodiles, however there are plenty of pools and netted beaches, so make sure to pack your swimwear. A dip is a great way to refresh yourself from the humidity.
It’s important to carry water with you during this season as you can easily loose a lot of fluid by sweating. Like Brisbane, light makeup is the best choice. A beachy look is easiest to achieve. Embrace the humidity with beachy waves tied back with a few cute clips.
In addition to the coast, Far North Queensland is also an excellent destination to explore the rainforest. If you are out hiking, make sure to pack a light waterproof jacket in case you get caught in a shower. After bring caught in a monsoonal downpour in Singapore and having my backpack fill up with water, I’d also suggest ensuring your backpack has a rain cover.
Central Australia (Alice & The Outback)
Central Australia encompasses much of what people think of when they think of ‘The Outback’. Alice Springs, Uluru and Kings Canyon are all fantastic destinations to visit in the summer. The average temperature spans between 20°C – 37°C (68°F – 98.6C) however its not uncommon for the gauge to go well over 40°C (104°F).
When it comes to what to wear in Australia, despite many of the average temperatures being the same, you need to dress for the climate. Central Australia has a dry heat. It warms up quickly, yet cools quickly of an evening. It’s not a glamorous part of the world, so think practical. Hiking boots or comfortable runners are essential for exploring Uluru and Kings Canyon. You’ll want to make sure your shoulders are covered, so cotton shirts, or t-shirts made of wicking fabric are best.
A hat is essential and so is a water bottle, especially if you are hiking. A small neck scarf that can be wet and tied around your neck to cool you is also a welcome relief. Of an evening a light polar fleece jacket is a great option for keeping warm. Make sure to pack a pair of thick socks if you are planning to hike. A first aid kit is also a useful addition as medical attention and the shops are not always close by.
Summer in Darwin is waterfall season. Like Cairns and Far North Queensland, summer means the wet season in Darwin. The average temperature ranges from 25°C – 33°C (77°F – 91.4°F) however it’s the humidity that is the real factor.
Pack like you would for Cairns, but with less of a ‘beachy’ vibe. The beaches aren’t the focal point in Darwin as crocodiles and stingers are a real issue. The main attractions are Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. Leave your swimmers behind when visiting the national parks however, as crocodiles can also be found in fresh water, so the watering holes are not safe for swimming.
Quick dry, moisture wicking fabrics, light wool socks and comfortable shoes are essential travel items for this region. Insect repellent with DEET is also useful due to increased insect numbers in the wet season. Combine your hiking / outdoors gear with cotton shorts, shirts and t-shirts whilst in town. Darwin also has great nightlife, so make sure to pack some party clothes.
Hobart & Launceston
When thinking about what to pack for Australia the thought of being super hot and sweaty isn’t for you, then Tasmania may just be your ideal Australian holiday destination.
As the most southern of the states, Tasmania experiences a temperate summer. Average temperatures range between 11°C – 22°C (51.8°F – 71.6°F) however often move up into the 30’s (80-90’s).
Whilst exploring the cities think maxi dresses, light jackets, shorts, shirts and t-shirts. The capital Hobart, has many cobbled lanes, so wear sensible shoes if you’re exploring on foot. In addition to the capitals, you’ll want to set out and explore Tasmania’s pristine wilderness. Your hiking clothes will come in handy here.
Packing for Australia, including Tasmania, should include beach attire. Tasmania is home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. Best of all they are uncrowded, so make sure you’ve got a towel, sun protection and perhaps even a good book.
It’s cool of an evening, so a pair of jeans or heavier weight pants (trousers) will be welcome. Pair a scarf with a jacket for additional warmth. It is also a great way to change your look. If you’re road tripping to Cradle Mountain, a polar fleece and merino leggings will help you regulate your temperature whilst out exploring and keep you cosy once the sun sets. Cradle mountain can get down to as low as 3°Ç (37.4F) even in the summer, so make sure to do some research on Tasmania’s microclimates before setting out.
When it comes to what to wear in Melbourne, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. Firstly, the average temperatures are 14°C – 27°C (57.2°F – 80.6F) however the temperature during the day can vary wildly. What starts as a 40°C (104°F) day may be as cool as 14°C (57.2°F) by the evening. This is because much of Melbourne’s weather is driven by the wind. Southerly winds means that the hot desert air from central Australia heats things up. Sudden wind changes are common, particularly breaking a heat wave, and within minutes the cool breeze from the south can bring about a chill in the air.
Melbourne is also Australia’s fashion capital, so when it comes to what to pack for Australia, you’ll want to look good when in Melbourne. In the city think maxi dresses, leather sandals, straw hats, scarves, cut off shorts and short sleeved tops. Keep your shoulders covered where possible, either with a light cardigan or a scarf.
Essential travel items for Melbourne involve a mix of the city and the beach. Melbourne’s beaches are iconic and beautiful (think the Brighton bathing boxes ). Make sure to pack swimwear and a cover up for the beach. A light cotton dress is a great space saving addition that can double as both.
There are some great road trips from Melbourne, so make sure you pack comfortable shoes. The local national parks are incredible for walking and you may even spot some of the local wildlife if you’re lucky. In the city, Melbourne parties on into the night, so make sure to pack something a little nicer for heading out at night.
Melbournian’s are often teased for wearing a lot of black. If you don’t want to stand out as a tourist, try more muted colours and a cross body bag.
Summer in Perth seems to linger a little longer than many of the other capital cities. It’s warm well towards Easter, which makes it an excellent destination for those of us who aren’t ready to let summer go. The average summer temperatures are 17°C – 31°C (62.6°F – 86°F) however once it heats up, it tends to stay that way for days.
Cool relief can be found by the coast. Like Melbourne, the wind changes affect the weather significantly. The ‘Freemantle Doctor‘ is the famous cool breeze that sweeps the coast and is much welcome after a heat wave. Consider these highs and lows of temperature when you decide what to pack for Australia.
While creating your Australia packing list, keep the hot days in mind. Outside hot the tropics, hot streaks are common and you’ll certainly want to be sun smart. Perth’s beaches are a great way to cool off. Make sure to pack swimwear, a cover up and light layers. It’s a casual vibe in Perth.
Boho maxis, light cotton dresses and sandals are staple items. Cotton or linen shorts will keep you cooler than denim. Think capsule wardrobe. Plain coloured bottoms with a variety of coloured tops. The warm weather allows for quick drying if you need to wash. Take advantage of scarves and hats to mix up your outfits.
Sydney is just an hour’s flight north of Melbourne, however the climate is far more humid. The average temperature in summer is between 18°C – 26°C (64.4°F – 78.8°F) and is far more stable than in Melbourne. If the day starts out warm, then it’s unlikely to change. This is in contrast to Melbourne which is often said to experience ‘ four seasons in one day’.
Sydney has a large and vibrant city to explore. Like Melbourne, keep fashion in mind. When considering what to wear in Australia, brighter colours are key in Sydney.
The humidity can make things sticky, so think light cotton trousers, cut off shorts, tie up shirts or play suits. It wouldn’t be a trip to Sydney, without going to Bondi beach so ensure you pack your swimmers.
If you’re heading out of the city on a day trip (The Blue Mountains are beautiful) make sure to pack a light jacket, comfortable shoes, or even some hiking gear if you plan to take an extended walk.
Public transport within the city is excellent, however you’ll spend a lot of time on your feet. Comfortable shoes suitable for walking are essential. Ensure you wear a hat and sunscreen.
What to wear in Australia
Packing for Australia in the summer involves knowing your route, bringing a range of light weight options and creating a capsule wardrobe that can be layered. It’s also important to consider the journey to Australia. For many destinations, it is a long haul flight. Utilise the flight to wear bulkier items like fleece jackets or track pants.
Australian’s are rapidly becoming more eco conscious and many carry their own drink bottles rather than buying single use. There is plenty of opportunity to refill your bottle for free, the water is fresh and clean and it will also save you money.
Sunscreen is inexpensive in Australia. Save your luggage space and buy it once you’re in the country. Kmart and Target are discount retailers that sell scarves and other accessories cheaply if you’d prefer to pack minimally and buy upon arrival. This is a great strategy for those travelling to the capitals. If you’re planning a more remote adventure, its wise to already have essential travel items on hand as shops are few and far in between and the prices are highly inflated.