Plan your Big Lap trip to line up with optimal conditions around the country.
While stage two COVID-related fears have put the brakes on touring plans for some Australian 4WDers, particularly those travelling out of or planning on passing through Victoria, now is still a great time to do your research and plan a Big Lap for when border crossing hassles have simmered down.
In fact, the more time and careful preparation put into planning out your trip in detail, the better it can be. It’s absolutely possible to time your circumnavigation of the continent just right, in order to experience optimum weather and travel conditions in each region you pass through.
At the most basic level, the tropical Top End and the arid interior of the country are most often visited during the cooler winter months because conditions are safer and more comfortable.
While some parts of the tropical north are inaccessible during the wet season, the main reason many avoid visiting over summer is the constant oppressive humidity and wet weather.
The desertous inland parts of the nation are generally avoided during the summer months as temperatures can soar to extreme highs that are not only uncomfortable, but downright deadly.
The summer months are the ideal time to tour the temperate coast of the southern half of the country. Everywhere from southern Queensland all the way south around the southern coastline of the continent and halfway up the coast of Western Australia is at its best in the summertime.
Whether you begin your lap by heading north into the tropics, across the Top End, before later heading south, or vice versa, will depend wholly on your initial point of departure, the list of destinations you’re planning to tick off, what time of year your journey begins and how long you plan to spend travelling. Refer to the chart across page for seasonal info on the most popular touring destinations in each state.
WHEN TO VISIT
NEW SOUTH WALES
THE SOUTH COAST: Warm and sunny with stable, predictable weather over spring, summer and early autumn. The coastal touring hotspots pack out over summer due to the beautiful conditions. Chilly to freezing cold in winter, but gorgeous in its own way.
Visit November to March for lazy beach days and great fishing. Come between June and August for the best surf.
THE NORTH COAST: Glorious weather and warm water for most of the year. The big tourist hotspots are clogged with tourists and backpackers over the height of summer, time your visit a little later in the season to avoid crowds.
Visit between December and February for a pumping holiday vibe, or between March and May for the best weather, fishing and water temperature, along with thinner crowds.
INLAND: Crowds are not as much of an issue even at the more popular inland touring destinations, so time your visit for when conditions are the most comfortable.
Summer is oppressively hot in the far west of the state, so visit between April and August for the most comfortable conditions. Remember to pack warm clothes in winter as temperatures drop below freezing in some parts!
SOUTHEAST QUEENSLAND: Sunny and gorgeous for most of the year, the region sees a spike in tourism over late spring and summer, although rainfall can be quite high in January and February and the heat and humidity can be a bit much for some.
Visit in summertime for hot weather and the possibility of some great surf, come between March and May for slightly cooler weather, thinner crowds and the same fantastic fishing and beach weather.
THE CENTRAL COAST: This region definitely experiences a marked wet season over the summer months, with extreme humidity and high rainfall the norm.
Visit any time between March and November for sunny weather and beautiful warm water. This region is home to some exceptional fishing, with the best catches of large pelagic species recorded from September to November.
THE CAPE AND GULF COUNTRY: The wet season can be a logistical nightmare, with constant flooding necessitating frequent road closures. The skies have cleared and the roads are generally all open by April, and the weather and conditions remain perfect until around October, when the build up to the wet begins.
INLAND: The Queensland outback is a hellishly hot place in the summer months, with the mercury often maxing out over 40 degrees for days on end. Plan your visit for the cooler months between April and October.
THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
THE NORTH COAST: The Territory’s a hard place to enjoy in the wet season – they don’t call it suicide season up here for nothing! Plan your visit for the dry season, between April and October, for your best shot at clear sunny weather and fantastic fishing.
INLAND: The Northern Territory outback is no place to venture in summer, with some of the highest temperatures recorded anywhere in the country. Plan to visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta and the MacDonnell Ranges in the cooler months from May to September.
THE KIMBERLEY: Same rules apply as the rest of the Top End – the wet season simply presents too many logistical hurdles to be a viable time to visit. Come for the run-off season, around April, to watch the rivers in full flood and experience the greatest barra fishing on earth, or anytime between April and October for beautiful weather.
THE PILBARA: The Pilbara gets hot as hell in mid summer, so it’s probably for the best to hold off your visit until after the warmest months. Visit anytime between March and October for gorgeous weather, warm water and negligible crowds.
THE SOUTH COAST: WA’s south coast gets mighty chilly at times – it’s easy to forget you’re on a similar latitude to Victoria down here, and there’s even one or two spots that cop a sprinkle of snow each winter! Plan your visit between November and March for idyllic summertime coastal conditions.
THE SOUTH COAST: SA’s coastline west of Adelaide is home to some of the finest fishing grounds in the country, with mammoth snapper, mulloway and kingfish plucked from these waters each year. Visit in the height of summer, between December and February, for the best fishing. Or between March and September for the best surf conditions.
FLINDERS RANGES: The South Oz desert gets unbearably hot in the summer months, do yourself a favour and plan your visit between March and September.
THE HIGH COUNTRY: The High Country is epic year-round, but remember track closures are all too common during winter and the freezing cold weather during the coolest months doesn’t agree with all comers. Visit between September and May for the mildest conditions and lower rainfall.
THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD: Vic’s south coast is jaw dropping, no matter what time of year you visit. If you plan to take advantage of the touring route’s proximity to the coast by swimming or fishing, time your visit between November and March for the most pleasant air and water temperatures.
THE WEST COAST: Tassie’s notoriously wild west coast is at its most pretty during the milder summer months. Plan a visit between November and March and you can bet on sunny, warmish weather and calmer sea conditions.
THE OFF SEASON
And now that we’ve covered all the reasons why you should plan your trip around each region’s optimal season, here’s a couple reasons why you should throw that sensible advice out the window and plan to visit a few spots in their off season.
The main reasons you’d plan to visit a spot in its off season would be to avoid crowds, or because you’re going to be travelling close by at that time of year and it makes more sense to make a stop over, rather than waste time and money backtracking later on. Both very valid reasons and worthy of consideration.
For a start, most iconic spots are only super busy for a couple of months of the year. By visiting in the off season you can guarantee yourself that the crowds will be thinner, and as a result you’re likely to secure yourself the best campsites, have less company on the tracks and get the best fishing or surf spots to yourself.
While off season visits aren’t always possible in some regions due to road closures or safety issues, if the only worry is a bit of hot/cold weather or a little extra rainfall, why not take a walk on the wild side and plan to get the whole place to yourself?