When is the best time to visit the Northern Territory?
Australia's Northern Territory is an extraordinary place full of breathtaking landscapes that'll stay with you long after you've left so it's no surprise travellers from all over the country flock to explore its deserts, fascinating rock formations, and enchanting national parks. Due to its geographical location, the Northern Territory is split into two distinct climates, that of the Red Centre and the Top End, with each region experiencing different weather and temperature patterns depending on the season.
The temperature up north can get quite hot, especially in summer, and this can affect when you should be travelling to either region. We've outlined what to expect during each season and what activities the season is best suited for so you can plan your dream holiday safely and efficiently.
Summer in the Northern Territory
Best for: night events/festivals/markets, star gazing, swimming, wandering through galleries
Summer is extremely hot all over the Northern Territory and the Top End experiences a large amount of rainfall to go with the high temperatures. In fact, January sees the highest amount of rainfall per year with 431mm expected. This means that the Top End is extremely humid throughout the months of December, January, and February, and while the weather conditions mean the region is relatively free of other travellers and the national parks are full of lush, green foliage and overflowing waterfalls, it's not the best time to get the most out of your holiday to the territory.
Average temperatures in the Northern Territory during the summer range from 24°C to 32°C in the Top End and from 15°C to 35°C in the Red Centre but these can be as high as 40°C+ on some occasions. This makes spending time outside in the Red Centre pretty much impossible during summer and most events/festivals are held at nighttime to avoid the harsh sun. Some national parks are even closed if the temperatures are high enough to be deemed as a severe health warning so make sure you stay on top of the weather conditions during your travels.
Autumn in the Northern Territory
Best for: music festivals, exploring national parks, swimming, cycling, hiking, traditional cultural activities
Temperatures tend to lower a little across the territory during autumn (March, April, May), however, the Top End still experiences heavy rainfall and high levels of humidity until at least the end of April. Because the temperatures are a bit more manageable, autumn is an extremely popular time to visit the Northern Territory, only second behind winter. With an average temperature of 10°C - 27°C in the Red Centre and early to mid-20°Cs in the Top End, spending long periods of time outside becomes more enjoyable, allowing you to make the most of the territory's natural beauty.
Most accommodation prices will stay low during this time, as will crowd numbers (especially in March and April), before the peak season of winter starts.
Winter in the Northern Territory
Best for: exploring national parks, swimming and other outside activities, fishing, river cruises, hiking, traditional cultural activities
Be prepared for higher tour and accommodation prices, as well as larger crowds at popular landmarks and attractions, as winter is considered the best time to visit both regions of the Northern Territory. This is mainly due to the fact that temperatures are still warm (but not oppressively hot), humidity levels are low, and storm activity and rainfall is infrequent. It's even likely you'll experience an overnight frost if you're staying closer to Alice Springs with temperatures reaching as low as 4°C. While that may be in extreme cases, if you plan on camping out overnight, make sure you're prepared for colder weather by packing warm clothes. During the day, temperatures in the Red Centre average around 18°C throughout the months of June, July, and August making it the perfect time to explore the territory.
Similarly, the weather in the Top End becomes more predictable with little to no tropical storms as winter is considered the 'dry' season. Travellers are also able to access parts of the territory, including some national parks, that have been closed during the wet season for fear of flooding.
Spring in the Northern Territory
Best for: hiking, festivals, sky-watching (lightning, thunderstorms & sunsets), fishing, traditional cultural activities, swimming
The temperatures start to pick back up across the Northern Territory in spring (September, October, and November) so be mindful of the weather conditions if you're thinking about spending an extended period of time outside throughout your trip. Thunderstorms and other tropical activity also make a return to both regions, with the Red Centre experiencing heavy rainfall in the afternoons. Despite this, humidity levels are still reasonably low, particularly in the Red Centre, compared to that of the summer season and temperatures average around 13°C to 29°C during the day, making it a good time to visit the territory.
Be mindful of travelling to the Top End during November as this month is considered the 'build-up' to the tropical storms and monsoons experienced during the summer season. The humidity also starts to rise during the back end of spring, sometimes reaching an uncomfortable level for spending time outside, but the spectacular lightning shows you'll be treated to in the evenings make travelling to this region worth it.
However, spring is also considered a great time to see the national parks and lush landscapes come to life in both regions, as the showers experienced in spring nourish the territory's flora.