Weather records show that temperatures in August are slightly higher in most places than in July, but in general, conditions are still wintry throughout the south of the country. If you're coming from North America or northern Europe, you may not find these 'wintry' conditions especially cold in many places, but don't expect blazing hot sunshine in August. Even places that experience warm daytime temperatures in August—such as outback towns—can get very cold at night.
Cities in the south—Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, and Hobart—can get quite cold in August. Bring a warm coat and some sweaters. Canberra regularly sees winter temperatures below 32° F (0° C) overnight, and just 53° F (12° C) in the day. Most other southern cities are a bit warmer in August, with Melbourne and Adelaide experiencing average highs in the high 50s F (14-16° C), and they don't get as cold at night.
Although coastal Sydney and Perth are quite far south, they're not very cold in August, with daytime highs around 65° F (18° C). Desert towns like Alice Springs or Uluru will still experience pleasantly warm temperatures in the day, with highs of around 71° F (22° C), but temperatures drop significantly overnight.
As for rain, Sydney sees relatively little rain in August, although you can still expect some showers. Perth is quite wet, as spring and summer are the drier months in southern Western Australia. Other southern cities are much drier in August, and you see much rain in Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, or Hobart.
Northern parts of Australia get almost no rain in August. The dry season in the tropics runs from May to October. Darwin remains hot, with average highs of 87° F (31° C) and lows of 68° F (20° C). But, there is practically no rain here in June, July, or August. Humidity is comfortably low. Northern Queensland towns are a bit cooler than those in the Northern Territory but still warm: Townsville, for example, has August highs of 78° F (26° C). Rainfall is still low though, so August is a comfortable time to visit northern parts of Australia.
Southern Queensland—Brisbane and the Gold Coast—is not tropical and temperatures are lower in July (expect highs of around 70° F/ 21° C in Brisbane), but still pleasant and sunny, without much rain.
Crowds and Costs
August is peak season in the tropical north, but not in the south. You can often get cheaper flights to Australia in the winter than at other times of year, but not necessarily when traveling around Australia. If you arrive in a southern city like Sydney (which is common), then flights north should be booked well ahead of time.
Hotels and resorts in the north, especially at popular destinations like the Whitsundays, tend to be more expensive at this time of year. Those in the south won't be. Australians from the south like to escape their winter by heading north, so you should expect to see many domestic tourists, as well as international ones, in August.
Where to Go
Whatever kind of experience you're seeking in Australia, you'll probably be able to find it somewhere in August. If you enjoy hot weather and want to spend time on the beach, head to northern Queensland or northern Western Australia, places such as Broome, Port Douglas, or the Whitsundays. To explore the outback and its fantastic national parks (such as Kakadu or Litchfield), head to the Northern Territory. If you want to go skiing or experience colder weather, go to the mountains in southern New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra), Victoria, and Tasmania. For city sightseeing and indoor attractions like galleries, museums, and excellent dining, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide are good options.
What to Do
August is a good time to go on a long, cross-country road trip in Australia, as there's little chance of scorching hot desert temperatures or washed-out roads in the tropics. From Adelaide you can head west to Perth, or up to Darwin via Uluru and Alice Springs, to experience the best of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Alternatively, start in Brisbane and head north-west through the Queensland outback to Uluru or Darwin. Other road trips are also good at this time of year, such as along the coast of Queensland, between Brisbane and Cairns, or at least part of the way.
While Australia doesn't have very high mountains (its highest is Mt. Kosciuszko at 7309 feet/ 2228 m.), it does offer some decent skiing above 5000 feet (1500 m.) in the mountains of the south-east, as well as Tasmania. Ski fields in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, and the ACT tend to operate from mid-June until early October.
If you want to lounge on a beach, head to northern Western Australia or northern Queensland. The Whitsundays and Port Douglas are the most popular areas in Queensland, while Western Australia is much more remote. There's less risk from deadly jellyfish at this time of year, but always check local conditions first.
Sports competitions. Australians love their sport, of all varieties, and winter is the time for rugby union, rugby league, and Australian rules football. Sports enthusiasts should try to attend a local game, to get an insight into Australia's sporting culture. Keen runners could also check out Sydney's City2Surf run, held on the second Sunday in August. You can enter the 8.5 miles (14 km) race competitively or just for fun.
Traveling to Australia in August? Check out these great itineraries
Tropical North Queensland - Hamilton Island, Port Douglas, Cairns, and More - 7 Days. Explore the best of tropical north Queensland during the dry season on this seven-day tour of the coastline and islands. Combine outdoor activities with relaxation.
Ultimate Australia Self-Drive Tour - 20 Days. Explore the East Coast of Australia at your own pace on this 20-day self-drive tour that does a circuit of the southeast, east coast, and central Australia.