May is the end of autumn in Australia, and that means cool temperatures in some places, verging on wintery. Sydney stays reasonably warm thanks to being coastal, with average May highs of 68° F (20° C). But, other southern cities like Melbourne, Hobart, and Adelaide are cooler. Canberra, being inland, gets especially cold overnight from May. Brisbane and Perth are warmer, and this is a great time to visit these cities, as you can avoid the heat of earlier in the year while still experiencing nice weather.
The dry season of tropical northern Australia begins in May. Darwin and northern Queensland, for example, get a fraction of the rainfall that they do between November and April. But, temperatures remain hot, with Darwin having an average high of 89° F (32° C) in May. Many travelers find dry heat more comfortable than damp, humid heat, making May an ideal time to visit the Northern Territory, northern Western Australia, and northern Queensland.
As for rainfall in other cities, visitors may experience some rain in Brisbane, Sydney, and Perth, but the chances are much less in Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, and Hobart, which are much drier year-round.
Crowds and Costs
May is the beginning of the peak season in northern Australia, and in popular destinations like Cairns, Airlie Beach, and the Whitsundays, expect peak seasons prices and availability. Australians from further south also like to travel to these warmer places, so you can expect to see domestic as well as international visitors.
This is not a busy month for travel to the southern areas, but cities like Melbourne and Sydney are never devoid of visitors. Good accommodation won't be so tight in these places in May, but it's still a good idea to book long-distance travel (such as flights) in advance.
Where to Go
The conditions in northern Australia are generally great in May, with temperatures hot but rainfall low. However, it's important to know that deadly box jellyfish remain in the sea in northern Queensland and northern Western Australia through May, and you won't be able to swim in the sea. If you want to go north in May, a better option is the Northern Territory. It's always risky swimming in the sea in the Northern Territory anyway because of the presence of saltwater crocodiles (some places are OK, but get very reliable local information before risking going near the water), so beach vacations here are a no-no. Instead, head to the fabulous national parks of the Top End, such as Kakadu or Litchfield.
May is also a good time to head to the outback, whether in Queensland, South Australia, or the Northern Territory. Although temperatures can still get hot in the day, you might actually be surprised by how cool the nights are out in the desert. Uluru and Alice Springs are comfortable in May.
What to Do
May is a good time for an longer road trip in Australia, either cross-country if you have the time and stamina, or a shorter section such as Adelaide to Perth, Adelaide to Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, Melbourne to Sydney, Sydney to Brisbane, or to Uluru.
While sea swimming is off the agenda in May because the temperatures in the south are too cool, and there are still deadly jellyfish in the sea further north, that doesn't have to stop you enjoying walks on the beach. The long coastline of New South Wales is especially beautiful.
The museums, art galleries, restaurants, and other indoor attractions of the big cities aren't dependent on the weather, so May is a good time for city sightseeing in Australia.
Traveling to Australia in May? Check out these great itineraries
Queensland Outback - 11 Days. This trip explores a remote area of Australia for an adventure rarely experienced by the average traveler.
Gold Coast and Byron Bay - 7 Days. Enjoy the sun, surf, and sand on this week-long tour of Australia's famous Gold Coast and Byron Bay.