May is the end of autumn in Australia, and that means cooler 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 north Queensland, for example, get a fraction of the rainfall 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 & Costs
May is the beginning of the peak season in northern Australia, and popular destinations like Cairns, Airlie Beach, and the Whitsundays expect peak season prices and availability. Australians from further south also like to travel to these warmer places, so you can expect to see domestic and 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 this month, but booking long-distance travel (such as flights) is still a good idea.
Where to Go
The conditions in northern Australia are generally great in May. 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 this month, a better option is the Northern Territory. It's always risky swimming in the sea here anyway because of the presence of saltwater crocodiles (some places are OK, but get reliable local information before risking going near the water), so beach vacations here are a no-no. Instead, head to the national parks of the Top End, such as Kakadu or Litchfield.
May is an excellent time to head to the outback in Queensland, South Australia, or the Northern Territory. Although temperatures can still get hot during the day, you might be surprised by how cool the nights are in the desert. Uluru and Alice Springs are comfortable in May.
What to Do
May is a good time for a more extended road trip in Australia, 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 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 from enjoying walks on the beach. The long coastline of New South Wales is stunning.
The museums, art galleries, restaurants, and other indoor attractions of the big cities aren't dependent on the weather, so May is a great 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.