Australia is an enormous country with huge climatic variation, but summer tends to be warm or hot wherever you go. While popular cities like Sydney and Melbourne see average high temperatures of around 78°F (25°C), it's not unusual for them to experience heatwaves with temperatures of more than 100°F (37°C). Coastal locales are also much more humid than inland ones, making relatively lower temperatures feel more uncomfortable.
Southern cities like Melbourne and Adelaide can get very hot, and inland Victoria and South Australia have broken heat records. But the southern island of Tasmania, Australia's only island state, is significantly cooler in summer—though it does get hot and has suffered from devastating bush fires in recent years. The average January high in Hobart, Tasmania's capital, is 70°F (21°C).
Summer can be a dangerously hot time to be in the desert. Inland towns tend to be much hotter than coastal ones, with some of the earth's hottest recorded temperatures occurring here in the summer. For example, the opal mining town of Coober Pedy in South Australia has underground housing to help beat temperatures that regularly reach 107°F (46°C) in January. The further north you go, the wetter it's likely to be. Although more southern cities like Sydney and Melbourne can experience rain in the summer, their wetter seasons are autumn and winter. But in January, Australia's most northern city, Darwin, is very wet, as is Northern Queensland.
Crowds & Costs
Now is a popular time for international travelers to visit Australia because, for many from the Northern Hemisphere, Australia in January means escaping a cold winter. Australians also tend to vacation in January, especially earlier in the month, as the summer school holidays run from mid-December to late January. Expect beaches in many popular areas, particularly along the New South Wales coast, to be at their busiest. Sydney beaches (such as Bondi, Cronulla, and ) can get pretty crowded, but that's not the case everywhere.
Domestic airfares are also more expensive this month or must be booked well in advance if you're on a limited budget. Accommodation around the New Year period should also be booked far ahead.
Where to Go
If you're traveling to Australia in January, it's best to stick to the coastline of New South Wales (including Sydney) and Victoria (including Melbourne) or cross the Bass Strait to Tasmania. These places can experience very high temperatures, but there will be more ways to find relief and plenty of fun activities in mid-summer.
If you want to venture to northern areas this month, be aware that you won't be able to swim in the sea in many places because of the presence of deadly box jellyfish. They linger from November to May in north Queensland and northern Western Australia. Other nasty but slightly less deadly jellyfish are also present.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
January is a great time to be in Australia if you love water sports or lazing on a beach. City beaches in Sydney (Bondi, Manly) and Melbourne (St. Kilda) are convenient if you're staying in the city as they're just steps from big-city facilities yet have clean waters and sands. New South Wales and Victoria have a long and beautiful coastline, so if you'd prefer a more remote or small-town beach destination, there are many options.
Aside from beaches, outdoor lovers can enjoy hiking or gentle sightseeing in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, the highlands of inland New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory/Canberra, and Tasmania. You don't have to go far off the beaten path to spot famous Australian wildlife like kangaroos—it's not uncommon to see them lounging on the lawn of a house in Australia's bush capital, Canberra. For rugged, long-distance trekking, you can't beat Tasmania. Almost half of the island is a protected national park or reserve land.
And, of course, if you want to enjoy big-city attractions with a bit of air conditioning, the museums, galleries, shops and restaurants, theme parks, zoos, and aquariums of Australia's cities are top-notch.
Events in January
Country Music Festival, Tamworth. The Country Music Festival in rural New South Wales is a good reason for music fans to head inland in January.
Sydney Festival. The Sydney Festival offers arts, music, theater, dance, and other attractions, early in the month.
Australia Day, nationwide. The country's national holiday is held on January 26, commemorating the beginning of European settlement in Australia in 1788. In recent years it's become a day for Indigenous Australians and their allies to highlight the injustices and inequalities they continue to face, and it has been unofficially renamed Invasion Day. You're likely to see Invasion Day events and rallies in cities like Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.
Traveling to Australia in January? Check out these great itineraries
Best of Eastern Australia: Sydney, Cairns, Gold Coast, and Melbourne - 10 Days. Discover four cities along the coast of eastern Australia, along with several scenic day trips.
Self-Drive Tour: Melbourne, Healsville, Blue Mountains, Sydney, and More - 14 Days. On this self-drive journey through Australia, visit two major cities and plenty of scenic stops in between.