‘Beautiful one day, perfect the next’ used to be its advertising slogan but just like anywhere else in the world, North Queensland has some days that are better than others. It has a tropical climate which means it has two seasons – the hot season and the dry season.
Australia is mostly a desert continent with dry arid conditions and occasionally extreme temperatures in the summer.
However, North Queensland’s tropical climate means we have fairly consistent temperatures with warm sunny weather all year round (25-32°C). However, it is the level of humidity that fluctuates.
The two seasons are characterised as follows:
1. Wet Season
The summer months between November and April are very humid. From November onwards the humidity starts to really ramp up and everyone takes refuge in swimming pools or in the air-conditioning.
Some people love the humidity; some people loathe it.
If your intention is to spend most of your time diving out on the reef it won’t make any difference to your time. However, the heat and humidity can limit your activities on land if you don’t enjoy feeling like you’re in a steam bath!
Due to the presence of the monsoonal trough we also experience torrential rain during this time too. These downpours can last for days or even weeks.
It doesn’t rain all the time during the wet season but at some point there may be a sustained period of heavy downpours. In the last few years the rains have generally come sometime between January-March. These months have the highest average rainfall.
The wet season is also the cyclone season.
While we don’t have cyclones every year, international travellers should be aware that there is a chance of a cyclone occurring anytime between November-April and plan accordingly.
The last one in NQ was in Cyclone Yasi in 2011, which caused severe damage in the Tully/Innisfail area between Cairns and Townsville.
When cyclones happen they tend to be further north but sometimes they can slip down as far south as Mackay and the Whitsundays.
While there is a greater risk of encountering torrential rain and cyclones in North Queensland between January-March, there are still plenty of visitors who come in those months and have a great time. In some ways the wet season is the best time to see the rainforest buzzing with life. It is also the best time to see the waterfalls.
2. Dry Season
The winter months between May-October are cooler and less humid.
The weather at this time of year is very pleasant for travelling around the region. The high season for tourists is June-August. Daytime temperatures are still nice and warm (around 25-29°) but it does get cooler at night so bring extra layers for the evening.
For divers, water temperatures are cooler in the dry season and sometimes visitors are surprised to find that it can be quite cool out on the reef at this time of year. It’s a good idea to bring warm clothes to wear on the boat between dives.
We also tend to get more offshore winds in the dry season so the ocean can be a bit rougher (ie. bring your sea sickness pills if you’re not a big fan of choppy water).
Overall, the best time of year to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef is October-December. These are probably the optimum months because the weather is warming up, the ocean is calmer and visibility is good.