Weather & seasons in the Northern Territory
While much of Australia shivers through the winter months of June-July, in the NT the sun is shining and the great outdoors beckon.
During Australia’s summer months, tropical storms fill the waterfalls in the Top End, and wildlife is at its most active. In the Red Centre, waterholes are ready to reward you with a refreshing dip.
Even throughout the colder months, the Top End remains welcoming and warm, while the Red Centre greets you with sunny skies and perfect weather for exploring.
Choosing the best time to visit the NT
The Northern Territory stretches so far from north to south — approximately 1600km from top to bottom — that it covers two distinct climate areas.
There’s the warm, tropical Top End and the dry, semi-arid Red Centre.
The Top End, which includes Darwin, Katherine, Kakadu and Arnhem Land, has a tropical climate with two seasons: the Dry and the Wet. Each season lasts for about six months.
The Red Centre, including Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and the Uluru region, has a semi-arid climate. There are four seasons: summer, autumn, winter and spring. Temperatures can climb during summer and winter nights can be frosty.
Choosing when to visit the Northern Territory will depend on where you want to go and the activities you want to do. Read on to plan for the best time to visit the NT.
It’s important to remember that no matter what time of year it is, to always keep hydrated, wear a hat, be sun smart and dress to the conditions.
Top End weather
The dry season in the Top End runs from May to October. Temperatures range from 21°C to 32°C (70°F to 90°F) – these are similar to the wet season but with lower humidity of around 20 to 35% and there’s little to no rain. The days are sunny and the nights are mild. Locals know it’s the Dry when the dragonflies come out to play.
Many travellers find this time of year the most comfortable, as the moderate temperatures make activities such as bushwalking, hiking, camping and cycling ideal, and most areas can be easily accessed.
It’s during the Dry that the Top End buzzes with events that take advantage of the great weather. Some of our favourites include Darwin Festival, Barunga Festival and the V8 Supercars. Watch a movie under the stars from April to November at the Deckchair Cinema or visit the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Markets that run from April to October each year.
The Wet/Tropical Summer
The wet season, also known as the Top End’s tropical summer, stretches from November to April. The yearly average is 1570mm (62”). Temperatures during this period usually range from 25°C to 33°C (77°F to 91°F) and humidity can reach higher than 80%.
As we head towards the year’s end, tropical cyclones, monsoonal rains and storms allow you to sit back and marvel at nature putting on a show like nothing else on earth. At sunset, the sky lights up with a magnificent display of purple, pink, blue and orange hues. When it rains, watch the clouds bank up on the horizon and lightning strikes electrify the skies.
During the Wet, access to some attractions in remote parts of the Top End may be closed due to flooding, but there are still harbour cruises, ferries, and scenic plane and helicopter flights available at any time of year. It’s a good idea to check road conditions before exploring remote areas or national parks.
Many locals and experienced travellers believe the Wet is the best time to visit because it’s when the land truly comes alive. With suitable travel arrangements and advice from those who know the terrain, you’ll encounter a land of lush beauty and impressive storm activity.
Red Centre weather
There are four distinct seasons in the Red Centre:
- Summer: (December–February). Average temperatures range between 20°C and 35°C (68°F and 95°F). January is the wettest month with around 40mm of rainfall, however the climate is considered dry and arid for most of the year.
- Autumn: (March–May). Is considered one of the best times to visit Alice Springs, with warm days and cool nights. Average temperatures range from 12–27°C (54–81°F).
- Winter: (June–August). The average temperature range is 3–20°C (37–68°F). Temperatures can drop below freezing overnight in winter, sometimes leaving a thick frost on the ground like a carpet of snow.
- Spring: (September–November). Spring starts to defrost and warm things up again with average temperatures between 13–31°C (57–87°F). Spring can also bring spectacular thunderstorms and cool evenings.
When you venture outdoors, ensure you have appropriate clothing and carry enough water. If you’re spending the night under the stars in the cooler months, make sure you have warm clothes (think thick jackets and beanies) and adequate camping equipment.
Weather by region
Darwin, the tropical capital of the Northern Territory, experiences the typical Wet (November–April) and Dry (May–October) seasons of the Top End.
During the dry season, you’ll be welcomed by blue skies daily with temperatures sitting comfortably between 20°C and 33°C (68°F and 91°F). You may get the odd cooler night (by local standards) during June and July when temperatures can drop to 16°C (60°F). Residents relish this chance to pull out their jumpers – a rare occurrence here in the Top End.
When the wet season rolls around you’ll feel it first as the humidity starts to set in, and the minimum temperature rises. During the Wet in Darwin you’ll experience a minimum of 25°C (77°F) overnight, whilst the maximum remains similar to the Dry at 33°C (91°F), but the humidity rises to 80%. Don’t worry though, afternoon rains usually come through and cool things down, especially in January with the average rainfall sitting at 429mm (17 inches).
Alice Springs weather
The desert climate of Alice Springs makes travel possible all year round, though you need to be prepared for spikes and dips in temperature.
In summer, the thermometer can push into the high thirties (86°F) and in winter it dips below freezing on cool nights.
If you’re travelling in winter or summer, keep an eye on the short-term forecast so you’re prepared for changes of temperature and conditions.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has a desert climate, which means clear skies, low average rainfall, high temperatures in summer and cool nights in winter.
You can visit Uluru any time of the year. Plan ahead in summer, when high temperatures can mean that walks close early in the day. The average peak for January is 38°C (101°F) and the record high is 45.4°C (115.5°F). In winter the thermometer can dip below freezing at night.
Uluru’s desert climate means clear skies for most of the year and low average rainfall. Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) are stunning at sunrise and sunset, and there are special viewing platforms for visitors to get photos.
Kakadu National Park, a world heritage-listed area 253km east of Darwin, experiences the same wet and dry seasons as the rest of the Top End.
May to October is cooler and drier and considered the best time to travel here. From November to April is when rains roll across the Top End, replenishing waterfalls and filling waterholes to the brim.
While many areas of Kakadu are closed in the Wet due to flooding, seeing it in all its glory is a special treat. It’s the perfect time to take a helicopter or light plane flight over Kakadu’s waterfalls, which are in full flow, and the stone country and escarpments.
Katherine is located 300km south of Darwin on the banks of the Katherine River, and experiences the high temperatures and the occasional tropical storms of the Top End during the Wet.
The humidity rises during the build-up to the Wet. The arrival of spectacular thunderstorms transforms the landscape into endless lush greenery, and fills the creeks and rivers with fish – a bounty reaped by the traditional owners.
One of the most spectacular sights outside of Katherine is Nitmiluk Gorge, which you can witness in full flow at the end of the wet season.
Arnhem Land weather
Arnhem Land experiences the dry and wet seasons of the rest of the Top End.
This means heavy rains during the Wet – November to April – and very little during the Dry (May to October).
Temperatures don’t change greatly between the seasons. The average ranges from the low thirties (mid 80’s °F) in the day, low twenties during the night (high 60’s °F). The humidity climbs as monsoonal storms roll across the Top End from December onward.
Tennant Creek weather
Tennant Creek is located 1,000km south of Darwin and 500km north of Alice Springs. It has a warm desert climate and shares the traditional four seasons of the rest of the Red Centre. It’s dry with clear skies most of the year, temperatures are high in summer and fall in the middle of the year, with sunny days and mild nights. Expect some rainfall in the summer months between December to March.
When’s the best time to visit the NT?
Best time to visit Darwin
With Darwin being the capital of the Northern Territory, you’ll always find it buzzing and full of things to see and do.
To have the most comfortable trip, the dry season between May to October is going to be the best time for you. You’ll also find most of our famous events such as the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets and Darwin Festival happen during this time.
While most visitors come during dry season, don’t let the Wet deter you. You’ll experience Darwin at it’s most tropical with the lush greenery and amazing afternoon storms. Plus, if you do need to cool down, it’s more likely you'll be able to nab a sun lounger at Infinity in Mindil Beach Casino Resort.
Best time to visit Alice Springs
Alice Springs is prone to temperature spikes in summer and dips in winter. Prepare well and you’ll enjoy your visit to this iconic Australian outback town.
If you’re sensitive to extremes, the best times to visit are April to September. Spring and autumn provide a nice balance between the hot and the cold.
The moderate temperatures in spring and autumn mean you can stay outdoors longer. Evenings are mild and perfect for enjoying Alice’s lively dining and entertainment scene.
If it’s swimming you’re more interested in, summer is the best time for visiting the natural waterholes on the outskirts of Alice Springs.
Best time to visit Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park is one of the most beautiful areas near Darwin in the Top End. The cooler weather is to be had during the dry season, which runs from May to October. Although some locals believe the shoulder month of April is the ultimate time for a camping experience without the crowds of the peak season.
Litchfield is open all year. If you visit in the Wet, you’ll enjoy the waterfalls at their most spectacular.
It’s worth remembering that during the Wet, some areas of the park may be closed due to flooding.
Best time to visit Uluru National Park
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is part of Central Australia where the thermometer spikes in summer and dips in winter. You can visit any time of year, just wear appropriate clothing and sun protection, and always keep water on hand.
The best times to visit for comfortable weather are the autumn and spring months. Temperatures are moderate and the climate is dry.
Experts believe the best time to get a great photograph of Uluru is spring (September – November), when the light falls beautifully on this breathtaking 348m (1,142 ft) sandstone formation.
Best time to visit Kakadu National Park
The perfect time to visit Australia’s largest national park and take in its extraordinary biodiversity, its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage is from June to August. The days are sunny (average temperature is around 30°C), there’s little chance of rain and humidity is low. Often a south-easterly breeze will freshen up the day.
If you arrive a little earlier (April to June) you’ll experience the astonishing beauty of the Wet without weather concerns. The waterfalls will still be pumping and filling up Kakadu’s stunning array of waterholes. Wildlife will be active and crowds will be smaller.
Things quieten down considerably during the wet season (October to April) but that doesn’t mean Kakadu is off-limits. Many of the rock art sites remain accessible even in the Wet.
Best time to visit Arnhem Land
Located in the Top End, Arnhem Land experiences the wet and dry seasons, but it is beautiful all year round.
To ensure you experience everything Arnhem Land has to offer, we recommend visiting during the Dry (May – October). Whilst you’ll see the land come alive during the Wet, there’s a chance that roads and tours can close due to flooding, and we wouldn't want you to miss out.
Best time to visit Tennant Creek
Being located in the middle of the Territory, it’s likely you’ll spend a night in Tennant Creek if you’re travelling by car or camper. The weather here follows the four seasons but you should still expect sunny blue skies most of the year. Perfect for your visit to the beautiful Karlu Karlu (The Devils Marbles) which are located just one hour south.
Late Autumn (May) and early Spring (September) is your best bet for a comfortable journey with daily temperatures between 18–30°C. Being a desert climate, it can get cool overnight so we recommend you pack a jumper just in case.