Located on the east coast of Australia in New South Wales Sydney has a sunny, subtropical climate. Summers here are hot while winters are temperate and rarely, if ever, see cold temperatures.
Sydney’s climate is largely dictated by its coastal position and the warm seas that surround it. This means that temperatures rarely ever drop, as they can in other parts of the country. Additionally, the scorching temperatures for which the inland deserts are famous for remain absent in Sydney due to the cooling sea breezes, while rainfall is much higher and more frequent. Different parts of Sydney see slightly different weather patterns, for example, coastal regions are generally cooler and wetter while the more inland suburbs are dryer on average and see more extremes in temperature at both ends of the scale.
Rainfall can happen year-round in Sydney, although winter and spring are slightly dryer than summer and autumn. Rain usually falls in sudden but short storms which are often localised, meaning one part of the city is dry while another is very wet.
The seasonal tendencies described here reflect the yearly averages, but climate is complex and weather can vary year-to-year and minute-to-minute. Remember, Sydney is in the southern hemisphere so the seasons are reversed.
Sunset over the Sydney Skyline
Summer (December to February)
In general, summers in Sydney are hot and sunny but with high rainfall. Average daily highs during summer are a very agreeable 26°C, while night-time temperatures don’t fall below the high teens, even in December. This is the time to hit the beach and bask in the glorious weather for which Australia has become famous. Summer days in Sydney generally enjoy an average of between 8 and 9 sunshine hours a day. The sun in summer can be extremely strong, so take good care to protect yourself with a hat and sun cream and don’t spend too long in the sun, especially in the middle of the day. Although most days will see pleasant temperatures in the high 20s, there are days when the sea breeze fails and mercury soars up to the high 30s and even beyond. Temperatures have been known to reach the 40s, and even higher temperatures have been known in the outer suburbs of the city.
In Sydney, summer storms with heavy rainfall are not infrequent, in fact Sydney averages about 30 such storms per year. They are mostly brief though, and the sun soon shines again. These storms are what account for most of the 126-130mm average rainfall you get in January and February. If you’re visiting Sydney in summer, beware that storms in the summer sometimes drop hail. The stones fall a couple of times each summer and can be very large (hailstones measuring up to 7cm have been recorded!).
In summer, Sydney can go for long periods without rainfall before getting a soaking. This can result in flash floods. The other phenomenon that arises from these long, dry and hot periods is bush fires, which occur frequently in the areas surrounding the city. Strong sea breezes coupled with the arid bush provide the perfect conditions for these destructive blazes to spread. Water supply is a constant concern for the city during drought periods.
Sydney Harbour bridge, Australia.
Autumn (March to May)
After the sometimes sweltering conditions of summer in Sydney, autumn enjoys pleasant temperatures in the city. March is only slightly cooler than the peak summer months at an average of 22°C, while April and May still enjoy average daily highs in the low 20s. Although day time temperatures are very agreeable, evenings do start to get a little cool in Sydney. May can see night time temperatures falling towards 12°C.
Autumn is, on average, the wettest time of the year in Sydney with an average rainfall of 164mm and 15 wet days in March. As with the rest of the year, heavy storms account for most of the rainfall. There can also be long periods of time without any rain.
Winter (June to August)
Beginning in June, winters in Sydney can generally be said to be mild and fairly dry. Sunny winter days can in fact be very pleasant and warm enough even for the beach. In fact, the water temperature does not fall below 18°C so you could even go for a swim. Average daily temperatures are at their lowest in July, but even then are at 13°C, while temperatures touching 20°C on a good winter’s day are not uncommon. Night time temperatures can become quite chilly in Sydney in winter, averaging 8°C in July and 9°C in August, but they have been known to drop lower, below 4°C. While the coastal and central city areas don’t see freezing temperatures, the suburbs a few kilometres inland can experience colder weather, with occasional frosts and sub-zero conditions. These are rare events though.
Winter is the driest time of year in Sydney, with just 56mm of rainfall in July, though downpours are still possible. You won’t see snow in the city, but the nearby Blue Mountains do receive a dusting most winters.
Sydney Bridge and Opera House
Spring (September to November)
Spring is a time of great weather in Sydney and a popular time to visit the city. The weather is relatively dry and temperatures are quickly increasing towards summer. Daytime highs rise into the 20s for the entire season with high temperatures of 24°C in November. The nights quickly warm too and by mid-spring, low temperatures usually remain above the mid-teens all of the time. The slightly cooler temperatures compared with summer time make it good for getting about in the city especially if you want to cram in a lot of sightseeing.
Along with an increase in temperature, sunshine levels are consistently high in the spring, with an average of 9 hours each month. Rainfall is not too high, with just 65mm and 88mm of precipitation in September and October respectively. Again most of this rainfall is accounted for by brief but heavy storms.