A land for all seasons

Whatever the weather, there are always reasons to fly over to down under
Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Thanks to its size and climatic variety, Australia is truly a year-round destination. The southern hemisphere seasons are the opposite of our own. Right now the southern part of the mainland is emerging from spring into early summer. In January, Tasmania will be at its best, and by March the leaves in Victoria and New South Wales will be turning. The higher altitudes in those states can expect good snow cover in July, yet midwinter is also the optimum time to visit the tropical north. The ideal way to travel to Australia depends on the season, too, and this guide prescribes the best options for "our" seasons.

Thanks to its size and climatic variety, Australia is truly a year-round destination. The southern hemisphere seasons are the opposite of our own. Right now the southern part of the mainland is emerging from spring into early summer. In January, Tasmania will be at its best, and by March the leaves in Victoria and New South Wales will be turning. The higher altitudes in those states can expect good snow cover in July, yet midwinter is also the optimum time to visit the tropical north. The ideal way to travel to Australia depends on the season, too, and this guide prescribes the best options for "our" seasons.

SPRING

Queensland's "wet" season is over by the end of March, and for divers the water clarity on the Great Barrier Reef tends to be at its best between April and October. Visit before our summer holidays begin and you'll find things less crowded. The other good news is that mid-April to mid-June is traditionally the cheapest time to fly from the UK to Australia. The airlines tend to be over-optimistic when they first set their fares for this period and then start to panic when they see few seats being sold. Consequently expect to see an abundance of special offers between now and then - it shouldn't be hard to find flights for around £600.

For instance, Japan Airlines' normal fare between Heathrow and Cairns through Travelbag (0870 814 6544; www.travelbag.co.uk) is £869 for flights departing in April and May: however, book and pay for your flights by close of business on Monday (15 November) and the same flights cost just £594. As the flights don't connect on the way home these fares allow a stopover in Tokyo: you are given a free night at an airport hotel (but you won't get this if you choose to stay longer). Travelbag sells the same flight as part of a 10-night package staying at the Lakes Cairns Resort and Spa in Cairns for £1,145.

SUMMER

The Northern Territory comprises the Red Centre (which includes Alice Springs and such red rock natural wonders as Ayers Rock, the Olgas and Kings Canyon), and the tropical Top End, home to Darwin and wonderful National Parks such as Litchfield, Nitmiluk (for Katherine Gorge) and Kakadu. The region is also one of the best in Australia to see ancient Aboriginal art. A noteworthy Red Centre festival is the Voyages Camel Cup Carnival (00 61 8 8952 3040; www.camelcup.com.au) to be held in Alice Springs on 9 July 2005.

Few international airlines fly into Darwin; a good option with reasonable rates is Royal Brunei. Fares permit a stopover in the Sultanate (a fragment of Borneo), where you can expect warm and wet weather year-round. Quest Travel (0870 442 3542; www.questtravel.com) offers flights to Darwin via Brunei's capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, from £879 departing 15 June-14 August 2005.

The same company can arrange a two-week trip incorporating Darwin, Kakadu National Park, Port Essington, the Coburg Peninsula and a two-day tour to Bathurst Island, home of the aboriginal Tiwi people, for £1,983. This price includes all flights, two nights' hotel accommodation in Brunei, four in Darwin, transport and camping (with meals).

AUTUMN

Western Australia's amazing spring wildflowers are in bloom during our autumn. The state's broad climate range hosts more than 12,000 species of flower, which are at their best in September and October. Each September Perth's Kings Park hosts a wildflower festival (00 61 8 9480 3600; www.kpbg.wa.gov.au).

In the southwest of the state, the town of Margaret River is a great base from which to visit magnificent forests, dramatic coastline, spectacular caves, world-class wineries and stunning natural floral displays.

WINTER

During our winter (the Australian summer) head for the southern states. This is a great time to enjoy the delights of Sydney and the beaches, vineyards and mountain scenery of New South Wales. Two important events for your diary: the Sydney Festival (00 61 2 8248 6500; www.sydneyfestival.org.au) takes place in the city between 8 and 30 January 2005, and Australia Day is 26 January.

Avoid the two weeks preceding Christmas Eve when fares soar. And bear in mind that there's a bottleneck for flights back from Australia in the first 10 days of January. Delay your departure from the UK until January and Austravel (0870 166 2070; www.austravel.com) can offer you return flights from London to Sydney on Austrian Airlines via Vienna for £799. For not much more than this, you can go around the world, picking almost anywhere you wish as stopovers. For example you could combine Bangkok outbound with Disneyland in California coming home. Austravel can fix a trip departing between 15 January and 19 April 2005 for £1,439 including accommodation.

Comments