If you’re planning on backpacking Australia, this packing list will help you plan what to wear. Most backpackers head for the beach experience on the East Coast route while other travelers may prefer to focus on the outback. Please keep in mind that the country is massive so areas vary and your activities will also affect your packing choices.
I spent 3 weeks traveling Australia’s east coast during my Round the World trip in 2010. A few of my highlights included Sydney, the Whitsundays, and Fraser Island. Your transportation and activities are easy to book upon arrival using one of the many travel agencies around. I highly recommend Peter Pan travel agency as they provide helpful service and great prices.
The east coast can be kind of a party route so a few must have essentials for me on this summer time backpacking trip were jeans, cute going out sandals, and a party dress. With all the flashpacker hostels available, many of them even have straighteners and blow dryers you can use (for a fee).
Since I was only there for a few weeks, several local girls have offered up some helpful tips about what to wear when backpacking Australia!
What to Wear when Backpacking Australia
Australia is split into six states and two major mainland territories – Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania – each one as unique and varied as the next. To bring you the most accurate information possible, our Australia lovers, locals and travelers, have assisted in providing awesome tips to help us create a reliable packing list for travel to Australia:
- Donna Peterson has lived in Australia for a year and a half on assignment; she loves to travel and is a self-confessed cyclist and scuba diver fanatic, the elements Donna loves about Australia are the native wildlife and incredible landscapes that are ‘like nowhere else in the world.’
- Diane Lee is a resident Aussie, living in the country for all her life firstly in rural South Australia before moving to the city of Adelaide (capital of South Australia) in her early twenties. She is a solo traveller who, in her own words, had been well and truly bitten by the travel bug. Check out Diane’s blog – featuring beautiful and vibrant photography from the various places she has visited.
- Laura is originally from California however for the past seven years has called the Gold Coast of Australia home. She loves the task of planning what to wear for a trip and makes sure to pack stylish and colorful garments so when she looks back on travel photos she fondly remembers both the tourist sights and the outfits.
- Julia is a Russian born Canadian who in 2012 decided to leave Canada and travel the world with her husband. She has since lived in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, USA, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and now Japan. Whilst in Australia she travelled throughout all the provinces, apart from Western territories, for five months, check out her blog at Board Thirteen which she created so her family and friends could keep up with her travels and maybe not miss her as much. She hopes her posts ‘will inspire other people to travel around the world.’
Thank you for your valuable insight guys!
Australian Clothing Style
Australia has a distinctive fashion style – it is fairly casual, think t-shirts, shorts and thongs (flip flops), expressive of the countries strong beach culture. Larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne tend to be more stylish and fashion conscious, dressing for dinner is usually expected.
In the Gold Coast Laura describes the style as ‘Las Vegas-meets-Miami’ anything goes regarding fashion, the weather is warm and there is a strong beach culture and party attitude.
Stick to casual clothing such as jeans/shorts, flats, cute tees, and a tailored trench coat, however throw in your favourite party dress, blazer and heels (your call, flats are totally acceptable) if you plan on eating out in fancy places or hitting the cool Australian party scene.
The best advice when packing for Australia would be to dress for the climate, the weather can get insanely hot and the air is humid, people understand if you can’t be bothered to get jazzed up in your finest clothes all of the time.
Worth a note: you’re guaranteed to stick out as a tourist (not that it’s a big deal) if you wear baggy shorts, oversized tees, running shoes, a baseball hat and traditional khaki travel pants.
Also, Uggs are mainly worn inside as house shoes, not as a fashion statement! Uggs is the type of shoe that you wear during the cold months of the season, it is also the name of the company that sells them. You don’t have to buy from the companies called UGGs – there are plenty of affordable options that are still originals. While in Australia you will find a lot of stores selling uggs, remember if the price is cheap it usually affects the quality.
- One of the main travel essentials for Australia would be SUN SCREEN! The country has some of strongest sun rays in the world and regular application is essential, as well as sun cream pack your favourite sunnies and a broad- brimmed hat to combat the suns glare.
- Good walking shoes/ hiking boots are a must, Australia is infamous for its outdoor activities, hikes and bush walks are more than likely going to be included in your itinerary and you’ll not want to miss out, the country is home to some of the deadliest creatures, including spiders and snakes, so appropriate shoes for your exploring plans are essentials.
- A colorful swimsuit, sarong, maxi dress (effortlessly glamorous vibe that fits in well in Australia) and flip flops are a definite if you plan on spending time discovering the country’s beautiful beaches, according to Laura you’ll be able to pick up the best swimwear and cover ups in Australia, so maybe treat yourself and pick one up whilst travelling.
- Don’t forget some insect repellent for those annoying little critters; however it’s easy enough to pick up over there if you don’t fancy stocking up beforehand.
- A good tip would be to take some chic workout gear, the locals Aussies are active people -regularly outdoors walking, jogging and biking, taking in the beautiful scenery and beaches and enjoying the gorgeous climate, you’ll fit right in if you love to be active and keep fit.
- Finally pack a strong umbrella and lightweight waterproof hooded jacket, be prepared though, you might end up wrestling with your brolly in the strong winds.
Worth a note: Stock up on Australian dollars when venturing out, lots of eateries still only take cash.
Unfortunately, stores in Australia can be quite pricey, be prepared for constant sticker shock. If you’ve forgotten an item check out a local Target, K-Mart of Big W, these are good budget friendly stores for picking up forgotten accessories, beauty items, clothes and shoes.
If you fancy updating your holiday wardrobe and want to spend a little more check out –
- Sportsgirl – The brand is a leader in the Australian fashion industry, Sportsgirl is a younger, more fun alternative to the more conservative sister label Sportscraft.
- Witchery – One of Australia’s most talked about fashion brands, Witchery is relied on to provide quality basic pieces and on trend looks, the brand offers women’s apparel, shoes, accessories, eyewear, underwear and beachwear, Witchery has 80 concept stores strategically positioned in key locations around Australia.
- Country Road – The brand is passionate about creating ‘beautiful merchandise designed to reflect an authentically Australian way of life,’ they combine design trends with fine tailoring and attention to detail, Country Road stands for ‘natural simplicity with a relaxed, spontaneous style.’ The brand produces women’s and men’s clothing, footwear and accessories, children’s clothing and home wares.
I you’re a bargain hunter you’re guaranteed to find some unique gems at local thrift stores such as Salvos and Goodwill.
Topshop Stripe Skater Dress / Topshop Pinafore Dress / Topshop Sheer Sweater / Mango Chain Top / Modcloth Time to Prioritize Tee / Modcloth Rain Dots Keep Falling Raincoat / Modcloth Duck Duck Umbrella / Dolce Vita Piazza Tour Sandal in Black / Mango Embroidered Blouse / Mango Slim Jeans / Miss Selfridge Leather Studded Biker / Topshop Acid Wash Skater Skirt / Nasty Gal Cutout Combat Boot / Nasty Gal Shine Up Shades / Modcloth Lace Flats
What to Wear when Backpacking Australia in Spring
Donna Says: Spring can be beautiful, but highly unpredictable. Northern Australia can be hot and humid already, while southern Australia can still be windy, rainy, and cool, with nice days throughout. Be prepared for the biggest range of weather during the Spring- layers, people!
Australia Packing List:
Spring in Australia lasts between the months of September and November, it is a season of generally nice weather however be prepared for wind and rain when the wet season begins in October affecting the northern areas of the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, the weather in the north will be significantly warmer, cooling as you travel south.
Seen as though spring is considered the wet season, pack according to this with items such as natural colored jersey t-shirts, a pair of jeans or capris, a thin knit sweater and a printed spring rain coat with hood – think warm and cosy to light and airy. If you prefer something a bit more feminine and girly opt for a simple skater dress and boho skirt. The best advice for spring would be to layer; clothes can be added and removed depending on what the weather brings.
Don’t forget a pretty maxi dress, colorful swimsuits and sunnies and sunhat if you’re planning on visiting one of the country’s tropic areas or fabulous beaches. However maybe hold off until late spring to hit the beaches in the southern states.
For shoes, consider a chic pair of boots or brogues due to the impulsiveness of the climate, pack a pair of pastel leather sandals and a trusty pair of flip flops for when the weather starts to pick up or if you’re planning a trip to the beach.
Topshop Southwest Stripe Dress / MINKPINK Kimono Cape / Topshop Giraffe Print Skater Skirt / Miss Selfridge Paisley Maxi Dress / Miss Selfridge High Waist Shorts / Mango Tank Top / Mango Ribbed Tank Top / Mango Baby Doll Dress / Mango Embroidered T-Shirt / Forever 21 Crisscross Bandeau Top / Forever 21 Cutout Bikini Bottom / Nasty Gal Candy Coated Sneakers / Nasty Gal Silverton Flats / Nasty Gal Prowl Shades / ROXY Rio Sandals / Modcloth Vineyard Hat
What to Wear when Backpacking Australia in Summer
Diane Says: Mild to Hot! Anywhere between 25 and 45 degrees!
Australia Packing List:
Summer in Australia runs from December to February, the weather is HOT in most of the country with average maximum temperatures exceeding 30°C, be prepared for frequent heat waves and periods of drought. The weather differs throughout the country, ranging from unbearable hot in the north and desert regions to lovely and mild in South Australia and Tasmania, generally it gets warmer as you travel north and cooler as you head south, the wet season will still be present in the north, so be prepared for tropical rain.
Summer is the season of fun and festivities (and Christmas, which just seems crazy), hit up a festival such as The Sydney Festival, held from around the second week in Jan, and celebrate the local art and culture. Summer is peak of the beach season, so take advantage and head to the beautiful coast, or pay a visit to one of the nearby islands, such as those along the Great Barrier Reef.
Take advantage of the beautiful summer weather by packing accordingly; opt for a pair of shorts, neutral singlets (tank tops), printed camis and tunics, your favorite maxi dress, boho skirts and a pretty sundress to complete you travel wardrobe, the north can get very humid so lightweight fabric is key, think cottons and silks that are light and breathable and will absorb sweat and release body heat.
In South Australia and Tasmania the weather can drop cool at night so pack a light jacket or printed kimono, a pair of Capri or palazzo trousers and some closed toe leather sandals.
Don’t forget to pack a printed bikini or swimsuit, flip-flops, your favourite sunnies and a floppy sun hat, summer is the best time to explore the country’s beautiful beaches ideal for relaxing, boating and water sports. Don’t forget high SPF sunscreen!! Australia’s sun rays are some of the harshest in the world.
Topshop Florence Print Dress / Topshop Crop Sweater / Mango Asymmetric Cardigan / Mango Printed Sheer Blouse / Mango Denim Jacket / Mango Tie-Dye Skirt / Mango Aviator Sunglasses / Mango Embroidered T-Shirt / French Connection Dotty Shirt / French Connection Indigo Leggings / Miss Selfridge Boyfriend Jeans / Nasty Gal Slip On Sneaker / Nasty Gal Missing Oxford Shoe / Modcloth Prairie Grass Sandals / Modcloth Boho Scarf
What to Wear when Backpacking Australia in Autumn
Donna Says: Autumn is a lot like spring here- the weather is still unpredictable, but expect more wind than rain.
Australia Packing List:
The Autumn months are from March to May, the weather in autumn can be unpredictable, it is similar to spring but slightly colder, the temp can range anywhere from 17 to 25 degrees, sometimes a tad warmer, sometimes dropping cooler – the best advice would be to check the weather forecast before you travel. Australia is beautiful in autumn, check out Vivid Sydney, taking place at the end of May through till June, a spectacular light and music event.
Your autumn wardrobe will be similar to springs, pack your favorite pair of jeans, a loose knit pullover, a printed blouse, leggings, and a neutral colored tunic that can be easily mixed and matched, pack a cute tea dress if you plan on heading out for nice meals or drinks. Pair your clothing with opaque tights, a light jacket (such as denim) and a cotton scarf for the cooler days and nights, again the best advice would be to layer, adding and taking pieces off depending on the weather.
Australia has amazing walking and hiking areas, take advantage of the cool and dry weather by heading out and enjoying the great outdoors, pack a pair of leather boots or hiking shoes to enjoy these excursions to the fullest.
Miss Selfridge Drape Shirt / Miss Selfridge Quilted Sweater / Tilly’s Spotted Shirt / Tilly’s Wool Fedora / Topshop Stripe Tee / Topshop Trench Coat / Topshop Pinafore Jumpsuit / Topshop Eastern Print Romper / French Connection Denim Jacket / Mango Jogging Jeans / Mango Slim Fit Trousers / Forever 21 Knotted Boho Bandeau / Forever 21 Knotted Boho Bikini Bottoms / Forever 21 Knit Scarf / Nasty Gal Cutout Oxford Shoes / Nasty Gal Forecast Boot / Modcloth Sandals / Free People Jericho Backpack
What to Wear when Backpacking Australia in Winter
Laura Says: Cool to cold. The locals are ‘rugged up’ in winter, but often I walk on the beach dressed head to toe in winter gear and will see an overseas tourist in board shorts taking a leisurely dip in the ocean.
Australia Packing List:
Winter – June – August. Diane describes winter as ‘Cold! Anywhere between 12 and 17 degrees.’, but to me (from the UK) that actually sounds quite pleasant, if you don’t live in a subtropical climate you could actually find Australia’s winters very mild. The days still tend to be quite sunny and warm, however you could find it a little cooler in the mornings and evenings, winter is high season for the beach cities in the north where there’s warm, sunny (24-30°) , dry days and cooler evenings, as predicted the south is much cooler, but is still reasonably mild.
Winter is the perfect season to check out one of the country’s ski resort and enjoy the mountain slopes and snow activities, the best places include the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, Victoria’s high country and the mountain areas of Tasmania.
Clothing wise really depend on where you’re planning on heading, in the north of the country its prime beach weather, so don’t put away your flip flops and bikini just yet. As a general rule opt for embellished sweaters, your fave jeans and cropper trousers, and neutral coloured tunic or mid sleeved shirt to easily mix and match and a lightweight jacket such as a classic mac. To add femininity to your wardrobe pack a mid-sleeved shirt dress and opaque tights, accessories with a cute cotton scarf and wool fedora. The shoe of choice would be ankle boots!
South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have milder climates, quite Mediterranean, than Western Australia (dry and hot), North Territory and Queensland (hot and humid) and Tasmania (quite cool), there is a large variation in climate and temp, Diane’s advice is to check your destination state and city’s weather before you travel so you can pack appropriate clothing. Mid-November is when the South of Australia gets pretty hot, this means that the temperature in the North will be insane reaching +45C and sometimes +50C – Julia’s main advice to combat this extreme weather is to stay hydrated, constantly use sunscreen and wear long sleeved thin tops, pants and a hat – why long? You’ll become less sun damage and dehydrated, stay in the shade as much as possible.
I’m not got to lie; it took me a while to get my head round all the differing climates across Australia’s states and territories, because the country is so large the weather can vary significantly in different areas. Here’s my attempt of a breakdown so you can get an idea of the weather and pack accordingly:
New South Wales :
Weather in Sydney – The climate is pleasantly temperate all year round.
Weather in Melbourne – Victoria’s has a range of different climate zones, from the hot, dry regions of the northwest to the alpine snowfields in the northeast. Melbourne is known for its changeable weather; generally the city enjoys a temperate climate.
Weather in Adelaide – South Australia’s climate ranges from hot and dry in the inland to milder and wetter in the south and the south-east coast.
Weather in Perth – Western Australia has a number of climates due to its massive size. In the north-west the summer is ‘wet’ season, the interior is mainly dry with hot summer temps; whereas the southwest has mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers.
Weather in Brisbane – Brisbane has subtropical weather – warm weather for most of the year.
Weather in the Gold Coast – The Gold Coast has an enjoyable sub-tropical climate all-year round.
Summers are mild and rainfall is spread fairly consistently during the year.
Australian Capital Territory:
Weather in Canberra – Canberra has a mainly dry, inland climate.
Weather in the North – The north, ranging from central and northern parts of the Northern Territory and Queensland and the northern parts of Western Australia, has a tropical climate with high temps and high humidity, there is distinct wet (Oct to Apr) and dry (May to Sept) seasons.
Snow is uncommon in temperate Australia and unheard of in the dry and tropical regions, in Great Dividing Range – mountain range that passes through New South Wales and Victoria there are regular winter snowfalls.
Australia Travel Tips
Useful tips and tricks from our amazing Australian locals and travellers
Transportation: Transportation of choice in Australia includes long distance bus companies such as the Greyhound (which I used and recommend); camper rentals, and internal flights. For flights, Flight Centre is a travel agency I saw during my trip up the east coast.
Accommodation: Hostels are the cheapest way to go in Australia and by cheap I mean starting at $25 a night which isn’t very cheap. You can use booking sites such as Hostelworld to reserve a bed. If you’re looking for fun and modern, although pricey, Base hostels were a popular option in both Australia and New Zealand.
Internet – Bad news for all you technophiles out there – internet access is still relatively slow, spotty and expensive in Australia, Donna notes that if you are in a major city the chances are you can find free (but slow) WIFI at restaurants or cafes but could pay up to $20-30AUD per day for access at your hotel, some remote places just won’t have it. It’s FREE at McDonalds!
Be Careful What You Pack – Donna warns – be very careful what you pack or buy before you come to Oz; this can be a very expensive lesson. Australia is strict about their quarantine process – fruit, meat, nuts, dairy products, seeds, plants, leaves, dirt etc. aren’t allowed into the country. They will confiscate, destroy and possible fine you for dirty sports gear, dirty shoes, fresh food, dried food, trail mix, teas, and some souvenirs from other countries made of wood, husks or bark etc. (especially Indonesia). Certain medications are not used or allowed in the country; check the Australian customs and immigration website before you visit, the good news is that local chemists will be able to look up what you like to use and recommend an Australian equivalent.
Local Fashion – Laura suggests that one of the best kept secrets about Australia is the amazing clothing designers, save up for a special souvenir or at least grab an Australian fashion magazine to get some fresh style ideas, a few labels that she loves are:
- Camilla and Marc – Brother-sister duo Camilla and Marc are local stars in luxury womenswear, they have established a sophisticated tone that reflects the ease of the Australian lifestyle, check out one of their flagship boutiques located in Paddington, Sydney and on High St, Armadale in Melbourne.
- Ellery – Is the go-to label for Australian it-girls, the clothing combines signature silhouettes, a daring combination of textures and unique hardware detailing, described as fierce, sexy and cool as hell. Stockist throughout Australia.
- Manning Cartell – Founded by the Manning sisters the brand is modern, independent and strong and uses innovative fabrics of colour, texture and print to create collections that are cool, easy, chic and embodies youthful elegance. Found in over 100 Australian and international boutiques the brands flagships stores are located in Sydney, Paddington, Melbourne and Chadstone.
- Samantha Wills – Entirely self-taught, Samantha Will’s accessories collections are inspired by her love of travel, many of her designs are names after her favourite destinations and adventures.
Suggested Travel Resources: