Australia is a BIG country, comparable in land size to the contiguous United States. This makes for varied landscapes and climates that can challenge even the most experienced packers. This summer packing list for Australia covers the essentials for enjoying the urban centres, sundrenched beaches, tropical rainforests and searing outback during the warmest months. For those planning to partake in specific activities such as diving or overnight hikes, I recommend you look at specialist lists in addition to the below. If you’re still figuring out exactly where you’ll be visiting, best to start with this post about where to go in Australia.
Why this packing list for Australia?
I was born in Sydney, raised near Brisbane/Gold Coast, lived in Melbourne for five years and have explored my homeland far beyond these urban centres. I’ve also now lived overseas for almost 10 years and return annually to visit family and friends – so I know what it takes to pack the perfect summer suitcase for Downunder!
General packing tips for Australia
Passport and visas
Let’s get the boring but necessary admin stuff out of the way…
- You will need a valid passport and a visa to enter Australia. You can check visa requirements here.
- As with any international travel, it’s best to carry a copy of your passport and other paperwork separate from the originals, leave the copies with a reliable friend or family member or have them stored electronically where you can access them online.
- You will need to take your driver’s license if you plan to rent a car in Australia.
In Australia, summer is defined by the hottest months of December, January and February. Of course, temperatures and rainfall in Tasmania are quite different from those in the Northern Territory or Queensland, so consult these climate charts for specifics on where you will be travelling.
Due to our warm climate and laid-back attitude, Australians have a reputation for having a casual wardrobe. This mostly holds true, however, there are locations and instances that call for something a little more dressy.
- Sydney and Melbourne take their fashion seriously – whether you’re in the city streets or at a beachside café, Sydneysiders and Melbournites dress to impress.
- Almost any kind of “club” (sporting clubs, RSL’s, nightclubs) have a dress code. Rules vary, and women generally get away with a lot more than men. Err on the side of caution with closed shoes (no flip flops) and a collared shirt.
- Dressy occasions include the horse races, weddings/funerals/christenings, theatre/opera, afternoon (high) tea and dining at upscale restaurants.
- Pack natural fibres to keep you cool, for example, cotton, linen, hemp and silk.
- Light, neutral colours help ward off mosquitos.
Health and safety
Australian pharmacists can’t fill foreign prescriptions, therefore it’s vital you take any prescription medication with you and pack it in your carry-on. Take spare pairs of prescription glasses and contact lenses and solution.
It takes no time to start burning up under the intense Australian sun, so if you don’t want to return home looking like a lobster, do yourself a huge favour and pack:
- A wide brim hat or hat that provides ear protection. Consider your neck too if you are not wearing a collar.
- Sunglasses with the minimum recommended UV rating, not just fashion ones.
- Sunscreen SPF30+ minimum. For those travelling from the U.S., I recommend buying your sunscreen when you arrive, as Australia (and the European Union) have more stringent standards for UVA protection in sunblock, so you will be getting better protection.
- Light shirts with sleeves
Wear insect repellent when outdoors in natural environments, particularly during dawn and dusk to prevent mosquito and midge bites. Furthermore, in northern regions of the country, mosquito-transmitted diseases like Dengue Fever are a risk.
Again, it is likely you are going to be spending time outdoors and may require a range of footwear for different activities.
- Flip flops (“thongs” in Aussie lingo) or sandals for the beach.
- Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes for hiking.
- A dressy pair of flats for going out.
- Heels are optional but advisable for enjoying Sydney and Melbourne nightlife.
- Australian electricity is delivered at 240 volts AC, 50 hertz (compared to 120 volts, 60 hertz in the U.S.). If you are taking devices with you, ensure you have an international adapter and double-check whether you will also need a voltage converter.
- After living in the U.S., I was surprised how little free wifi is available back home. Probably because Australian telcos still charge by downloads and not by speed. You may want to buy a local SIM card to stay connected during your travels, so ensure you take a phone that is “unlocked.”
Australians are protective of their natural environment, because not only do they enjoy it themselves but they want to share it with visitors like yourself. Respect the nature you came to see by packing and using the following:
- Travel coffee mug. Australia has THE BEST coffee and you will want to drink it every day! If you’re taking your hot drink to-go, a travel mug will not only keep your drink warmer for longer but it will save cups from landfill. In early 2017, one of Melbourne’s famous trams was filled with 50,000 disposable coffee cups to illustrate how many cups Australian’s throw away every 30mins. Since then, awareness Downunder has spiked and some cafes no longer offer to-go cups at all!
- Reusable cutlery set to use in place of disposable plastics. Bamboo is best if you are packing carry-on only because metal knives are not allowed on board.
- Reusable water bottle.
- Cloth napkin or bandana.
Things not to bring to Australia
Australia is an island and therefore has an isolated ecosystem. Laws are in place to protect its native species and agriculture from invasive species and diseases. If you packed it and you’re not sure, declare it at customs on arrival or you risk having it taken from you and being fined or imprisoned – yes, it is that serious! Here is a broad list of things not to bring to Australia, a more thorough list is available on this fact sheet.
- Fresh foods including fruit, vegetables, meat, honey, herbs and spices, seeds, nuts, eggs, and dairy.
- Products made of wood, plant fibres, flowers etc.
- Shoes or equipment that is muddy or has dirt (as in soil) attached which can carry seeds, plant particles, and insects.
Packing list for Australia
- One shirt for each day – Depending on the temperature, you may be able to recycle some shirts across two or more days. A mix of t-shirts and light, long-sleeved shirts will allow you to adjust your clothing to the activity and provide sun protection.
- Shorts/skirts – Shorts are perfectly acceptable for males and females in Australia. Cut-off denim shorts are practically a summer uniform for Aussie women. Knee-length or board shorts are common for men.
- Ladies may substitute one or two shirt and short combos for sundresses.
- Jeans – Versatile and widely accepted, jeans are a good option for milder summer climates such as Melbourne and Tasmania.
- Light sweater – A light sweater (jumper in Aussie terms) or hoodie is also recommended for the same reasons above and overzealous air conditioning.
- One dressy evening outfit.
- Activewear or preferred hiking clothes depending on activities.
- Rain gear, which should live in your daypack for those regular afternoon storms.
- Swimsuit and coverup – If you hate putting on a wet bathing suit, take a couple as often swimsuits don’t dry overnight in the humidity. Ladies, also consider the style of swimsuit you pack if you want to swim at a REAL Aussie beach. Those waves will whip that itty-bitty bikini right off you.
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Sunglasses, preferably UV rated to protect your eyes and polarized to cut glare.
- Flip flops
- Hiking shoes
- Heels (optional)
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Aloe vera – doubles as sunburn relief and body moisturizer.
- Body wash
- Face wash
- Hair accessories (ties and pins)
- Menstrual cup/ tampons
- Laundry soap – a cake of laundry soap to wash underwear and socks in the hotel basin if required.
- A camera and accessories including: charger, spare batteries; SD cards; and tripod.
- A waterproof camera is ideal if you plan to kayaking, snorkeling, diving etc.
- Unlocked phone and charger
- International adapter
- Step-down voltage converter
- Portable charger
- Portable hard drive
Day bag/ backpack
- Refillable water bottle
- Travel mug for your morning coffee/tea
- Reusable cutlery set
- Waterless hand wash
- Bandana/cloth napkin
- First aid kit – Depending on the type of trip. If you are going somewhere in the remote outback, you will certainly want a first aid kit.
- Medications and prescriptions
- Glasses or contact lenses and solution
- Wet weather gear – Summer temperatures often bring rain so bring your preferred wet-weather gear.
- Sunscreen 30+ or above
- Lip balm with SPF 15+ minimum
- Insect repellant
Making memories and filling spare time
- Sketchpad and pencils/paint
- Tablet device
Inside my suitcase
The below items made up the core of my summer clothing and accessories for my recent trip home to Australia, which included stops in and around Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. As suggested in my general notes, I went for natural fibres and layerable pieces in a cohesive colour scheme. If I hadn’t been toting Christmas gifts, I would have fit my three-week pack in a carry-on.
- Marc by Marc Jacobs cotton dress – thrifted 2. Gant navy stripe t-shirt – thrifted 3. Homero Ortega Bolero Hat 4. Tory Burch Nothin But Fun Sunglasses – gifted by friend 5. Sseko T-strap Accent Sandal 6. GAP cotton and cashmere knit – thrifted 7. Patagonia Women’s Straight Jeans 8. Cythia Steffe Silk Dress – thrifted 9. Grana Silk Shell 10. Grana Loose Silk Shorts 11. Jets Plunging V-Neck – current style 12. Kate Spade Cobble Hill Andee Tote
Enjoy your Aussie adventure and drop me a line below in the comments if you have any questions on what to wear in Australia.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,