Surf seasons and when to go
The best time of the year to surf in New South Wales
Temperatures in the mid to high 20’s (degrees Celsius) are common along the NSW coast in summer. Higher temperatures do occur at times, although a regular NE sea breeze tends to prevent things getting too hot for the most part. Temperatures dip into the mid teens in the far south of the state during the winter months, while in the far north of the state, temperatures remain closer to 20 degrees Celsius.
Water temperature ranges from as low as 14-15 degrees in the far south during winter, while the north sees temperatures remain at around 18 degrees. Summer time generally sees temperatures ranging from 21 in the south to 25 in the north. That being said, there can be large drops in water temperature during the summer months, especially along the southern half of the coastline. Sustained periods of winds from the NE can create an upwelling event, with warmer surface water moving away from the coast, allowing colder water to move in from off the continental shelf. This can drop the water temperature in Sydney down to a chilly 16 degrees, even in the peak of summer. The lesson here is to always have some wetsuit protection on hand. This can also be wise given the regularity of blue bottles (Portuguese man of war) in the water during the summer months.
Summer can be plagued by extended periods of small swell, especially along the southern half of the coast. The northern half of the coast tends to do a little better swell wise, thanks to persistent SE trade winds between New Zealand and Fiji. The NE sea breeze is a common feature in summer, which is detrimental to surf quality at most locations. It can however produce sneaky NE wind swells along the southern half of the NSW coast. There can be the occasional large cyclone swell along the northern half of the coast in summer and these are sometimes of benefit to Sydney and areas to the south.
Autumn (Mar-May) – Winter (Jun-Aug)
Autumn and winter is where the NSW coast comes into its’ own. Large southerly groundswells march up the coast from deepening low pressure systems that track from under Tasmania towards New Zealand, while the predominant wind direction is offshore Westerly as the sub-tropical high pressure system moves northwards.
Some of the largest and best swells can be produced by deep low pressure systems that regularly form off the NSW coast in the autumn and winter months. Cold air masses tracking across the Australian Continent can interact with the warm sea surface of the Tasman Sea (between NSW and New Zealand), leading to the rapid formation of deep low pressure systems. These are often referred to as East Coast Lows (ECL). June has the greatest frequency of such systems, so if you are planning a surf trip to this state, this could be your best bet.
Spring doesn’t really stand out for surf, although strong S’ly swells and lows off the coast can still occur. It is however usually a wind down period into summer. Sea breezes also become more pronounced at this time of year.
Annual surf conditions
Air and sea temprature in New South Wales
New South Wales surf travel guide
The best time of the year to surf in New South Wales
There are two common ways of travelling in Australia: by car or by plane. The train can be an option, but not all states have a public rail network. Greyhound Australia provides a nation-wide (except Tasmania) interstate bus service. And there is a car ferry that departs from Melbourne and goes to Devonport in Tasmania.
Travelling by car is a great option as well, especially to those who want to see and feel the country from the inside. Australia has a well-maintained system of roads and highways and drives ‘on the left’. Keep in mind that great distances separate its cities and after leaving one of them, you can sometimes expect to travel for hours before finding the next trace of civilisation. So it’s a good idea to hire a satellite phone in case of emergency. The shortest distance would be from Sydney to Canberra – just 3-3.5 hours (~300 km). But it is a truly magnificent experience to hire a car and travel around the coast of Australia (check the Great Ocean Road), which you won’t forget.
Where to stay
Your final decision really depends on your preferences and budget. If you like camping, there are a lot of those in every state of Australia. There are a variety of hotels and properties available for short term rent on a variety of platforms. Take a look at our variety of listings on the holiday search page.
There are nice caravan parks (van/trailer parks) with on-site cabins in WA, as well as in most states (usually you will see the signs if you drive on the highway). Prices range from AUS$25.00 to AUS$50.00. They are very comfortable and have cooking facilities and a refrigerator. The extra price will provide you with some more comfort.
Cable Beach Backpackers is another nice place in WA with clean and spacious rooms, bathrooms and kitchens, just a few minutes walk from Cable Beach in Broome.
And of course, there are all the luxurious hotels, where you can enjoy the best service. But basically, for all the states the rule would be the same – there are numerous motels, hostels, caravan parks and camping sites near the surf spots, so you’ll definitely find something.
What to pack
Everything can be bought in NSW. So pack light and take only important things, such as sunglasses, a hat and a good sunscreen. You will be comfortable in flip-flops, but also take a pair of comfortable walking shoes. A small backpack makes a good carryon bag and will be useful in daily life.
Loose casual clothing will be perfect for hot/warm weather. Just in case of the rain, take some waterproof stuff and some warm clothes.
You can also take your surf gear with you, but no worries if for some reason you are not able to – there are numerous surf shops around the state.
Definitely don’t forget your camera!
New South Wales facts
New South Wales is one of the states in Australia, that is located on the south-eastern coast of the country between Victoria and Queensland. The total area of the state is 809,444 km². The largest city and capital is Sydney.
Known in Australia as the Premier State, the Colony of Ne South Wales was formed in the late 1700’s and at one stage incorporated the majority of Australia and New Zealand. Make sure you remind as many New Zealanders as possible that they were once part of New South Wales – they love that kind of stuff.