Outdoor thermal comfort studies have mainly examined the perception of local residents, and there has been little work on how those conditions are perceived differently by tourists, especially tourists of diverse origins. This issue is important because it will improve the application of thermal indices in predicting the thermal perception of tourists. This study aims to compare the differences in thermal perception and preferences between local and overseas visitors to the Royal Botanic Garden (RBG) in Melbourne during summer. An 8-day survey was conducted in February 2014 at four sites in the garden (n = 2198), including 2 days with maximum temperature exceeding 40 °C. The survey results were compared with data from four weather stations adjacent to the survey locations. One survey location, ‘Fern Gully’, has a misting system and visitors perceived the Fern Gully to be cooler than other survey locations. As the apparent temperature exceeded 32.4 °C, visitors perceived the environment as being ‘warm’ or ‘hot’. At ‘hot’ conditions, 36.8 % of European visitors voted for no change to the thermal conditions, which is considerably higher than the response from Australian visitors (12.2 %) and Chinese visitors (7.5 %). Study results suggest that overseas tourists have different comfort perception and preferences compared to local Australians in hot weather based at least in part on expectations. Understanding the differences in visitors’ thermal perception is important to improve the garden design. It can also lead to better tour planning and marketing to potential visitors from different countries.