Southeastern Australia is at the cutting edge of climate change, with predicted warming, drying, and increased variability expected to affect rural livelihoods. Some are optimistic about rural landholders' ability to adjust because of their history of coping with climatic extremes. Others see a conservative rural population more skeptical of climate change than the general public and more likely to resist making necessary changes. These contradictory portrayals, largely unresolved in research and policy circles, provided the focus of our research. We examine links between rural landholders' knowledge, beliefs, and risk perceptions and their adaptations to climate change. We found most rural landholders in our case studies were not climate change deniers and were adapting tactically to drier conditions. Low levels of climate change knowledge were an important influence on adaptation, and mistrust in climate change science confirms the need for particular strategies to effectively engage rural landholders in constructive dialogues.