Latitudinal clines are considered a powerful means of investigating evolutionary responses to climatic selection in nature. However, most clinal studies of climatic adaptation in Drosophila have involved species that contain cosmopolitan inversion polymorphisms that show clinal patterns themselves, making it difficult to determine whether the traits or inversions are under selection. Further, although climatic selection is unlikely to act on only one life stage in metamorphic organisms, a few studies have examined clinal patterns across life stages. Finally, clinal patterns of heat tolerance may also depend on the assay used. To unravel these potentially confounding effects on clinal patterns of thermal tolerance, we examined adult and larval heat tolerance traits in populations of Drosophila simulans from eastern Australia using static and dynamic (ramping 0.06 similar to degrees C similar to min-1) assays. We also used microsatellites markers to clarify whether demographic factors or selection are responsible for population differentiation along clines. Significant cubic clinal patterns were observed for adult static basal, hardened and dynamic heat knockdown time and static basal heat survival in larvae. In contrast, static, hardened larval heat survival increased linearly with latitude whereas no clinal association was found for larval ramping survival. Significant associations between adult and larval traits and climatic variables, and low population differentiation at microsatellite loci, suggest a role for climatic selection, rather than demographic processes, in generating these clinal patterns. Our results suggest that adaptation to thermal stress may be species and life-stage specific, complicating our efforts to understand the evolutionary responses to selection for increasing thermotolerance.