To investigate the cross-national relevance of community health promotion, this paper compared community variation in alcohol use and risk and protective factors for adolescents in Australia (State of Victoria, 2009) and the Netherlands (2007/2008). Multi-level analyses examined community variation in heavy episodic (binge) alcohol use [>/=5 drinks in a session >/=once in the prior fortnight (>63 ml of ethanol)] and associations with predictors. Representative community samples of adolescents (12-17 years) were recruited. The participants were 7812 students from 36 Australian communities and 15 082 adolescents from 124 Dutch communities. Predictors included adolescent reports of family, school, peer and neighbourhood environments and community predictors (rural, disadvantage). The overall prevalence of alcohol use prevalence was similar in both nations. Australia had higher use at younger ages and no difference between genders. In the Netherlands older adolescents and males used alcohol at significantly higher rates. Although individual predictors were mostly similar, binge drinking was more strongly associated with poor family management, friends' use of drugs and community disorganization in Australia. Significant community variation in adolescent heavy alcohol use was observed in both countries, but was higher in the Netherlands [inter class correlation 6.1%, (95% CI: 4.5-8.3%)] than Australia (ICC 2.4%, 1.3-4.5%). Youth from rural areas drank at a higher level, especially in the Netherlands. Targeting community level adolescent alcohol use appears feasible in both countries. Although behavioural patterns and risk and protective influences are similar in the Netherlands and Australia, important differences should be taken into account in tailoring community interventions.