Objective This study sought to explore the experiences of Australian primary healthcare (PHC) nurses in the use of telehealth during COVID-19. Telehealth was defined as the use of any telecommunications mode (eg, telephone and videoconferencing) to deliver healthcare. Design and setting Thematic analysis of qualitative interviews undertaken in Australian PHC. Participants Twenty-five PHC nurses who had participated in a national survey about their experiences during COVID-19 were recruited using purposive sampling. Methods Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted from June to August 2020. Interviews lasted a mean of 38.5 min. They were audio-recorded and transcribed before thematic analysis was undertaken. The consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research were followed. Results Four overarching themes were identified: preparedness, accessibility of telehealth, care experience and impacts on the PHC nurses' role. Some nurses were experienced in the use of telehealth, while others indicated a lack of preparation and limited appropriate technology to support its use. Telehealth enabled patients to access care but did not support complex clinical assessment. Participants indicated that patient engagement in telehealth was dependent on access and confidence using technology, perceived safety when physically attending the practice and the value they placed on care via telehealth. Many participants expressed frustration about telehealth funding and its impact on facilitating nurses to practise to their full scope. Conclusion Telehealth has provided a means to continue PHC service delivery during COVID-19. While there are advantages to adopting this technology, considerations of the challenges and lessons from this experience are important to inform the future implementation of telehealth initiatives.