A Travel Price Comparison for Australia Cairns vs. Brisbane for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Cairns or Brisbane?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Cairns or Brisbane? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Where Should I go: Cairns or Brisbane?

Cairns

Most travelers go to Cairns specifically to visit Great Barrier Reef. The city itself is surprisingly large and cosmopolitan with a population of approximately 140,000. The city's economy is almost exclusively based on tourism, although you will find some jobs centered around agriculture, or more specifically sugar cane, bananas, coffee, tea, wine, and some tropical fruits. The city itself is surrounded by rainforest and makes a great base for exploring Kuranda, with the Barron Gorge National Park and the Daintree offering a quieter tropical getaway than Cairns.

Brisbane

Although Brisbane is often overlooked as a travel destination in Australia, it is the capital of the state of Queensland, and is the third largest city in Australia. It's a very young and vibrant city with an active nightlife and a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. It's a modern and economically thriving city and, if you do have time to visit, it actually has a lot to offer travelers. It has some beautiful scenery, a wonderful warm climate all year long, and is actually one of the fastest growing cities in Australia.

Which city is cheaper, Brisbane or Cairns?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Cairns is $76, while the average daily cost in Brisbane is $105. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each city. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Cairns and Brisbane in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Cairns $34
    Brisbane $65
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Cairns $68
    Brisbane $130

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Cairns $9.69
    Brisbane $14

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cairns

Also for Cairns, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Cairns to Mission Beach Private Transfer: $303
  • Cairns to Port Douglas Private Transfer: $252
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Port Douglas.: $244
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Port Douglas.: $171
  • Corporate Bus, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove: $171
  • Premium, private bus transfer. Cairns City - Cairns Airport.: $135
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.: $125
  • Port Douglas Transfers between Cairns Airport & Port Douglas (Private Chauffeur): $118
  • Cairns Airport (CNS) Departure Transfer (Cairns Hotels to Cairns CNS Airport): $112
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Trinity Beach: $107
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport: $89
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.: $89

Typical Local Transportation prices in Brisbane

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in Brisbane:


  • Airtrain to the City
    $9.79
  • Go Card
    $16

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Brisbane

Also for Brisbane, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Sunshine Coast Airport Arrival transfer to Hotels: $14
  • Sirromet Winery All inclusive Lunch @ Lurleens, Tour, Tastings and Transfers: $158
  • Private Transfer: Brisbane to Brisbane Airport (BNE): $98
  • Private Transfer from Brisbane Airport to Noosa for 1 to 7 people: $352
  • Private Departure Transfer: Hotel to Brisbane Airport: $40
  • Private Brisbane City Transfer to Gold Coast 7am-6pm: $89
  • Private Brisbane Airport Arrival Transfer to Gold Coast: $177
  • Private Arrival Transfer: Brisbane Airport to Hotel: $40
  • Private Airport Transfer: Brisbane Airport (BNE) to Brisbane: $98
  • Private Airport Transfer from Brisbane Airport (BNE) to South Gold Coast 1-6 pax: $132
  • Private Airport Transfer from Brisbane Airport (BNE) to North Gold Coast 1-6 pax: $107
  • Private 24 Seat Mini Bus CBD to Brisbane Airport Transfer: $205

Is it cheaper to fly into Cairns or Brisbane?

Prices for flights to both Brisbane and Cairns change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Cairns $22
    Brisbane $25

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cairns

For Cairns, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Guided Twilight Tour of the Aquarium with Dinner: $90
  • Cairns Aquarium by Twilight with 3 Course Dinner: $99
  • Afternoon Tour with Evening Dinner Cruise: $134
  • Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise: $154

Typical Food prices in Brisbane

Here are some examples of typical meal expenses from previous travelers to Brisbane:


  • Hamburger Lunch
    $5.22
  • Cup of Coffee
    $1.96
  • Chinese Food Lunch
    $8.16
  • Ice cream
    $3.59
  • Japanese Meal
    $14
  • Smoothie
    $4.24
  • Japanese Soup
    $7.51
  • Coffee & Muffin
    $4.57
  • Morning Mint Tea
    $2.28
  • Veggie Burger & Chips
    $9.14
  • Bread
    $1.70

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Brisbane

For Brisbane, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Guided Food Tour with Coffee and Wine Tastings: $184
  • Brisbane Food Tour: A Taste of Queensland: $202
  • 3-Course Progressive Dinner Experience in Brisbane: $237
  • Queensland Food Tour: Farm-to-Table Indulgence: $375

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Cairns $30
    Brisbane $19
Typical Entertainment prices in Cairns

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Cairns's activities, tours, and tickets:


  • Scuba Diving
    $36

Tours and Activities in Cairns

For Cairns, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • 14-Day Cape York Camping Tour: $2,350
  • 2 Day Reef & Rainforest Adventure: $619
  • 2-Day Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest Tour from Cairns /Port Douglas: $221
  • 2-Day Green Island Cruise and Kuranda Day Trip: $316
  • Aboriginal Cultural Daintree Rainforest Tour from Cairns or Port Douglas: $210
  • Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls and Rainforest Day Tour Departing Cairns: $95
  • Barron Gorge and Kuranda National Park Half Day Rainforest and Waterfall 4WD Tour from Cairns: $124
  • Cairns 4WD Waterfall and Rainforest Tour Including Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: $166
  • Cairns Adventure Package- 4 tours in 3 days!: $325
  • Cairns Aquarium Admission Ticket: $35
  • Cairns Aquarium Family Tickets: $104
  • Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket: $32

Typical Entertainment prices in Brisbane

For Brisbane, here are some examples of average entertainment and activity prices from previous travelers:


  • Concert Tickets
    $13

Tours and Activities in Brisbane

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Brisbane.

  • 4-Day Jewels of the Outback Gemstone Hunting Tour from Brisbane: $1,577
  • 5-Day Cunnamulla Outback Wildlife Backpacking Tour from Brisbane: $948
  • 5-Day Outback Farm and Wildlife Experience from Brisbane: $1,936
  • Bay Island Tour - Scenic Flight: $271
  • Best Of Brisbane Day Tour incl. Lone Pine - Half Day Private Customised tour: $197
  • Boutique Brisbane to Cairns Australian east coast tour - 8 Day small group: $2,689
  • Brisbane Day in the Country Full-Day Small-Group Tour with Lunch: $249
  • Brisbane Like a Local: Customized Guided Tour: $35
  • Brisbane River Cruise and Koala Sanctuary Visit: $61
  • Brisbane to Moreton Island Return Ferry & Adventure Day Pass: $86
  • Full-Day Byron Bay Tour: $280
  • Guided River Kayak Tour: $47

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Cairns $11
    Brisbane $40

Sample the Local Flavors in Cairns

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Cairns:

  • Tablelands Food & Wine Tour: $233

Typical Alcohol prices in Brisbane

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Brisbane:


  • Evening at the Bar
    $9.79
  • Sixpack of Beer
    $9.14
  • Guiness Beer
    $5.55
  • Sixpack of Beer
    $8.48

Sample the Local Flavors in Brisbane

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Brisbane:

  • Deluxe Wine Tasting Tour Mt Tamborine Includes 2 course Lunch: $94
  • Morning or Afternoon Brisbane Half-Day Brewery Tour: $111
  • Mt Tamborine Wine Tour: $119
  • Brisbane Half-Day Private Brewery Tour: $119
  • Hinterland Heritage Wine Tour: $119
  • Northern Rivers food & Wine Tour from Brisbane: $119
  • Two Day xxxx Brewery and Tamborine Winery Tour: $198
  • Private Full Day Wine Tour from Brisbane to Tamborine Mountain: $474


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Cairns and Brisbane, we can see that Brisbane is more expensive. And not only is Cairns much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Cairns would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Cairns and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Brisbane would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Brisbane than you might in Cairns.


When is the best time to visit Cairns or Brisbane?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the southern hemisphere, summer is in January and winter is in July.

Should I visit Cairns or Brisbane in the Summer?

The summer attracts plenty of travelers to both Cairns and Brisbane.

Cairns is a little warmer than Brisbane in the summer. The temperature in Cairns is usually 29°C (84°F) in January, and Brisbane stays around 25°C (77°F).

Brisbane receives a lot of rain in the summer. Cairns gets a good bit of rain this time of year. In January, Cairns usually receives more rain than Brisbane. At this time of the year, Cairns gets 429 mm (16.9 in) of rain, while Brisbane receives 169 mm (6.7 in) of rain.


  • Summer Average Temperatures January
    Cairns 29°C (84°F) 
    Brisbane 25°C (77°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Brisbane in the Autumn?

The autumn brings many poeple to Cairns as well as Brisbane.

In the autumn, Cairns is a little warmer than Brisbane. Typically, the autumn temperatures in Cairns in April are around 27°C (80°F), and Brisbane is about 22°C (71°F).

It's quite rainy in Brisbane. Cairns receives a lot of rain in the autumn. Cairns usually gets more rain in April than Brisbane. Cairns gets 273 mm (10.8 in) of rain, while Brisbane receives 112 mm (4.4 in) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures April
    Cairns 27°C (80°F) 
    Brisbane 22°C (71°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Brisbane in the Winter?

Both Brisbane and Cairns are popular destinations to visit in the winter with plenty of activities.

In July, Cairns is generally much warmer than Brisbane. Temperatures in Cairns average around 23°C (73°F), and Brisbane stays around 15°C (59°F).

In July, Cairns usually receives less rain than Brisbane. At this time of the year, Cairns gets 35 mm (1.4 in) of rain, while Brisbane receives 64 mm (2.5 in) of rain.


  • Winter Average Temperatures July
    Cairns 23°C (73°F) 
    Brisbane 15°C (59°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Brisbane in the Spring?

Both Brisbane and Cairns during the spring are popular places to visit.

Cairns is a little warmer than Brisbane in the spring. The temperature in Cairns is usually 27°C (80°F) in October, and Brisbane stays around 21°C (69°F).

Cairns usually gets less rain in October than Brisbane. Cairns gets 44 mm (1.7 in) of rain, while Brisbane receives 93 mm (3.7 in) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures October
    Cairns 27°C (80°F) 
    Brisbane 21°C (69°F)

Typical Weather for Brisbane and Cairns

Cairns Brisbane
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 29°C (84°F) 429 mm (16.9 in) 25°C (77°F) 169 mm (6.7 in)
Feb 29°C (83°F) 469 mm (18.5 in) 25°C (77°F) 152 mm (6 in)
Mar 28°C (82°F) 471 mm (18.5 in) 24°C (75°F) 146 mm (5.7 in)
Apr 27°C (80°F) 273 mm (10.8 in) 22°C (71°F) 112 mm (4.4 in)
May 25°C (78°F) 118 mm (4.6 in) 19°C (66°F) 104 mm (4.1 in)
Jun 23°C (74°F) 62 mm (2.5 in) 16°C (61°F) 77 mm (3 in)
Jul 23°C (73°F) 35 mm (1.4 in) 15°C (59°F) 64 mm (2.5 in)
Aug 24°C (75°F) 34 mm (1.3 in) 16°C (61°F) 46 mm (1.8 in)
Sep 25°C (77°F) 40 mm (1.6 in) 18°C (65°F) 33 mm (1.3 in)
Oct 27°C (80°F) 44 mm (1.7 in) 21°C (69°F) 93 mm (3.7 in)
Nov 28°C (82°F) 104 mm (4.1 in) 23°C (73°F) 107 mm (4.2 in)
Dec 29°C (83°F) 211 mm (8.3 in) 24°C (76°F) 127 mm (5 in)


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Cairns vs. Brisbane Travel Comparison

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