A Travel Price Comparison for Families, Couples, and Backpackers Cairns vs. Picton for Nightlife, Beaches, Hiking, and Families

Should you visit Cairns or Picton?

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

Should I visit Cairns or Picton? 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.

Cairns

Cairns is a tropical, idyllic, and outdoorsy city. Other popular activities here include scuba diving and snorkeling, beaches, and hiking.

Picton

Picton is a quaint, relaxing, and picturesque town. This is a charming small with plenty of activities, too. It's also popular because of the hiking, shopping, and museums.

Cairns and Picton: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Home to the Great Barrier Reef
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Very walkable
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for nightlife


Is there more to do in Cairns or Picton?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Cairns. Although Cairns and Picton are popular destinations, Cairns has more sights and attractions for tourists. Cairns is very popular for its nightlife, resorts, scuba diving & snorkeling, beaches, hiking, and shopping, while Picton attracts visitors for its museums and small town charm. Cairns is more touristy than Picton and is popular for its stunning beaches, nearby rainforests, and easy access to the world's largest reef system. It is also well known for the Great Barrier Reef. Picton is famous for its picturesque scenery, laid back setting, and beautiful walking trails.

How is Cairns different from Picton?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Picton and Cairns. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Cairns or Picton?

Cairns
Picton

Picton is a popular place for its museums and history. However, Cairns is lacking in options for its museums and landmarks.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Picton. There are a few local museums around town that are fun to visit with the weather isn't cooperating. Edwin Fox Ship is the world's oldest merchant ship. You can also learn about the town's whaling past at the Picton Heritage and Whaling Museum.

Cairns offers a handful of options for museums and historical sights. Most visitors spend their time exploring nature and the outdoors, but there are some interesting cultural sights around town as well. Make sure you check out the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park as well as the Cairns Aquarium.


Is the Food Better in Cairns or Picton? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Cairns
Picton

Local dishes at restaurants are fun to try in both Cairns and Picton.

Cairns has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. Waterfront dining with a view is what makes the restaurant scene special. Seafood is everywhere and you can enjoy the catch of the day while you relax on a beachfront terrace. There are also international restaurants that have everything from Spanish tapas to Japanese noodle bowls.

With its innovative style combined with traditional elements, Picton makes for a great culinary experience. The town is filled with restaurants that stay true to New Zealand's culinary traditions. Mussels and salmon are common on menus, and there are many bakeries and waterfront cafes to try.

Is Cairns or Picton Better for Nightlife?

Cairns
Picton

Cairns is very popular for its evening party scene. However, Picton is not a good town for nightlife.

Cairns is a party destination, and you'll find plenty of activity all night long. For such as small city, the nightlife scene is incredibly vibrant, particularly during the peak tourist months. Backpackers are at the heart of the action, with many bars and clubs filling up each night with a young crowd. There are dance clubs, all night parties, cocktail bars, and beach side venues that are sure to offer a good time.

Those looking for nightlife will find a few places to hang out in Picton. It's a small town with a quiet and calm atmosphere.

Is Cairns or Picton Better for Resorts?

Cairns
Picton

Cairns is a well-known place for its resorts. However, Picton is not a resort destination.

There are plenty of resorts in Cairns to choose from. There are many beautiful resorts that offer access to the beach and have impressive pools. There are family-friendly resorts, romantic resorts, and even some budget-friendly options.

Picton is not a resort destination.


Is Cairns or Picton Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Cairns
Picton

Cairns is very popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. However, Picton is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

People travel from around the world to go scuba diving and snorkeling in Cairns. It's access to the Great Barrier Reef make this one of the world's top scuba diving and snorkeling destinations. The undersea world is filled with colorful coral, diverse tropical fish, graceful sea turtles, and a truly magical setting.

Picton is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

Is Cairns or Picton Better for Beaches?

Cairns
Picton

Cairns is very popular for the beach. Also, Picton is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its beaches.

Cairns offers stunning beaches that attract visitors from around the world. Near town you'll find stunningly beautiful beaches that range from hubs of activity to quiet coves. Cairns Esplanade Lagoon is the closest beach to the city center and it has a sandy beach and plenty of amenities. For a quieter setting, head north to Holloways Beach or to the family-friendly Yorkeys Knob Beach. Do take note that if the beach doesn't have a stinger net, then it's recommended you wear a stinger suit (to avoid jellyfish stings).

Picton is considered a top beach destination. There are four beaches in the area. Picton Beach is by the town center and near many restaurants and cafes. About a ten minute walk from town is Shelley Beach and if you're up for more walking, Bob's Bay is secluded and nice. If you have a car you can make it to Governer's Bay.

Is Cairns or Picton Better for Hiking?

Cairns
Picton

Cairns is very popular for the nearby hiking options. Also, Picton is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its hiking trails.

Cairns is well-known for its hiking and trekking. Near town you'll find wonderful national parks, lush rainforest, and beautiful mountain ranges. There are countless bush walks and hiking trails in the area. Head into the countryside and you'll get lost in nature and breathtaking views.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Picton. There are many nice walking paths in the area and this is a great way to explore, reach beaches, and see the surrounding landscapes. If you're up for a longer trip, Queen Charlotte Track is a popular trail.


Is the Shopping Better in Cairns or Picton?

Cairns
Picton

Cairns is a well-known place for its shopping areas. Also, Picton is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for shopping.

Browsing through shops is a popular activity in Cairns. There's plenty of shopping around town in the form of shopping centers, markets, and boutique shops. Whether you're looking for trendy fashion or a fun souvenir, there are many places to explore.

Plenty of visitors enjoy shopping while in Picton. There are a few galleries and local shops around town.

Is Cairns or Picton Better for Families?

Cairns
Picton

Cairns is very popular for its family-friendly activities. Also, Picton is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

With a huge array of activities for kids, Cairns is very family-friendly. With the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest nearby, this is a playground for kids and adults alike. There are sandy beaches, rainforest walks, turtle rehabilitation centers, scenic railways, adventure sports, and so much more.

Picton is a very family-friendly destination. Kids will enjoy taking a boat cruise to Motuara Island. You can see dolphins, birds, and other wildlife. There are also wildlife centers in the area, family-friendly walking trails, museums, aquariums, and kayaking opportunities.

Is Cairns or Picton Better for Couples?

Cairns
Picton

With fun activities for couples, both Cairns and Picton make for a superb place to visit.

Cairns makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. It's a beautiful tropical setting with world class beaches and diverse marine life. Couples who enjoy the outdoors and adventure will love this amazing destination. You can experience the area's wildlife, relax on sandy beaches, or pamper yourself with a spa treatment. There is plenty of luxury, but also adventure-filled activities to choose from.

Couples visit Picton frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. There are romantic and quaint bed and breakfasts, beautiful walking paths, wildlife encounters, and many more fun activities for couples. Kayak trips, vineyard tours, and local spas make this a great couple's getaway destination.


Is Cairns or Picton Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Cairns
Picton

Cairns is very popular for backpackers. Also, Picton is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for backpackers and budget travelers.

Cairns is a very popular city to visit for backpackers. Backpackers flock to this coastal town for its easy access to the Great Barrier Reef and its many activities and vibrant energy. There are adventure sports, wild nightclubs, and no shortage of places to hang out with other backpackers.

Picton is very popular with the backpacker crowd. There are plenty of hostels in the area as well as great transportation links, making this a great spot for backpackers.

Is Cairns or Picton Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Cairns
Picton

Visitors will find nice public transit in both Cairns and Picton.

Cairns has some public transit options. Sunbus operates a public bus service that travels through the city center and to many beaches. Most routes start at Cairns City Mall.

You'll find some public transit in Picton, but it may not be enough to take you everywhere. There are water taxis but no buses around town.

Is Cairns or Picton a more walkable city?

Cairns
Picton

Picton is an excellent place to visit for its ease of walking around. However, Cairns is lacking in options for its walkability.

Picton is a very walkable destination. It's a quaint and compact town that's easy to explore on foot.

Cairns is generally not very walkable. While you can walk around many parts of the city center, most visitors want to head into the rainforest or experience the nearby day trips, which require a vehicle.


For even more information, also check out Is Cairns Worth Visiting? and Is Picton Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Picton or Cairns?

How long in Cairns or Picton?

You'll be able to find lots of things to do in Cairns or Picton to fill your time. Many travelers usually spend more of their time in Cairns than Picton because of the number of activities and things to do in the area. Usually, 3-5 days is a good amount of time for Cairns, and 1-2 days is enough time in Picton.

Families should spend more time in Cairns than Picton. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Cairns, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Cairns than Picton. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Cairns that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Cairns than Picton if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Cairns.


  • How many days in Cairns or Picton? Ideal Length of Stay
    Cairns 3-5 
    Picton 1-2

One day in Cairns or Picton?

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting the destination of Cairns. Hikers are also drawn to this area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the destination of Picton. Hikers are also drawn to this area. One day is often enough time to do most activities.

A weekend in Cairns or Picton?

Cairns is a great place to explore. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Picton is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Five days in Cairns or Picton?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Cairns. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. With all of its activities, you can easily fill five days here. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Picton. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


A week in Cairns or Picton?

Travelers enjoy the scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping when visiting the tropical destination of Cairns. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

Travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the scenic destination of Picton. This town offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 3-Week Tours in Australia, The Best Budget Tours to Australia, The Best Adventure Tours to New Zealand, and The Best Eco Tours in New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Picton or Cairns?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Cairns is $94, while the average daily cost in Picton is $87. 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 destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Cairns and Picton in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Cairns $43
    Picton $37
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Cairns $86
    Picton $74
Compare Hotels in Cairns and Picton

Looking for a hotel in Cairns or Picton? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Cairns


Hotels in Picton


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Cairns Hotel Prices and Picton Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Cairns $12
    Picton -

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cairns

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

  • Cairns airport to cairns city private Transfers: $13
  • Cairns Airport/City Transfers: $13
  • Shared Airport Transfer to/from City and Beaches: $13
  • Airport Transfers between Cairns Airport and Cairns City: $14
  • Airport Transfers between Cairns Airport and Palm Cove: $20
  • Private Transfer from Cairns City Hotels to Cairns Cruise Port: $21
  • Private Transfer From Cairns Cruise Port to Cairns City Hotels: $21
  • Shared Shuttle Transfer - Cairns Airport to Port Douglas: $39
  • Private Transfer from Cairns Airport (CNS) to Cairns Cruise Port: $45
  • Private Transfer from Cairns Cruise Port to Cairns Airport (CNS): $45
  • Shuttle Bus Shared Transfer Cairns Airport to Port Douglas: $49
  • Shuttle Bus Shared Transfer Cairns City to Port Douglas: $49

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Picton

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Picton:

  • Private Transfer from Picton Port to Blenheim Airport (BHE): $46
  • Private Transfer from Picton Cruise Port to Blenheim City Hotels: $38
  • Private Transfer from Blenheim city hotels to Picton Cruise Port: $38
  • Private Transfer from Blenheim Airport (BHE) to Picton Port: $46

Is it cheaper to fly into Cairns or Picton?

Prices for flights to both Picton 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 $28
    Picton $20

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cairns

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

  • Cairns Luxury Catamaran Harbor and Dinner Cruise: $84
  • Night at the Aquarium Guided Tour & 2 Course Dinner: $89
  • Guided Twilight Tour with 3-Course Dinner: $115
  • City Sights Tour with Evening Dinner Cruise: $146
  • Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise: $154

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Cairns $37
    Picton $109
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:

  • Skip the Line: Cairns Museum Single Admission Ticket: $9.81
  • Kuranda Koala Gardens General Entry Ticket: $14
  • Cairns Pub & Club Tour: $26
  • Cairns History Walking Tour: $28
  • Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket: $33
  • Sightseeing River Boat Safari with Soft Drinks: $35
  • Sunset River Cruise with Snack and Drinks: $42
  • Rusty's Market Foodlovers Tour: $42
  • Cairns Botanic Gardens: Mushroom Photography Tour: $44
  • Full Day Tour by Myroo X Deluxe Coach to Mission Beach: $45
  • Aquarium Entry Ticket and Turtle Rehabilitation Tour: $46
  • Cairns Sunset Cruise: $49

Tours and Activities in Picton

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Picton are as follows:

  • 1-Day Cruise in Queen Charlotte Track & Kupes Trail Walk: $118
  • 2 hour Dolphin Viewing Eco-Tour from Picton: $90
  • 3.5 Hour Marlborough Sounds Delivery Cruise: $67
  • Bays and Bush Scenic Tour: $96
  • Bird Watching and Dolphin Eco-Tour from Picton: $90
  • CRUISE SHIP DAY Hop on Hop off Yealands & Marlborough tour: $121
  • Captain Cook and Dolphin Cruise: $90
  • Cruise Excursion - Wines of Marlborough Tour: $103
  • Cruise Ship Day - Marlborough: $60
  • Cruise and Lunch at Furneaux Lodge: $82
  • Day Cruise & Lunch at Punga Cove Resort: $82
  • Early Bird Eco Cruise: $73

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Cairns $13
    Picton $35

Sample the Local Flavors in Cairns

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

  • From Atherton Tablelands Food and Wine Tasting Tour: $157
  • Boutique Atherton Tablelands Small-Group Food and Wine Tasting Tour from Cairns: $160

Sample the Local Flavors in Picton

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

  • Self-Guided Biking Wine Tour (full day) in the Marlborough Region.: $36
  • Self-Guided Wine Tours by Bike with Steve & Jo in Marlborough : $39
  • Marlborough: Hop On Hop Off Wine, Brewery, and Wonders Tour: $53
  • Hop on Hop off Wine Tours Marlborough: $54
  • Marlborough Afternoon Wine Tour with Tastings: $69
  • Half-Day Wine Tour from Blenheim: $87
  • Half-Day Wine Tour from Picton: $88
  • Morning Guided with Afternoon Self-Guided Biking Wine Tour: $90
  • Discover Marlborough Wine - Afternoon Marlborough Wine Tour : $91
  • Marlborough Discovery Sampler Wine Tour - 1/2Day Blenheim: $96
  • Taste the Valley Wine Tour in Marlborough with Wine Tasting: $99
  • Half-Day Marlborough Wine Tour & Beer Tour : $108


When comparing the travel costs between Cairns and Picton, we can see that Cairns is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in Pacific, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Cairns Expensive? and Is Picton Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Cairns or Picton?

Cairns has a larger population, and is about 50 times larger than the population of Picton. When comparing the sizes of Cairns and Picton, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Cairns or Picton?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the southern hemisphere, summer is in January and winter is in July.

Should I visit Cairns or Picton in the Summer?

The summer brings many poeple to Cairns as well as Picton. Most visitors come to Cairns for the beaches, snorkeling, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences during these months. Also, the summer months attract visitors to Picton because of the beaches, the hiking, the small town charm, and the family-friendly experiences.

Cairns is much warmer than Picton in the summer. The daily temperature in Cairns averages around 29°C (84°F) in January, and Picton fluctuates around 18°C (64°F).

Cairns receives a lot of rain in the summer. Cairns usually gets more rain in January than Picton. Cairns gets 429 mm (16.9 in) of rain, while Picton receives 61 mm (2.4 in) of rain this time of the year. November to March in Cairns is the rainy season.


  • Summer Average Temperatures January
    Cairns 29°C (84°F) 
    Picton 18°C (64°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Picton in the Autumn?

Both Picton and Cairns are popular destinations to visit in the autumn with plenty of activities. The autumn months attract visitors to Cairns because of the hiking trails and the shopping scene. Also, the hiking trails, the shopping scene, and the small town atmosphere are the main draw to Picton this time of year.

In the autumn, Cairns is much warmer than Picton. Typically, the autumn temperatures in Cairns in April average around 27°C (80°F), and Picton averages at about 15°C (58°F).

It's quite rainy in Cairns. In April, Cairns usually receives more rain than Picton. Cairns gets 273 mm (10.8 in) of rain, while Picton receives 82 mm (3.2 in) of rain each month for the autumn. The dry season in Cairns is April to October.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures April
    Cairns 27°C (80°F) 
    Picton 15°C (58°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Picton in the Winter?

Both Picton and Cairns during the winter are popular places to visit. The museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine are the main draw to Cairns this time of year. Furthermore, many travelers come to Picton for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

In July, Cairns is generally much warmer than Picton. Daily temperatures in Cairns average around 23°C (73°F), and Picton fluctuates around 10°C (49°F).

Picton gets a good bit of rain this time of year. Cairns usually gets less rain in July than Picton. Cairns gets 35 mm (1.4 in) of rain, while Picton receives 111 mm (4.4 in) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures July
    Cairns 23°C (73°F) 
    Picton 10°C (49°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Picton in the Spring?

The spring attracts plenty of travelers to both Cairns and Picton. Many travelers come to Cairns for the beaches. Furthermore, many visitors come to Picton in the spring for the beaches and the small town charm.

Cairns is much warmer than Picton in the spring. The daily temperature in Cairns averages around 27°C (80°F) in October, and Picton fluctuates around 13°C (55°F).

In October, Cairns usually receives less rain than Picton. Cairns gets 44 mm (1.7 in) of rain, while Picton receives 93 mm (3.7 in) of rain each month for the spring. April to October in Cairns is the dry season. Also, November to March is the rainy season in Cairns.


  • Spring Average Temperatures October
    Cairns 27°C (80°F) 
    Picton 13°C (55°F)

Typical Weather for Picton and Cairns

Cairns Picton
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 29°C (84°F) 429 mm (16.9 in) 18°C (64°F) 61 mm (2.4 in)
Feb 29°C (83°F) 469 mm (18.5 in) 18°C (64°F) 51 mm (2 in)
Mar 28°C (82°F) 471 mm (18.5 in) 17°C (62°F) 75 mm (3 in)
Apr 27°C (80°F) 273 mm (10.8 in) 15°C (58°F) 82 mm (3.2 in)
May 25°C (78°F) 118 mm (4.6 in) 12°C (54°F) 92 mm (3.6 in)
Jun 23°C (74°F) 62 mm (2.5 in) 10°C (51°F) 113 mm (4.4 in)
Jul 23°C (73°F) 35 mm (1.4 in) 10°C (49°F) 111 mm (4.4 in)
Aug 24°C (75°F) 34 mm (1.3 in) 10°C (50°F) 98 mm (3.9 in)
Sep 25°C (77°F) 40 mm (1.6 in) 12°C (53°F) 79 mm (3.1 in)
Oct 27°C (80°F) 44 mm (1.7 in) 13°C (55°F) 93 mm (3.7 in)
Nov 28°C (82°F) 104 mm (4.1 in) 15°C (58°F) 79 mm (3.1 in)
Dec 29°C (83°F) 211 mm (8.3 in) 17°C (62°F) 69 mm (2.7 in)