Should you visit Cairns or Whitsundays?
Should I visit Cairns or Whitsundays? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the data, which all comes from actual travelers.
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.
Just off the coast of Queensland, Australia is a cluster of 74 different islands. These islands, the Whitsunday Islands, welcome over a half a million visitors every year to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World - the Great Barrier Reef.
As one of the most famous destinations in the world, it's not uncommon to see expensive yachts sailing around among the private ferries. Most of the islands are designated as national parks with access to snorkeling and diving in the coral reefs, or just to lay in the sand on the famous Whitehaven Beach.
Which city is cheaper, Whitsundays or Cairns?
These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.
The average daily cost (per person) in Cairns is $83, while the average daily cost in Whitsundays is $117. 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. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for Cairns and Whitsundays in more detail.
An average hotel room with basic furnishings costs about $76 in Cairns For the most convenient locations and nicer amenities you can expect to pay a bit more.
An average hotel room with basic furnishings costs about $122 in Whitsundays For the most convenient locations and nicer amenities you can expect to pay a bit more.
Food in Cairns costs travelers about $25 per day on average. Restaurants can vary significantly in price, so choose wisely if you're trying to save money. Fast food and street stalls are typically your cheapest options, which sit down restaurants can be significantly more expensive.
The average traveler spends about $26 per day in Whitsundays for food, but obviously this is dependent on the type of restaurant and the amount of food ordered. To save money you can grab a lighter lunch or dinner, or you can try fast food or street food.
Meals for one day
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:
Cairns Aquarium by Twilight with 3 Course Dinner:
Afternoon Tour with Evening Dinner Cruise:
Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise:
Cairns's transportation costs can vary by the type of transport chosen by visitors. Naturally, taxis and private drivers cost much more than public transportation options. On average, visitors spend $11 per person, per day on transportation in Cairns.
To get around in Whitsundays, the average visitor spends $49 per day, per person. This includes the costs of taxi rides and private drivers as well as public transportation, which tends to be much more affordable.
Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cairns
Also for Cairns, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:
Cairns to Mission Beach Private Transfer:
Cairns to Port Douglas Private Transfer:
Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Port Douglas.:
Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Port Douglas.:
Corporate Bus, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove:
Premium, private bus transfer. Cairns City - Cairns Airport.:
Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.:
Port Douglas Transfers between Cairns Airport & Port Douglas (Private Chauffeur):
Cairns Airport (CNS) Departure Transfer (Cairns Hotels to Cairns CNS Airport):
Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Trinity Beach:
Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport:
Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.:
Is it cheaper to fly into Cairns or Whitsundays?
Prices for flights to both Whitsundays 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.
Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in Cairns can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $33 per person, per day on entertainment and sightseeing here.
In Whitsundays, the costs for things to do, activities, admission tickets, and other sightseeing expenses are on average $22 per person, per day.
Typical Entertainment prices in Cairns
Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Cairns's activities, tours, and tickets:
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 Day Reef & Rainforest Adventure:
2-Day Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest Tour from Cairns /Port Douglas:
2-Day Green Island Cruise and Kuranda Day Trip:
Aboriginal Cultural Daintree Rainforest Tour from Cairns or Port Douglas:
Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls and Rainforest Day Tour Departing Cairns:
Barron Gorge and Kuranda National Park Half Day Rainforest and Waterfall 4WD Tour from Cairns:
Cairns 4WD Waterfall and Rainforest Tour Including Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway:
Cairns Adventure Package- 4 tours in 3 days!:
Cairns Aquarium Admission Ticket:
Cairns Aquarium Family Tickets:
Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket:
Tours and Activities in Whitsundays
Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Whitsundays.
Great Barrier Reef Luxury Expedition Cruise cabin booking 7 days 6 night:
Great Barrier Reef Private Expedition Cruise (min 4 day max 8 guests):
Typically, people visiting Cairns spend on average $12 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.
Alcoholic beverages can often be a significant portion of a traveler's budget, and the costs can vary greatly from person to person. In Whitsundays, the average amount that a visitor spends on alcoholic beverages per day is $11.
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:
When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Cairns and Whitsundays, we can see that Whitsundays 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 Whitsundays would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Whitsundays than you might in Cairns.
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