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

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.

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.

Whitsundays

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 $85, while the average daily cost in Whitsundays is $120. 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.



Accommodation

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 $124 in Whitsundays For the most convenient locations and nicer amenities you can expect to pay a bit more.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Cairns $38
    Whitsundays $62
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Cairns $76
    Whitsundays $124

Food

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 $27 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.


  • Food Meals for one day
    Cairns $25
    Whitsundays $27

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cairns

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

  • Private Pizza Making Class in Hunter Valley: $48
  • Pizza Paddle Sunset Kayak Tour in Bateman's Bay: $66
  • Dinner Cruise at Sydney Harbour with Optional Mast Climb Experience: $72
  • Cairns Dinner Cruise by Spirit of Cairns: $73
  • Australian Outback Spectacular Dinner Show Ticket: $74
  • Charles Darwin Dinner Cruise: $75
  • Spirit of Dinner Cruise: $77
  • Sydney Harbour Sunset Dinner Cruise by Captain Cook: $77
  • Dumpling Cooking Class in Melbourne: $80
  • Cairns Aquarium Twilight Tour with 3-Course Dinner: $88
  • Cairns Aquarium by Twilight with 3 Course Dinner: $99
  • Pinnacles Sunset Dinner and Stargazing Tour: $109

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Whitsundays

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

  • Private Pizza Making Class in Hunter Valley: $48
  • Pizza Paddle Sunset Kayak Tour in Bateman's Bay: $66
  • Dinner Cruise at Sydney Harbour with Optional Mast Climb Experience: $72
  • Cairns Dinner Cruise by Spirit of Cairns: $73
  • Australian Outback Spectacular Dinner Show Ticket: $74
  • Charles Darwin Dinner Cruise: $75
  • Sydney Harbour Sunset Dinner Cruise by Captain Cook: $77
  • Dumpling Cooking Class in Melbourne: $80
  • Cairns Aquarium Twilight Tour with 3-Course Dinner: $88
  • Pinnacles Sunset Dinner and Stargazing Tour: $109
  • Private Cooking School in the Hunter Valley: $114
  • Mexican Cooking Class in Melbourne: $122

Local Transportation

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 $50 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.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Cairns $11
    Whitsundays $50

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
  • Hot Air Balloon Experience with Round-trip Transfers & Vineyard Champagne Breakfast in Brisbane: $191
  • [Promotion: Adult at Kids Price] Hot Air Balloon Experience with Round-trip Transfers & Vineyard Champagne Breakfast in Gold Coast: $191
  • [Promotion: Adult at Kids Price] Hot Air Balloon Experience in Cairns with Round-trip Transfers: $176
  • 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
  • Shared Shuttle Bus Transfers from Kings Canyon to Alice Springs: $133
  • Shared Shuttle Bus Transfers between Alice Springs and Ayers Rock: $133
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.: $125

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Whitsundays

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

  • [Promotion: Adult at Kids Price] Hot Air Balloon Experience with Round-trip Transfers & Vineyard Champagne Breakfast in Gold Coast: $191
  • [Promotion: Adult at Kids Price] Hot Air Balloon Experience in Cairns with Round-trip Transfers: $176
  • Wet'n'Wild Return Shared Shuttle Transfer from Gold Coast Hotels: $18
  • Thredbo Day Trip with Round Trip Transfer from Sydney by Brighton Coach: $81
  • SkyBus Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (MEL) Express Transfer Ticket: $11
  • Shared Sydney Airport Transfers (SYD) for Sydney: $13
  • Shared Sunshine Coast Airport Transfers (MCY) for Sunshine Coast: $12
  • Shared Shuttle Bus Transfers from Kings Canyon to Alice Springs: $133
  • Shared Shuttle Bus Transfers between Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon: $110
  • Shared Shuttle Bus Transfers between Alice Springs and Ayers Rock: $133
  • Shared Perth Airport (PER) Transfers for Perth and Fremantle: $22
  • Shared Gold Coast Airport Transfers (OOL) for Gold Coast: $17

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.





Entertainment

Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in Cairns can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $34 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.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Cairns $34
    Whitsundays $22
Typical Entertainment prices in Cairns

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


  • Scuba Diving
    $40

Tours and Activities in Cairns

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

  • Abseiling Adventure in Adelaide : $73
  • Half Day Kayak Tour in Bateman's Bay + FREE Paddle Pack: $95
  • Hunter Valley Scenic Wine and Cheese Tour from Sydney: $125
  • Nowra Treetop and Zipline Adventure: $32
  • Yarra Valley Hot Air Balloon Flight and Winery Tour: $385
  • 'Have a Go' Clay Target Shooting Experience in Brisbane: $110
  • 1.5-Hour Segway Tour of Cairns and Botanic Gardens: $72
  • 12 Apostles, Otways & Great Ocean Road Hiking Adventure from Melbourne: $132
  • 14-Day Cape York Camping Tour: $2,350
  • 1D1N Kangaroo Island Road to Recovery Tour: $514
  • 2 Day Liveaboard Yacht Great Barrier Reef Tour: $358
  • 2 Day Reef & Rainforest Adventure: $619

Tours and Activities in Whitsundays

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

  • Abseiling Adventure in Adelaide : $73
  • Half Day Kayak Tour in Bateman's Bay + FREE Paddle Pack: $95
  • Hunter Valley Scenic Wine and Cheese Tour from Sydney: $125
  • Nowra Treetop and Zipline Adventure: $32
  • Yarra Valley Hot Air Balloon Flight and Winery Tour: $385
  • 'Have a Go' Clay Target Shooting Experience in Brisbane: $110
  • 12 Apostles, Otways & Great Ocean Road Hiking Adventure from Melbourne: $132
  • 1D1N Kangaroo Island Road to Recovery Tour: $514
  • 2D Best of Tasmania Sightseeing Tour: Hobart & Bruny Island : $126
  • 2D Ultimate Marine Adventure from Port Lincoln: $405
  • 2D1N Reefsleep Under the Stars Great Barrier Experience: $416
  • 2D1N at the Wilderness Lodge with Walking Tours of Bungles and Cathedral Gorge: $1,068

Alcohol

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.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Cairns $12
    Whitsundays $11

Sample the Local Flavors in Cairns

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

  • Savannah Estate Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Tempus Two Wine Tasting Experience: $3.69
  • Hanging Tree Wines Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Capercaillie Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Misty Glen Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Tintilla Estate Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Hunter’s Dream Estate Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Pokolbin Estate Wine Tasting Experience: $3.69
  • Wine Tasting at Horner Wines in Hunter Valley: $7.39
  • Talits Estate Cellar Door Wine Tasting Experience: $7.39
  • Wine Tasting at Wine House in Hunter Valley: $7.39
  • Glandore Estate Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $7.39

Sample the Local Flavors in Whitsundays

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Whitsundays:

  • Savannah Estate Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Tempus Two Wine Tasting Experience: $3.69
  • Hanging Tree Wines Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Capercaillie Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Misty Glen Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Tintilla Estate Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Hunter’s Dream Estate Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $3.69
  • Pokolbin Estate Wine Tasting Experience: $3.69
  • Wine Tasting at Horner Wines in Hunter Valley: $7.39
  • Talits Estate Cellar Door Wine Tasting Experience: $7.39
  • Wine Tasting at Wine House in Hunter Valley: $7.39
  • Glandore Estate Wine Tasting in Hunter Valley: $7.39


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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Cairns vs. Whitsundays Travel Comparison

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