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

Should you visit Cairns or Whitsundays?

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

Should I visit Cairns or Whitsundays? 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 Whitsundays?


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 $76, while the average daily cost in Whitsundays is $106. 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 Whitsundays in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Cairns $34
    Whitsundays $55
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Cairns $68
    Whitsundays $110
Compare Hotels in Cairns and Whitsundays

Looking for a hotel in Cairns or Whitsundays? 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 Whitsundays

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.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Cairns $9.69
    Whitsundays $44

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

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.

  • Food Meals for one day
    Cairns $22
    Whitsundays $24

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

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Cairns $30
    Whitsundays $20
Typical Entertainment prices in Cairns

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

  • Scuba Diving

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

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: $3,536
  • Great Barrier Reef Private Expedition Cruise (min 4 day max 8 guests): $9,727

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Cairns $11
    Whitsundays $9.70

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

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.

When is the best time to visit Cairns or Whitsundays?

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 Whitsundays in the Summer?

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

In the summer, Cairns is a little warmer than Whitsundays. Typically, the summer temperatures in Cairns in January are around 29°C (84°F), and Whitsundays is about 26°C (79°F).

Whitsundays 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 Whitsundays. At this time of the year, Cairns gets 429 mm (16.9 in) of rain, while Whitsundays receives 331 mm (13 in) of rain.

  • Summer Average Temperatures January
    Cairns 29°C (84°F) 
    Whitsundays 26°C (79°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Whitsundays in the Autumn?

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

In April, Cairns is generally a little warmer than Whitsundays. Temperatures in Cairns average around 27°C (80°F), and Whitsundays stays around 23°C (73°F).

It's quite rainy in Whitsundays. Cairns receives a lot of rain in the autumn. Cairns usually gets more rain in April than Whitsundays. Cairns gets 273 mm (10.8 in) of rain, while Whitsundays receives 143 mm (5.6 in) of rain this time of the year.

  • Autumn Average Temperatures April
    Cairns 27°C (80°F) 
    Whitsundays 23°C (73°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Whitsundays in the Winter?

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

Cairns is a little warmer than Whitsundays in the winter. The temperature in Cairns is usually 23°C (73°F) in July, and Whitsundays stays around 16°C (62°F).

In July, Cairns usually receives less rain than Whitsundays. At this time of the year, Cairns gets 35 mm (1.4 in) of rain, while Whitsundays receives 40 mm (1.6 in) of rain.

  • Winter Average Temperatures July
    Cairns 23°C (73°F) 
    Whitsundays 16°C (62°F)

Should I visit Cairns or Whitsundays in the Spring?

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

In the spring, Cairns is a little warmer than Whitsundays. Typically, the spring temperatures in Cairns in October are around 27°C (80°F), and Whitsundays is about 23°C (73°F).

Cairns usually gets around the same amount of rain in October as Whitsundays. Cairns gets 44 mm (1.7 in) of rain, while Whitsundays receives 48 mm (1.9 in) of rain this time of the year.

  • Spring Average Temperatures October
    Cairns 27°C (80°F) 
    Whitsundays 23°C (73°F)

Typical Weather for Whitsundays and Cairns

Cairns Whitsundays
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 29°C (84°F) 429 mm (16.9 in) 26°C (79°F) 331 mm (13 in)
Feb 29°C (83°F) 469 mm (18.5 in) 26°C (78°F) 377 mm (14.8 in)
Mar 28°C (82°F) 471 mm (18.5 in) 25°C (77°F) 312 mm (12.3 in)
Apr 27°C (80°F) 273 mm (10.8 in) 23°C (73°F) 143 mm (5.6 in)
May 25°C (78°F) 118 mm (4.6 in) 20°C (68°F) 67 mm (2.6 in)
Jun 23°C (74°F) 62 mm (2.5 in) 17°C (63°F) 57 mm (2.2 in)
Jul 23°C (73°F) 35 mm (1.4 in) 16°C (62°F) 40 mm (1.6 in)
Aug 24°C (75°F) 34 mm (1.3 in) 18°C (65°F) 27 mm (1.1 in)
Sep 25°C (77°F) 40 mm (1.6 in) 20°C (68°F) 15 mm (0.6 in)
Oct 27°C (80°F) 44 mm (1.7 in) 23°C (73°F) 48 mm (1.9 in)
Nov 28°C (82°F) 104 mm (4.1 in) 25°C (77°F) 107 mm (4.2 in)
Dec 29°C (83°F) 211 mm (8.3 in) 26°C (78°F) 191 mm (7.5 in)

Budget Your Trip

Budget Your Trip has average travel costs for thousands of cities around the world, all provided by other travelers. You can also register to organize your spending by category and location with graphs, maps, charts, and tables.

Share This Page
Pin This Page
Cairns vs. Whitsundays Travel Comparison

Some of the links on this website are sponsored or affiliate links which help to financially support this site. By clicking the link and making a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but this does not affect the price of your purchase.