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

Should you visit Darwin or Cairns?

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

If you're trying to decide where to visit between Darwin or Cairns, this travel comparison, which includes costs, can help. The overall cost of travel is usually a consideration when deciding where to go next, and the cost comparison down below can help you decide based on the average prices from other travelers along with your own travel budget.

Where Should I go: Darwin or Cairns?


Darwin is a tropical city set against the Timor Sea in north central Australia. It is also the capital city of the Northern Territory. Despite being a relatively small city, Darwin is very diverse with residents from all over the world. The city itself has a very relaxed vibe with plenty to do. Visitors can enjoy everything from traditionally Asian style markets to culturally diverse events such as concerts, festivals or art shows.


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.

Which city is cheaper, Cairns or Darwin?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Darwin is $89, while the average daily cost in Cairns is $76. 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 Darwin and Cairns in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Darwin $50
    Cairns $34
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Darwin $100
    Cairns $68
Compare Hotels in Darwin and Cairns

Looking for a hotel in Darwin or Cairns? 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 Darwin

Hotels in Cairns

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Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Darwin $9.48
    Cairns $9.69
Typical Local Transportation prices in Darwin

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for transportation costs in Darwin:

  • Shuttle to Train Station

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Darwin

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Darwin:

  • Wildman Fishing Tours - Fishing + Scenic Flight Transfer: $1,146
  • Private Departure Transfer: Hotel to Darwin Airport: $142
  • Private Arrival Transfer: Darwin Airport to Hotel: $142

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cairns

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

  • Airport to Cairns/Port Douglas Transfer: $13
  • Airport Transfers between Cairns Airport and Cairns City: $14
  • Express Private Transfer from Cairns Airport to Cairns City: $22
  • Airport Transfer - Cairns City To Airport: $53
  • From Fitzroy Island Return Catamaran Transfer: $60
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport: $62
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport -Trinity Beach.: $71
  • Cairns Airport transfer to Cairns City: $76
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.: $89
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport: $89
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Trinity Beach: $107
  • Cairns Airport (CNS) Departure Transfer (Cairns Hotels to Cairns CNS Airport): $112

Is it cheaper to fly into Darwin or Cairns?

Prices for flights to both Cairns and Darwin 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
    Darwin $30
    Cairns $22

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.
    Darwin $12
    Cairns $30

Tours and Activities in Darwin

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

  • 11-day Darwin to Cairns tour: $1,580
  • 2-Day Kakadu and Arnhem Land Tour from Darwin: $753
  • 3-Day Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land Explorer Tour from Darwin: $1,028
  • 5 Day Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land Tour: $2,837
  • 9 Day Darwin to Broome Adventure: $1,779
  • 9-Day Kimberley Offroad Adventure from Darwin to Broome: $1,580
  • Adelaide River Jumping Crocodile Cruise with Roundtrip Helicopter from Darwin: $545
  • Arnhem Land Injalak Hill Full-Day Tour from Darwin: $213
  • Bombing of Darwin World War II Tour with Harbour Cruise: $100
  • Darwin Adventure Rentals - 10 Day Rental - 4WD Camper rentals: $1,216
  • Darwin Adventure Rentals - 5 Day Rental - 4WD Camper rentals: $608
  • Darwin Adventure Rentals - 6 Day Rental - 4WD Camper rentals: $730

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:

  • Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket: $32
  • Cairns Aquarium Admission Ticket: $35
  • From Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour: $61
  • Goldsborough Valley Tour: Stand up Paddle through sacred lands: $63
  • Half-Day City Sightseeing Tour: $63
  • Waterfall and Wallabies Sighting Tour: $63
  • Kayak Turtle Tour from Palm Cove: $65
  • Day Trip: Rainforest & Aboriginal Culture Tour: $66
  • Cairns Shore Excursion: Cairns City Sights & Surrounds Tour: $70
  • Cairns City Sights and Surrounds Tour: $70
  • Hartley's Crocodile Adventures Wildlife Encounter Day Trip from Cairns: $71
  • Standup Paddleboard Tour in Goldsborough Valley: $71

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Darwin $10
    Cairns $11
Typical Alcohol prices in Darwin

Here are a few samples of the prices for alcohol and nightlife in Darwin from other travelers:

  • Evening at a Bar
  • Glass of Wine

Sample the Local Flavors in Darwin

Also in Darwin, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Heli Pub Crawl – 4 Pubs: $782

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 Darwin and Cairns, we can see that Darwin 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 Darwin would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Darwin than you might in Cairns.

When is the best time to visit Darwin or Cairns?

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 Darwin or Cairns in the Summer?

Both Cairns and Darwin during the summer are popular places to visit.

In the summer, Darwin is around the same temperature as Cairns. Typically, the summer temperatures in Darwin in January are around 29°C (83°F), and Cairns is about 29°C (84°F).

Cairns gets a good bit of rain this time of year. It rains a lot this time of the year in Darwin. Darwin usually gets around the same amount of rain in January as Cairns. Darwin gets 437 mm (17.2 in) of rain, while Cairns receives 429 mm (16.9 in) of rain this time of the year.

  • Summer Average Temperatures January
    Darwin 29°C (83°F) 
    Cairns 29°C (84°F)

Should I visit Darwin or Cairns in the Autumn?

The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Darwin and Cairns.

In April, Darwin is generally around the same temperature as Cairns. Temperatures in Darwin average around 29°C (84°F), and Cairns stays around 27°C (80°F).

Cairns receives a lot of rain in the autumn. In April, Darwin usually receives less rain than Cairns. At this time of the year, Darwin gets 85 mm (3.3 in) of rain, while Cairns receives 273 mm (10.8 in) of rain.

  • Autumn Average Temperatures April
    Darwin 29°C (84°F) 
    Cairns 27°C (80°F)

Should I visit Darwin or Cairns in the Winter?

The winter brings many poeple to Darwin as well as Cairns.

Darwin is around the same temperature as Cairns in the winter. The temperature in Darwin is usually 25°C (77°F) in July, and Cairns stays around 23°C (73°F).

Darwin usually gets less rain in July than Cairns. Darwin gets 1 mm (0 in) of rain, while Cairns receives 35 mm (1.4 in) of rain this time of the year.

  • Winter Average Temperatures July
    Darwin 25°C (77°F) 
    Cairns 23°C (73°F)

Should I visit Darwin or Cairns in the Spring?

Both Cairns and Darwin are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities.

In the spring, Darwin is around the same temperature as Cairns. Typically, the spring temperatures in Darwin in October are around 29°C (85°F), and Cairns is about 27°C (80°F).

In October, Darwin usually receives more rain than Cairns. At this time of the year, Darwin gets 76 mm (3 in) of rain, while Cairns receives 44 mm (1.7 in) of rain.

  • Spring Average Temperatures October
    Darwin 29°C (85°F) 
    Cairns 27°C (80°F)

Typical Weather for Cairns and Darwin

Darwin Cairns
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 29°C (83°F) 437 mm (17.2 in) 29°C (84°F) 429 mm (16.9 in)
Feb 28°C (83°F) 343 mm (13.5 in) 29°C (83°F) 469 mm (18.5 in)
Mar 28°C (83°F) 342 mm (13.5 in) 28°C (82°F) 471 mm (18.5 in)
Apr 29°C (84°F) 85 mm (3.3 in) 27°C (80°F) 273 mm (10.8 in)
May 27°C (81°F) 29 mm (1.1 in) 25°C (78°F) 118 mm (4.6 in)
Jun 26°C (78°F) 2 mm (0.1 in) 23°C (74°F) 62 mm (2.5 in)
Jul 25°C (77°F) 1 mm (0 in) 23°C (73°F) 35 mm (1.4 in)
Aug 26°C (79°F) 8 mm (0.3 in) 24°C (75°F) 34 mm (1.3 in)
Sep 28°C (83°F) 19 mm (0.7 in) 25°C (77°F) 40 mm (1.6 in)
Oct 29°C (85°F) 76 mm (3 in) 27°C (80°F) 44 mm (1.7 in)
Nov 30°C (85°F) 131 mm (5.2 in) 28°C (82°F) 104 mm (4.1 in)
Dec 29°C (85°F) 234 mm (9.2 in) 29°C (83°F) 211 mm (8.3 in)

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Darwin vs. Cairns Travel Comparison

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