A Travel Price Comparison for Australia Fraser Island vs. Cairns for Scuba Diving & Snorkeling, Beaches, Hiking, and Families

Should you visit Fraser Island or Cairns?

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

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the activities as well as the prices of travel for Fraser Island and Cairns. We'll break down costs for accommodation, food, transportation and more to help you learn more about these two destinations. Then, you can figure out if either of these two places are accessible based on your travel budget, schedule, and interests. So, let's dig into it.

Fraser Island

Fraser Island is a stunning, serene, and breathtaking island. It's considered by many to be an absolutely beautiful destination, too. It's also popular because of the beaches and hiking.

Cairns

Cairns is a tropical, idyllic, and outdoorsy city. And you can't forget about the hiking, shopping, and nightlife.

Fraser Island and Cairns: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for food
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Not as popular for scuba diving and snorkeling
  • Public transit not as usable
Pros
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good public transit
  • Home to the Great Barrier Reef


Is there more to do in Fraser Island or Cairns?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Cairns. Although Fraser Island and Cairns are both popular with visitors, Cairns has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Cairns is more popular for its museums, food, nightlife, resorts, scuba diving & snorkeling, hiking, and shopping, while Fraser Island is known for its impressive beauty. Cairns is more touristy than Fraser Island and is popular for its stunning beaches, nearby rainforests, and easy access to the world's largest reef system. It is also home to the Great Barrier Reef. Fraser Island is popular for its beautiful sand dunes, lush rainforests, and diverse wildlife.

How is Fraser Island different from Cairns?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Fraser Island or Cairns?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is a moderate city for its sights and museums. However, Fraser Island is not a good island for its museums and history.

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.

If you're looking to pass the time, head to a museum or historic sight in Fraser Island. The stunning natural beauty is the appeal of this island. It is worth visiting the Maheno Shipwreck which was once a trans-Tasman liner.


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

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is a well-known place for its local cuisine and restaurants. However, Fraser Island is not a good island for its restaurants.

Eating is part of the travel experience when you visit Cairns. 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.

Fraser Island may not make the list for most foodies, but you'll find what you need while you're in town. There are settlements on the island where you can pick up food and essentials, but don't expect much more than the basics. There are also several restaurants.

Is Fraser Island or Cairns Better for Nightlife?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is very popular for nightlife and partying. However, Fraser Island is not a good island for its evening party scene.

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.

Fraser Island doesn't offer many options. There are a handful of bars on the island where you can enjoy a drink in a laid back setting.

Is Fraser Island or Cairns Better for Resorts?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is a well-known place for its resorts. However, Fraser Island 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.

Fraser Island is not a resort destination.


Is Fraser Island or Cairns Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is very popular for its diving and snorkeling. However, Fraser Island is not a good island for snorkeling and scuba diving.

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.

It's possible to go snorkeling in Fraser Island. The waters around the island are not designed for snorkeling, as the currents are strong and there are often large sharks. There are several dive spots including a ship wreck as well as a beautiful reef that is filled with hard and soft corals.

Is Fraser Island or Cairns Better for Beaches?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Fraser Island and Cairns both offer amazing beaches.

Fraser Island offers stunning beaches that attract visitors from around the world. The idyllic beaches really are paradise. The water is blue, the sand white, and the rainforest feels undiscovered. The most famous beach is Seventy-Five Mile Beach, but other beautiful spots include Eli Creek, Lake Wabby, and the Champagne Pools (the only oceanfront spot where you can swim).

Travelers come from around the world to visit the beaches in Cairns. 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).

Is Fraser Island or Cairns Better for Hiking?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is very popular for the nearby hiking options. Also, Fraser Island is not as famous, but is still a good island 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 Fraser Island. There are many stunning hikes on the island and many visitors choose to camp during their visit. It's possible to organize a group hike with a guide as well, which is recommended as it is the safer option.


Is the Shopping Better in Fraser Island or Cairns?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is a well-known place for its shopping opportunities. However, Fraser Island is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Cairns is a popular shopping destination with plenty of stores. 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.

Fraser Island is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Is Fraser Island or Cairns Better for Families?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is very popular for its family-friendly activities. Also, Fraser Island is not as famous, but is still a good island 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.

You'll find plenty of family-friendly things to do in Fraser Island. The kids will love the peaceful beaches and stunning landscapes as much as the adults. There are walking trails, beautiful water, and between the months of July and November you can go whale watching.

Is Fraser Island or Cairns Better for Couples?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Fraser Island is terrific for couples. Also, Cairns is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for romance.

Fraser Island makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. It's stunning beaches and serene setting make for a truly romantic destination. You can picnic on the white sand or float down Eli Creek. Kayaking or stand up paddle boarding are also fun.

Couples visit Cairns frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. 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.


Is Fraser Island or Cairns Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Fraser Island
Cairns

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

Backpackers and budget travelers come from all over the world to visit Cairns. 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.

Plenty of budget travelers and backpackers visit Fraser Island. It's truly a bucket list destination, so even though it may be challenging to reach, it's well worth the effort. There are ferries that leave from either Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay, or you can visit as part of an organized tour.

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

Fraser Island
Cairns

Cairns is a good destination for its public transit. However, Fraser Island is not a good island for times when you don't have a car.

Cairns has a few 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.

Public transit is quite limited in Fraser Island. The roads are sand and you'll need a vehicle of your own to get around. Because of the conditions, it requires four wheel drive.

Is Fraser Island or Cairns a more walkable city?

Fraser Island
Cairns

Fraser Island and Cairns both are decent when exploring on foot.

Fraser Island is generally not very walkable. The island is large enough that you'll likely want a vehicle (four wheel drive) to get around and fully experience it.

Cairns is generally not a very walkable island. 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 Fraser Island Worth Visiting? and Is Cairns Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Cairns or Fraser Island?

How long in Fraser Island or Cairns?

In either Fraser Island or Cairns, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. In our opinion, Cairns has more to see and do, so we recommend spending more time in Cairns than Fraser Island. However, 3-5 days is a good amount of time to spend in either destination.

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Cairns than Fraser Island 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 Fraser Island or Cairns? Ideal Length of Stay
    Fraser Island 3-5 
    Cairns 3-5

One day in Fraser Island or Cairns?

Many travelers enjoy the when visiting the destination of Fraser Island. 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 scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping when visiting the idyllic destination of Cairns. It's also a relaxing resort destination. Your budget might influence how long you stay. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.

A weekend in Fraser Island or Cairns?

Fraser Island is a great place to explore. Don't miss the beaches, as that's what most people do. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Cairns. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

Five days in Fraser Island or Cairns?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Fraser Island. Don't miss the beaches, as that's what most people do. 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.

Many travelers enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the idyllic destination of Cairns. Travelers enjoy the resorts in the area as well. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. If you have five days, this is a great place to go. Five days is usually enough time to experience most activities.


A week in Fraser Island or Cairns?

Travelers enjoy the when visiting the idyllic destination of Fraser Island. This island 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.

You'll find food and scuba diving and snorkeling around the city of Cairns. People often spend their time relaxing at one of the resorts. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in Australia, The Best Walking Tours in Australia, The Best Eco Tours in Australia, and The Best Coach Bus Tours in Australia.


Which place is cheaper, Cairns or Fraser Island?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Fraser Island is $211, while the average daily cost in Cairns is $96. 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 Fraser Island and Cairns in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Fraser Island $104
    Cairns $44
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Fraser Island $208
    Cairns $88
Compare Hotels in Fraser Island and Cairns

Looking for a hotel in Fraser Island 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 Fraser Island


Hotels in Cairns


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.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Fraser Island $94
    Cairns $12

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: $14
  • Shared Airport Transfer to/from City and Beaches: $14
  • Airport Transfers between Cairns Airport and Cairns City: $14
  • Airport Transfers between Cairns Airport and Palm Cove: $21
  • Private Transfer From Cairns Cruise Port to Cairns City Hotels: $21
  • Private Transfer from Cairns City Hotels to Cairns Cruise Port: $21
  • Cairns Airport luxury private transfer Airport to City Hotel: $32
  • AIRPORT TRANSFER between Cairns Airport & Port Douglas (6am-5pm): $35
  • 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: $50

Is it cheaper to fly into Fraser Island or Cairns?

Prices for flights to both Cairns and Fraser Island 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
    Fraser Island $48
    Cairns $28

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: $87
  • Night at the Aquarium Guided Tour & 2 Course Dinner: $91
  • Guided Twilight Tour with 3-Course Dinner: $118
  • City Sights Tour with Evening Dinner Cruise: $150
  • Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise: $159

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Fraser Island $45
    Cairns $38

Tours and Activities in Fraser Island

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

  • 2 Hours Hervey Bay Funset Cruise: $53
  • Discovery K'gari (Fraser Island) Day Tour - From Noosa: $202
  • Discovery K'gari (Fraser Island) Day Tour - From Rainbow Beach: $189
  • From Hervey Bay: K'gari/Fraser Island 2-Day Tour with Meals: $314
  • Hervey Bay Ultimate Whale Watching Cruise: $74
  • Hervey Bay Whale Watching Cruise: $101
  • Hervey Bay: Best Value Half Day Whale Watching Cruise : $80
  • Hervey Bay: Half Day Whale watching & Island Stop Tour: $112
  • K'gari (Fraser Island) Day Tour: $185
  • Remote Fraser Island Experience: $168
  • Remote K'gari (Fraser Island) & Whale Experience: $168

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: $10
  • Cairns Self-Guided Audio Tour: $14
  • Kuranda Koala Gardens General Entry Ticket: $14
  • Skip the Line: Cairns Museum Admission Ticket: $20
  • Kuranda Koala Gardens and Birdworld Admission Tickets: $25
  • Cairns Pub & Club Tour: $27
  • Entry Ticket at Historic Village Herberton: $28
  • Cairns History Walking Tour: $29
  • Hipster and Street Art Walking Tour: $29
  • Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket: $34
  • Sightseeing River Boat Safari with Soft Drinks: $36
  • Cairns Aquarium Admission Ticket: $39

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Fraser Island $21
    Cairns $14

Sample the Local Flavors in Cairns

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

  • Cairns Brewery Tours: $142
  • From Atherton Tablelands Food and Wine Tasting Tour: $161


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Fraser Island and Cairns, we can see that Fraser Island 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 Fraser Island would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Fraser Island than you might in Cairns.

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



When is the best time to visit Fraser Island 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 Fraser Island or Cairns in the Summer?

Both Cairns and Fraser Island during the summer are popular places to visit. The beaches, snorkeling, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences are the main draw to Fraser Island this time of year. Furthermore, many travelers come to Cairns for the beaches, snorkeling, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences.

In the summer, Fraser Island is cooler than Cairns. Typically, the summer temperatures in Fraser Island in January average around 26°C (78°F), and Cairns averages at 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 Fraser Island. Fraser Island usually gets less rain in January than Cairns. Fraser Island gets 164 mm (6.5 in) of rain, while Cairns receives 429 mm (16.9 in) of rain this time of the year. November to March is the rainy season in Cairns.


  • Summer Average Temperatures January
    Fraser Island 26°C (78°F) 
    Cairns 29°C (84°F)

Should I visit Fraser Island or Cairns in the Autumn?

The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Fraser Island and Cairns. Many travelers come to Fraser Island for the hiking trails and the natural beauty of the area. Furthermore, many visitors come to Cairns in the autumn for the hiking trails and the shopping scene.

In April, Fraser Island is generally cooler than Cairns. Daily temperatures in Fraser Island average around 22°C (72°F), and Cairns fluctuates around 27°C (80°F).

Cairns receives a lot of rain in the autumn. In April, Fraser Island usually receives less rain than Cairns. Fraser Island gets 87 mm (3.4 in) of rain, while Cairns receives 273 mm (10.8 in) of rain each month for the autumn. April to October in Cairns is the dry season.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures April
    Fraser Island 22°C (72°F) 
    Cairns 27°C (80°F)

Should I visit Fraser Island or Cairns in the Winter?

The winter brings many poeple to Fraser Island as well as Cairns. Many visitors come to Fraser Island in the winter for the cuisine. Additionally, most visitors come to Cairns for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine during these months.

Fraser Island is much colder than Cairns in the winter. The daily temperature in Fraser Island averages around 15°C (59°F) in July, and Cairns fluctuates around 23°C (73°F).

Fraser Island usually gets more rain in July than Cairns. Fraser Island gets 59 mm (2.3 in) of rain, while Cairns receives 35 mm (1.4 in) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures July
    Fraser Island 15°C (59°F) 
    Cairns 23°C (73°F)

Should I visit Fraser Island or Cairns in the Spring?

Both Cairns and Fraser Island are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities. Most visitors come to Fraser Island for the beaches and the natural beauty during these months. Also, the spring months attract visitors to Cairns because of the beaches.

In the spring, Fraser Island is cooler than Cairns. Typically, the spring temperatures in Fraser Island in October average around 21°C (71°F), and Cairns averages at about 27°C (80°F).

In October, Fraser Island usually receives more rain than Cairns. Fraser Island gets 75 mm (2.9 in) of rain, while Cairns receives 44 mm (1.7 in) of rain each month for the spring. The dry season in Cairns is April to October. The rainy season in Cairns is November to March.


  • Spring Average Temperatures October
    Fraser Island 21°C (71°F) 
    Cairns 27°C (80°F)

Typical Weather for Cairns and Fraser Island

Fraser Island Cairns
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 26°C (78°F) 164 mm (6.5 in) 29°C (84°F) 429 mm (16.9 in)
Feb 25°C (78°F) 163 mm (6.4 in) 29°C (83°F) 469 mm (18.5 in)
Mar 24°C (76°F) 134 mm (5.3 in) 28°C (82°F) 471 mm (18.5 in)
Apr 22°C (72°F) 87 mm (3.4 in) 27°C (80°F) 273 mm (10.8 in)
May 19°C (66°F) 78 mm (3.1 in) 25°C (78°F) 118 mm (4.6 in)
Jun 16°C (61°F) 64 mm (2.5 in) 23°C (74°F) 62 mm (2.5 in)
Jul 15°C (59°F) 59 mm (2.3 in) 23°C (73°F) 35 mm (1.4 in)
Aug 16°C (61°F) 45 mm (1.8 in) 24°C (75°F) 34 mm (1.3 in)
Sep 19°C (65°F) 29 mm (1.1 in) 25°C (77°F) 40 mm (1.6 in)
Oct 21°C (71°F) 75 mm (2.9 in) 27°C (80°F) 44 mm (1.7 in)
Nov 23°C (74°F) 106 mm (4.2 in) 28°C (82°F) 104 mm (4.1 in)
Dec 25°C (77°F) 134 mm (5.3 in) 29°C (83°F) 211 mm (8.3 in)