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

Should you visit Melbourne or Cairns?

Should I visit Melbourne or Cairns? 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.

Melbourne

Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia, after Sydney. It is also the capital city of the state of Victoria, in southeastern Australia. Melbourne is arguably the best city to experience culture and the arts in Australia. There is a friendly rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney over livability and popularity and Melbourne is definitely the city to visit for its parks, shopping, restaurants, galleries and theaters. Like Sydney, it is situated on the water, at the head of Port Phillip Bay. It's a beautiful city, and although it lacks the major sights that you'll find in Sydney such as the Sydney Opera House or the Harbour Bridge, you will never find yourself lacking for entertainment. It is also a wonderful base for exploring many of the nearby highlights, including Grampians National Park, The Great Ocean Road, and Phillip Island where you can view the penguin parade.

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.

Which city is cheaper, Cairns or Melbourne?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Melbourne is $164, while the average daily cost in Cairns is $87. 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 Melbourne and Cairns in more detail.



Accommodation

An average hotel room with basic furnishings costs about $222 in Melbourne 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 $78 in Cairns For the most convenient locations and nicer amenities you can expect to pay a bit more.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Melbourne $111
    Cairns $39
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Melbourne $222
    Cairns $78

Food

While meal prices in Melbourne can vary, the average travelers spends about $28 per day on food. Based on the spending habits of previous travelers, when dining out, an average meal in Melbourne should cost around $11 per person. Breakfast prices are usually a little cheaper than lunch or dinner. The price of food in sit-down restaurants in Melbourne is often higher than fast food prices or street food prices.

Food in Cairns costs travelers about $26 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.


  • Food Meals for one day
    Melbourne $28
    Cairns $26
Typical Food prices in Melbourne

For Melbourne, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Coffee
    $2.99
  • Pizza
    $5.24

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Melbourne

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

  • Eynesbury Homestead Dinner and Ghost Tour: $63
  • Private Australian Cooking Class in Melbourne using Native Produce: $125
  • Withlocals The 10 Tastings: Melbourne Private Food Tour: $131
  • Vegan Cooking Class: $146
  • Private Modern Australian Cooking Class with a Professional Chef in Melbourne: $166
  • Private Market Tour and Australian Cooking Class with a Local Chef in her Home: $203
  • [PRIVATE TOUR] Best Of Melbourne Food Tours: $462

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cairns

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

  • Spirit of Dinner Cruise: $77
  • Cairns Aquarium by Twilight with 3 Course Dinner: $99
  • Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise: $154

Local Transportation

Public transportation tends to be much less expensive in Melbourne than paying for a taxi or private car service, as is expected. Typically, people spend $18 on transportation in Melbourne on average per day.

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.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Melbourne $18
    Cairns $11
Typical Local Transportation prices in Melbourne

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


  • Airport Bus
    $12
  • Tram Ride
    $2.84

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Melbourne

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

  • Transfer in private vehicle from Melbourne Downtown City to Airport: $53
  • Transfer in private Minivan from Melbourne City Downtown to Airport: $65
  • Private Transfer: Melbourne to Moorabbin Airport (MBW): $622
  • Private Transfer: Melbourne to Melbourne Airport (MEL): $80
  • Private Transfer: Melbourne to Essendon Fields Airport (MEB): $106
  • Private Transfer: Melbourne to Avalon International Airport (AVV): $212
  • Private Transfer from Melbourne to Port Canaveral: $246
  • Private Transfer from Melbourne to Orlando-Sanford (SFB) Airport: $333
  • Private Transfer from Melbourne to Orlando (MCO) Airport: $319
  • Private Departure Transfer: Hotel to Melbourne Airports: $45
  • Private Car Transfer Melbourne Airport To CBD: $78
  • Private Airport Transfer: from Melbourne to Tullamarine Airport (MEL): $39

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cairns

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

  • Premium, private bus transfer. Cairns City - Cairns Airport.: $135
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport: $89
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Trinity Beach: $107
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Port Douglas.: $244
  • Premium Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.: $125
  • Port Douglas Transfers from Cairns: $49
  • Port Douglas Transfers between Cairns Airport & Port Douglas (Private Chauffeur): $118
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns City - Cairns Airport: $62
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport -Trinity Beach.: $71
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Port Douglas.: $171
  • Luxury Van, Private Transfer, Cairns Airport - Palm Cove.: $89
  • Express Private Transfer from Cairns Airport to Cairns City: $22

Is it cheaper to fly into Melbourne or Cairns?

Prices for flights to both Cairns and Melbourne 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 expenses in Melbourne, including the cost of admission tickets for day tours, museums, and attractions, usually cost an average of $25 per day, per person.

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.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Melbourne $25
    Cairns $34

Tours and Activities in Melbourne

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

  • '56 Chevrolet 3-Hour Bespoke Melbourne Classic Car Private Tour (4 person): $379
  • '56 Chevrolet 6-Hour Bespoke Melbourne Classic Car Private Tour (4 person): $683
  • '56 Chevrolet 6-Hour Dandenong Ranges Classic Car Private Tour (4 person): $683
  • '56 Chevrolet 6-Hour Yarra Valley Indulgence Classic Car Private Tour (4 person): $683
  • 1-Day Sovereign Hill “A Touch of Gold” Tour: $121
  • 12 Apostles Eco-Friendly Great Ocean Road Iconic Adventure from Melbourne: $119
  • 12 Apostles and Shipwreck Coast Express Private Tour: $375
  • 2 Day Exclusively Private Tour Of Phillip Island & The Great Ocean Road: $1,276
  • 2 Day Great Ocean Road Tour and Platypus paddle: $351
  • 2 Day Great Ocean Road Tour from Melbourne: $210
  • 2-Day Great Ocean Road and Grampians Tour Roundtrip from Melbourne: $257
  • 2-Day Great Ocean Road and Grampians Tour from Melbourne: $217

Typical Entertainment prices in Cairns

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


  • Scuba Diving
    $41

Tours and Activities in Cairns

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

  • 1.5-Hour Segway Tour of Cairns and Botanic Gardens: $72
  • 14-Day Cape York Camping Tour: $2,350
  • 2 Day Liveaboard Yacht Great Barrier Reef Tour: $358
  • 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
  • ATV Buggy Adventure & Rainforest experience Half-Day Tour: $102
  • 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
  • Barron River Half-Day Rafting Tour from Cairns: $88
  • Best of the Kuranda Rainforest Full-Day Tour: $203

Alcohol

Typically, people visiting Melbourne spend on average $15 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.

Typically, people visiting Cairns spend on average $12 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Melbourne $15
    Cairns $12
Typical Alcohol prices in Melbourne

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


  • Bottle of Wine
    $5.80

Sample the Local Flavors in Melbourne

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

  • Melbourne Bar Hunt: Melbourne Breakout Bar Crawl: $12
  • Melbourne CBD Pub Crawl: $16
  • Carlton Brewhouse Brewery Tour with Beer Tasting: $24
  • The Melbourne Un-Pub Crawl: $40
  • Yarra Valley Wine Tasting Day Tour from Melbourne: $78
  • Hops and Barrels- Hop on Hop off Wine Tour Mornington Peninsula.: $83
  • Small-Group Guided Yarra Valley Winery Tour with Wine Tasting: $104
  • Yarra Valley Local Produce and Wine Tasting Tour: $115
  • Yarra Valley Wine Tour inc lunch with a glass of wine, tastings and chocolate: $115
  • Yarra Valley Wine Tour with Local Harvest Tastings from Melbourne: $115
  • Yarra Valley Wine Tasting Tour Departing from Melbourne: $118
  • Mornington Peninsula Winery Tour Including Wine Tastings and 2-Course Lunch: $118

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

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
Melbourne vs. Cairns 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.