When Is the Best Time To Visit Cairns? (And The Worst)

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Are you wondering when is the best time to visit Cairns? This guide will help you plan the perfect visit to Far North Queensland. There is a reason why this is such a popular destination in northern Queensland and in Australia.

There’s a good reason why Cairns is one of our favourite places to visit In Queensland! And that’s coming from Queenslanders…

With tropical rainforests, unique wildlife and one of the 7 wonders of the world – The Great Barrier Reef, all in close proximity, Cairns is easily a place you could spend a while.

But when is the best time to soak up all that Cairns has to offer? Let’s dive right in!

Find the best Cairns accommodation for your stay!

View of Cairns across the water at dusk.

Why Should You Visit Cairns?

You likely already have a few good reasons for wanting to visit Cairns. But in case you need extra convincing, here are some of the reasons we love Cairns:

Cairns Seasons

Firstly, there isn’t a drastic change between seasons in Cairns and Tropical North Queensland compared to the southern part of the state and most other states in the country.

Cairns weather is fairly consistent all year round with warm weather (warm to hot, anyway).

Still, each season in Cairns has its own unique charm but also comes with its own set of considerations.

You could also argue that Cairns really has two main seasonsthe wet season and the dry season.

Winter In Cairns (June – August)

Winter? What winter? Winter in Cairns are more like a mild summer in most other places in Australia, with temperatures averaging around 25°C during the day and dipping to a cool 17°C at night.

The water temperature sits comfortably around 23°C, perfect for a dip or snorkel. It’s a great time to visit if you’re not a fan of scorching heat.

Cairns in winter is also a great place to go if you’re chasing the winter sun!

Spring In Cairns (September – November)

Spring is another fabulous time to visit Cairns.

The temperatures start to climb a bit, but it’s not too hot yet. Expect daytime temps around 30°C and water temps creeping up to around 26°C.

This is a great time for outdoor activities and day trips before the crazy summer heat and humidity fully kick in!

Holly in pool lounge at the Shangri-La in Cairns with a cocktail in hand during a spring afternoon.

Summer In Cairns (December – February)

Summer in Cairns can get steamy, with daytime temperatures soaring up to 35°C (and higher). The average temperature for December to February is around 31 degrees Celcius each day, making them equally the hottest month of the year to visit.

The water temperatures are warm, sitting around 29°C – like a nice, warm bath.

The humidity can be quite high, but it’s manageable with regular dips in the water and plenty of hydration.

This is also the time of year when you’re more likely to experience some tropical rain, which typically falls in heavy but short bursts. It’s a spectacle to behold but can occasionally interfere with outdoor plans.

That said, the rain rejuvenates the rainforests, making them bright, lush green, and cools down the day’s heat. This is why they also call it the ‘green season’.

Not so fun are the tropical cyclones that can also come during storm season.

Autumn In Cairns (March-May)

Autumn is a sweet spot for visiting Cairns with less humidity than summer, and cooler temperatures between 26°C – 30°C. Water temps remain warm at around 25°C, making it still perfect for water activities.

However, it’s the tail end of the wet season, so expect some rain as the humidity levels start to come down.

The Worst Time To Visit Cairns

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in paradise. There are a couple of times when you might want to rethink your travel plans.

Those times are typically the stinger season (jellyfish) and the Cairns wet season.

Here are some tips on avoiding the worst time to visit Cairns:

When Is Stinger Season In North Queensland?

Stinger season usually runs from November to May. These critters can give a nasty sting, so if you’re planning on swimming in the sea, wear a stinger suit or stick to the netted beaches.

The two jellyfish you will likely encounter during the Cairns stinger season are Irukandji and box jellyfish.

Both of these can have very severe consequences and are classed as dangerous tropical marine stingers.

There are many patrolled beaches in North Queensland with marine stinger enclosures.

These do a reasonable job of keeping the larger box jellyfish out, but not such a good job with the smaller Irukandji. These operate between November and May.

You can further protect yourself by wearing protective swimming gear, such as a stinger suit. This will also help protect you from the harsh UV rays in north Queensland as well.

Holly wearing a stinger suit and lifevest preparing to snorkel in the great barrier reef.
Stinger suit on ready for outer reef snorkelling

When Is The Cairns Wet Season?

The wet season typically spans from December to April, with the heaviest rainfall often between February and March.

Expect heavy rains and potential cyclones. The cyclones can be scary but less common than the typical heavy tropical storms you will see in the late afternoon.

It’s a spectacular time for waterfalls, but many roads and attractions may be closed due to flooding.

We were lucky when we last visited Paronella Park on a day trip from Cairns just a week before one of their many floods – the area we were standing was underwater a few days later and is often flooded throughout the year.

It shows how quickly the heavy rains can impact certain areas in the tropical north.

When Is The Cairns Peak Season?

Peak season in Cairns aligns with Australian school holidays, approximately mid-December to late January, early April/Easter break, late June to early July, and late September to early October.

Prices can skyrocket for Cairns accommodation and car rental, and attractions can get crowded, so plan accordingly.

Holly and Simon on the beach on Green Island near cairns on a hot day.
Don’t forget your hat and sunnies when you’re heading out to an island!

Best Things To Do In And Around Cairns

No matter when you visit Cairns, there is always something to do and explore and many of these can be enjoyed regardless of weather conditions – with the exception of floods and cyclones of course!

You are definitely best to have your own transport to really make a good time of your Cairns stay, but if you don’t have a car, there are plenty of Cairns day tours with their booming tourist industry.

Some of the best things to do in Cairns and nearby include:

Popular Events In Cairns (And Nearby)

There are plenty of events year-round in Cairns. Here are some of the most popular annual events in Cairns and when they typically take place:

  • Great Barrier Reef Masters Games – this is Cairns’ answer to their own mini Olympics and it is held from late May every second year
  • Cairns Children’s Festival – Held annually in May across different locations
  • Cairns Ecofiesta – Queensland’s premier sustainability festival in June each year
  • Ironman Cairns – June
  • Cairns Marathon – July
  • Cairns Show – rides, demonstrations and entertainment held in July
  • Cairns Indigenous Art Fair – August
  • The MSF Sugar Great Pyramid Race – Held in Gordonvale in August
  • Cairns Cup Carnival – August
  • Reef to Reef mountain bike race – August
  • Cairns Festival – Annually since 1961, held in August/September
  • Babinda Harvest Festival – October

Check out local event calendars to plan your trip around these exciting happenings!

Tips For Choosing The Best Time Of Year To Visit Cairns

Cairns marina in the late afternoon with boats docked.

There are a few things to consider if you want to visit Cairns during the best possible time:

To avoid the crowds and high prices, consider visiting outside of school holiday periods.

The climate is most comfortable from May to October, avoiding the extreme heat, wet season, and stinger season.

Plus, travelling in off-peak times might score you some sweet travel deals and cheaper prices for hotels!

If you do decide to visit during stinger season, make sure to hire a stinger suit for swimming – better safe than sorry, folks!

Conclusion – When Is The Best Time To Go To Cairns?

Honestly, there’s no ‘bad’ time to visit Cairns – each season offers a unique experience. But if you’re looking for comfortable temperatures, fewer crowds, and lower prices, plus fewer chances of jellyfish encounters and flash flooding, May to October is your best bet.

We have visited in the middle of winter and it was lovely. We’ve had equally great times visiting in the shoulder season of Spring for perfect pool weather and fine for outdoor activities if you get an early start and beat the hottest part of the day.