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When to visit Cairns & Port Douglas

Do you want to know the best time to visit Cairns and Port Douglas?

The quick answer is you have two seasons to choose from – wet and dry. But there’s a bit more to it than that, because each of the seasons has its benefits for travellers.

Here’s a guide on the best times to visit Cairns and Port Douglas in Far North Queensland, based on weather, climate, local events and popular holiday times.

Far North Queensland

Cairns is the largest city of this northern region of Queensland. All the major domestic airlines connect Cairns to the rest of the country, which means you can often pick up competitive airfare deals. Plus, with so many great sights nearby, you might want to considering making it a fly-drive holiday.

You can learn about the stories of First Nations people at inspirational Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, wander Cairns Esplanade to its community swimming lagoon, enjoy the fun bars and restaurants that line the lively promenade and soak up the great tropical atmosphere of the township. Cairns is also a great jumping off point to view the Great Barrier Reef and a World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest

About 70km north of Cairns is Port Douglas, on the Coral Sea. This gorgeous holiday hot spot is famous for its beautiful beaches, casual chic vibe, foodie delights and busy social calendar. Throughout the year the sea-side village hosts many different events and festivals, including the Port Douglas Carnivale, Race Week and the Port Shorts Film Festival.

So, back to the question of when is the best time to visit Cairns or Port Douglas? If you want to know when to head north for the best weather, keep on reading.

When to visit Cairns and Port Douglas, Queensland
It doesn’t get much better than spotting Green Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef!

January – March

During the Australian Summer, the very warm and humid tropical climate of Far North Queensland really kicks in. You can expect hot days with an average around 30 °C and you can expect hot days with an increased chance of rain and the nights will be warm. However, even when it is warm and wet, Summer is still a popular time to visit the region.

Summer is a great time for exploring the Daintree Rainforest. Without the heavy downpours you wouldn’t get all the lush forest and it’s a dramatic time with full rivers and thundering waterfalls. It’s a bonus for the Great Barrier Reef as well. The increased rainfall can improve the water clarity on the Reef, making those snorkelling experiences even more unbelievable. Many of Australia’s exotic tropical fruits are in season during this time, and can be sampled at the local roadside stalls and weekend markets.

A word of caution: summer is stinger season for northern Queensland. Box jellyfish and irukandji jellyfish can be in the waters, so ocean and reef swimmers need to take care. Four Mile Beach, the Port Douglas main beach, is enclosed with protective stinger nets and swimmers are advised to only swim in safe enclosures and patrolled beaches. If you plan on visiting the Great Barrier Reef during this time, a full body stinger suit can help protect you and these can be hired from many tour operators.

Daintree Rainforest Queensland
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, beautiful in any season!

April – June

Cooler temperatures and plenty of sunshine make April through June a great time to visit Cairns and Port Douglas. As the weather begins to cool off, this marks the beginning of the dry season. The average temperatures is a very comfortable 25°C during the day and the nighttimes cool down as well.

May is also when the stinger season normally ends and swimmers can venture into the water without needing a stinger suit.

This time of year is when the festival season heats up. The Annual Quicksilver Port Douglas Race Week kicks off in May and attracts yacht enthusiasts from around the world. This open class regatta is held over five days and showcases a brilliant display of sailing. May is also Carnivale month and Port Douglas’ biggest event of the year. Established over 20 years ago, Port Douglas Carnivale displays vibrant street performances, amazing food and wine, arts and crafts and more fun!

Port Douglas Queensland Australia
It’s not hard to see why people loving coming to beautiful Port Douglas.

July – September

If you pushed us for the most popular time of the year to visit, it would be July through September. It’s renowned as a favourite time of year to visit, thanks to cooler temperatures, gorgeous sunshine and a slim chance of rain.

The weather is still lovely and pleasant, with a daytime average of 24°C with warm waters. So while the rest of Australia rugs up for the winter months, in Far North Queensland you can enjoy swimming, sunbathing and snorkelling.

It’s these months when you’ll need to mentally prepare for more crowds. Cairns and Port Douglas both have an influx of visitors, especially during the winter school holidays, so it’s recommended to book at least 3 months in advance.

Queensland, Australia
Think about making it a fly-drive holiday to see more of spectacular Far North Queensland.

October – December

October through December is another great time to visit Cairns or Port Douglas. While October marks the end of the dry season, there are still plenty of sunny days to enjoy with temperatures not normally going higher than 28°C. As the wet season starts to build, rain is more common throughout this period. It’s always a good idea to pack a light rain jacket with you, even though the showers will probably come and go.

The Port Shorts Film Festival normally runs during October and showcases a range of local and national short films. It’s a great event for the whole family and there’s plenty of entertainment on offer.

The festive season is always a popular time for families. Far North Queensland is buzzing with excitement over the Christmas/New Year’s period and there are many wonderful events on offer.

So whenever you decide that the time is right for you, contact us about one of our many great Queensland travel deals!

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