Weather in Cairns: Climate, Seasons, and Average Monthly Temperature

Scenic View Of Waterfall In Forest
Leon Dafonte Fernandez / EyeEm / Getty Images

The time of year you decide to visit Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef can make a huge difference to your trip. In summer (December to February), the wet season brings high temperatures, flooding and even the occasional cyclone. However, most of the rain falls in the late afternoon and night, so you can still make the most of your time in Far North Queensland. In winter (June to August), the dry days and warm nights are perfect for sightseeing, although you are likely to encounter more fellow travelers.

Fast Climate Facts:

  • Hottest month: January (82 F)
  • Coldest month: July (71 F)
  • Wettest month: February (6.76 inches of rain)
  • Windiest month: July (10 mph)

Wet Season

Far North Queensland has a tropical climate, with a distinct wet and dry season. Wet season (from December to April) is often accompanied by torrential rain and even cyclones, making it the least popular time to visit Cairns.

However, if you're willing to be flexible with your plans, visiting in the wet or shoulder season can mean fewer crowds and lower prices. In the wet season, the rainforests and waterfalls around Cairns are at their most beautiful, but the rain can reduce visibility on the reef.

Stinger Season

Stinger season, when dangerous jellyfish are present in the waters around Cairns, generally runs between November and May. Many beaches in the area have protective nets to allow for swimming during this time, or you can use a full-body stinger suit. On the Great Barrier Reef, the risk is lower, but stinger suits are still recommended. Make sure to follow all advice from lifeguards and local authorities.

Spring in Cairns

In early spring, temperatures in Cairns are still relatively mild and not too humid, but as the dry season comes to an end, the rain starts to build and the box jellyfish make their return.

Each year, an amazing synchronized coral spawning takes place on the Great Barrier Reef. The spawning usually happens in November, a couple of days after the full moon.

What to Pack: You'll likely spend your days in short sleeves, but don't forget to throw in a sweater or a light jacket for the rainy evenings.

Average Temperatures by Month:

  • September: 83 F (28 C) / 66 F (19 C)
  • October: 86 F (30 C) / 70 F (21 C)
  • November: 87 F (31 C ) / 73 F (23 C)
Great Barrier Reef aerial shot
 

Summer in Cairns

Visitors tend to love or hate the warmer months in Cairns. Some detest the hot and wet weather, while others enjoy exploring the reef and the tropical rainforest at their most vibrant. The humidity is at its highest throughout summer, often hitting 90 percent or higher. In 2018, Cairns had its wettest December since 1975.

In February, you'll find cheaper accommodation and tour prices. Tropical cyclones are most likely to occur in February and March, so make sure to keep an eye on local weather warnings. Stingers are also present at many beaches in the area.

What to Pack: A light rain jacket, insect repellant, and an easygoing attitude.

Average Temperatures by Month:

  • December: 89 F (32 C) / 74 F (23 C)
  • January: 88 F (31 C) / 75 F (24 C)
  • February: 87 F (31 C ) / 74 F (23 C)

Fall in Cairns

The rainfall around Cairns eases a little in March and April, but it will still be a factor when planning your travels. The days are warm and sunny and crowd levels are lower than in winter. However, stingers can still be found at many beaches in the area.

Daylight saving is not observed in Queensland, so it gets back in sync with the rest of eastern Australia on the first Sunday in April. The time zone in Queensland is Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), UTC +10.

What to Pack: You'll still need a rain jacket, along with loose-fitting clothing that can be layered when necessary.

Average Temperatures by Month:

  • March: 87 F (31 C) / 74 F (23 C)
  • April: 85 F (29 C) / 72 F (22 C)
  • May: 82 F (28 C ) / 68 F (20 C)

Winter in Cairns

Winter is peak tourist season in Cairns, thanks to the absence of both rain and box jellyfish. The lower humidity can make visiting the city and the rainforest more comfortable, while the Great Barrier Reef hosts the humpback whale migration from July to September.

Temperatures are warmer than you might expect, hovering around 80 degrees. This is also the most expensive time to visit when it comes to tours and accommodation.

What to Pack: Bring comfortable shoes for any planned excursions, plus sunscreen, a hat and a swimsuit.

Average Temperatures by Month:

  • June: 80 F (27 C) / 65 F (18 C)
  • July: 79 F (26 C) / 63 F (17 C)
  • August: 80 F (27 C ) / 63 F (17 C)

Average Monthly Temperature, Rainfall, and Daylight Hours

The weather in Cairns can be extreme, from warm and pleasant in the dry season to humid and unpredictable in the wet season. Here's what to expect when it comes to average temperature, inches of rain, and daylight hours throughout the year.

  • January: 82 degrees F; 4.31 inches; 13 hours
  • February: 82 degrees F; 6.76 inches; 13 hours
  • March: 80 degrees F; 4.58 inches; 12 hours
  • April: 78 degrees F; 4.12 inches; 12 hours
  • May: 75 degrees F; 1.91 inches; 11 hours
  • June: 72 degrees F; 0.80 inches; 11 hours
  • July: 71 degrees F; 0.57 inch; 11 hours
  • August: 72 degrees F; 0.41 inches; 12 hours
  • September: 75 degrees F; 0.31 inches; 12 hours
  • October: 78 degrees F; 0.50 inches; 13 hours
  • November: 80 degrees F; 1.07 inches; 13 hours
  • December: 81 degrees F; 2.99 inches; 13 hours
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