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City Face-Off Perth vs Cairns

City Face-Off: Perth vs Cairns

Perth and Cairns are two amazing cities that have a lot in common when it comes to natural beauty and great people. However, they also differ in a lot of areas, and there are some aspects where one is clearly better than the other.

Perth is a better choice than Cairns if your primary concerns are safety and cultural diversity. However, Cairns is the preferable option if cost of living and real estate prices are your top priorities.

Of course, a summary won’t suffice! So let’s discuss in detail the various factors I used to compare these two, like lifestyle and cost of living.

Cost of Living in Perth vs Cairns

Cost of Living in Perth vs Cairns
The cost of living in Perth is 38.2% higher than Cairns’. In Perth, it’s $2,251 per month, but in Cairns, it’s only $1,529.
The difference is especially noticeable if you look at their rent and transportation costs.

For a more detailed explanation regarding the cost difference between Perth and Cairns, here’s a breakdown of common living expenses in both cities.

The data presented here are statistics provided by in October 2023.

ExpensesAverage Cost in PerthAverage Cost in Cairns
Housing (Average Rent per Month)
1-bedroom apartment (downtown)$1,877$824
1-bedroom apartment (low-demand suburbs)$926$674
3-bedroom apartment (downtown)$1,918$1,385 
3-bedroom apartment (low-demand suburbs)$1,435$1,176
Utilities (Average Monthly Bill)
Utility bill (one person per month)$124$73.2 
Utility bill (family of four per month)$216$114 
Internet plan (50 mbps per month)$55.2$47
1-way ticket (local transport ticket)$3.09$2.16
Monthly pass (local transport ticket)$113$87.5
Gasoline (1 L)$1.3$1.23 
Milk (1 L or 1 qt)$1.62$1.22  
Bread (0.5 kg or 1.1 lbs)$2.08 $1.99 
Rice (1 kg or 2.2 lbs)$2.06 $1.96  
Eggs (a dozen)$4.42$4.53
Cheese (1 kg or 2.2 lbs)$11.8 $11.1 
Chicken breast (1 kg)$8.67 $8.41 
Potato (1 kg or 2.2 lbs)$2.36$2.22
Eating Out
Fast food meal$10.1$9.6
Dinner in a mid-range restaurant (for two people)$73.3$56.7 

Based on this table, it’s clear that most goods and services are far cheaper in Cairns than in Perth. The biggest reason why Perth suffers from higher prices is its isolated geography.

The City of Lights is more than 2,000 kilometres away from most major cities in Australia, like Adelaide and Sydney.

Thus, businesses have to pay more for transportation costs, which, in turn, makes their goods and services more expensive in Perth.

Meanwhile, Cairns is a bit closer to other cities like Brisbane. It’s also closer to Asia, which means it has cheaper access to imported goods like clothing and electronics.

Real Estate Prices in Perth vs Cairns 

Perth has higher real estate prices than Cairns.
According to reports published by Michael Yardney’s Property Investment Update and in October 2023, the average price for a single-family home in Perth is 11.5% higher than in Cairns.
An apartment unit is also 36% more expensive in Perth than in Cairns.

Without a doubt, Cairns is the more affordable option when it comes to real estate.

Here’s a table comparing real estate prices in Perth and Cairns based on October 2023 data from Michael Yardney’s Property Investment Update and

Property TypePerthCairns
Single-family home (inside the metropolitan area)$634,169$565,000
Apartment unit$431,474$300,000
Single-family home (outside the metropolitan area)$437,201

Diversity and Demographics in Perth vs Cairns 

While both Perth and Cairns have diverse populations, there are more people in Perth who were born outside Australia.
According to statistics that Informed Decisions and Population U released in October 2023, only 22.3% of the residents living in Cairns were born outside of Australia, which is smaller than Perth’s 36%.

It should also be noted that Perth has a larger population and land area than Cairns.

However, Cairns has a higher population density, meaning it has more people living per square kilometre than the City of Lights.

Here’s a table that describes the demographics of these two cities in detail. The data listed here was provided by Population Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics in October 2023.

Geographic LocationWestern AustraliaQueensland
Size (Area)6,417.9 km2 254.3 km2
Population 2,224,475253,748
Female Population 50.6%50.3%
Male Population 49.4%49.7%
Median Age 32 years old41 years old
Life Expectancy at Birth 83.8 years old82.5 years old

Let’s also look at the racial makeup of these two cities to understand their populations better. For that, we’ll use the ancestry records provided by Informed Decisions and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Take note that the data presented here was gathered in October 2023.

Nominated AncestriesPerthNominated AncestriesCairns
German2.8%Torres Strait Islander4.3%
Aboriginal1.8%Papua New Guinean1.7%
South African1.4%Dutch1.6%
New Zealander1.1%
New Zealander1.1%

As the table shows, both cities enjoy a fair mix of minorities, which makes both Perth and Cairns a welcoming environment for immigrants. 

However, as stated earlier, Perth enjoys a more diverse mix of cultures, as a larger portion of its population was born overseas.

Throughout the years, both Perth and Cairns have been preferred destinations for immigrants arriving in Australia. 

Perth received many immigrants right after the end of the Second World War. It became the entry point for most ships arriving from Europe.

That’s why The City of Lights has a high number of people who identify their ancestries as Italian, German, and English.

Meanwhile, Cairns has also seen a high number of immigrants thanks to its low cost of living and warm climate. Most of its immigrants come from countries that normally experience cold weather, like the United Kingdom and Germany.

Recently, these two cities have also received a fair amount of immigrants from Asian countries like China, Japan, India, and the Philippines.

Career Opportunities in Perth vs Cairns 

According to data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in October 2023, Perth is more favourable for job seekers than Cairns.
The state of Western Australia (including Perth) has an unemployment rate of 3.6%, while Queensland (including Cairns) has an unemployment rate of 4.1%.

However, it should be noted that people in Cairns have a higher net income compared to those in Perth.

According to, Perthites earn $3,379 per month (after taxes) on average, while Cairns residents earn $4,186 per month.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cairns residents have 27.5% more local purchasing power than Perth residents.

In most cases, having a higher local purchasing power is a good thing. In this case, it means that even if the residents in these two cities earn the same amount of money, those in Cairns can buy more goods and services with their money.

Crime and Safety in Perth vs Cairns 

Perth had more crimes than Cairns from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022, according to data from the Western Australian Police Force and Queensland Police Service.
Perth had 184,194 crimes recorded, while Cairns had 22,395.
Unfortunately, both Perth and Cairns have experienced an upward trend in their crime reports over the past few years.

The total number of crimes is a good way to gauge the safety of a city, it only tells one side of the story. Let’s not forget that Perth is a vastly larger city than Cairns, and it has a far larger population size.

That’s why it’s wise for us to also compare their crime rates.

Between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022, the crime rate in Perth was 8,280.34 for every 100,000 residents. 

Meanwhile, Cairns’ crime rate during the same period was 26,498.88 for every 100,000 residents.

Lifestyle in Perth vs Cairns 

Perth is the better city to live in if you love calm weather and using public transportation to travel to work. Its healthcare system is also slightly more efficient than Cairns.
However, Cairns is better if you prefer living in a tropical climate as well as having an easy way to travel to other major Australian cities like Brisbane.

To help you understand how I arrived at this conclusion, I compared their healthcare, weather, and public transportation.

Weather in Perth vs Cairns 

Cairns has a tropical climate with hot and humid summers and wet, dry winters. Meanwhile, Perth’s Mediterranean climate makes the city experience hot and dry summers and wet, mildly humid winters.

If you’re someone who’s sick of living in the cold, Cairns might be the better choice for you. This city has an average annual maximum temperature of 29°C (84.2°F) and an average annual rainfall of 1,992 mm.

Thanks to these conditions, Cairns is a tropical haven spared from the intense heat most cities near the equator (like Singapore and Manila) experience.

The only real downside that comes with living in Cairns is that it experiences more tropical cyclones and bad weather than Perth, especially between the months of November and April.

Meanwhile, Perth is the preferable option if you’re someone who prefers mild and calm weather on most days of the year. In fact, the city has been dubbed the sunniest city in Australia for this reason.

The average annual maximum temperature in Perth is only 24.6°C (76.3°F), and the city has an average annual rainfall of 733 mm.

These conditions are perfect for people who love doing outdoor activities like surfing and trail hiking. 

A downside to Perth’s drier climate is that the city sometimes experiences severe droughts and heat waves like the one on January 21, 2023. The highest temperature recorded that day was a whopping 41.3°C!

Healthcare in Perth vs Cairns 

In a survey by Numbeo, Perth has a healthcare system index of 67.93%, which is higher than Cairns’ 64.94%. 

However, please take note that these indices were based on Numbeo’s visitor input.

To help you understand the results of the said survey, here’s a table showing the aspects that were used to evaluate the healthcare systems of these two cities.

The data presented here was gathered in October 2023.

Skill and competency of medical staff74.68%78.57%
Speed in completing examinations and reports68.39%62.50%
Equipment for modern diagnosis and treatment81.58%67.31%
Accuracy and completeness in filling out reports70.75%64.29%
Friendliness and courtesy of the staff71.81%78.85%
Responsiveness (waitings) in medical institutions52.60%46.43%
Satisfaction with cost58.06%55.77%
Convenience of location75.48%75%

Now that we have a rough idea of how efficient the healthcare systems are in these two cities, it’s time we discuss the initiatives both Perth and Cairns have launched to improve the health of their residents.

In Cairns, the local government has launched several programs with the goal of ensuring everyone has access to quality healthcare.

One such example is the Far North Queensland Better Cardiac Care program, which provides specialist cardiac services to remote towns and communities all around the Far North region.

Cairns also has the Frail Older Persons Program, which aims to improve the way the city cares for its aged population by offering a couple of special services to senior citizens, like hospital-like care at home.

Meanwhile, Perth has also launched several healthcare initiatives, like the Health Promotion program, which aims to raise public awareness about healthy lifestyles and behaviours among the residents of the city.

The state government of Western Australia also added a whopping $1.9 billion to its healthcare spending in its 2021–22 budget to support the state’s rapidly growing population (ABC News). 

Most of the money went towards supplying new hospital beds to many public hospitals across the state as well as hiring new doctors and nurses.

Transportation Options in Perth vs Cairns 

Both Perth and Cairns have good public transportation options that their residents can use for work and leisure, but there’s a huge difference in their average daily commute times.

A survey on Numbeo reveals that residents of Perth have longer daily commutes than those in Cairns.

Perthites on average have to spend 47.08 minutes on their daily commute, which is almost 10 minutes longer than the 37.67 minutes for those living in Cairns.

The three biggest forms of public transportation you’ll see in Perth are trains, buses, and ferries. Meanwhile, travel between different parts of Cairns is mostly done via buses.

Unfortunately, public transportation use is low among residents of Cairns. Informed Decisions reports that only 1.4% of the city’s population ride the bus to work.

Meanwhile, Perthites are more eager to use their public transportation systems; almost a quarter of the city’s population ride the train, ferry, or bus to work.

One of the reasons why Perth residents love to use their public transportation is their SmartRider cards, which give them a 10% discount on all fares in the city. This card works on all buses, trains, and ferries in Perth.

Sadly, Cairns doesn’t have anything that rivals Perth’s SmartCard, as the city relies on paper tickets for their bus service, which are typically purchased from the driver or from select retailers.

These tickets are usually valid for two hours and can be used for multiple trips. There are also daily or weekly unlimited travel tickets that you can buy if you plan to use the bus network as your main method of travelling around Cairns.

Before we conclude this discussion, we must also talk about how the residents of Perth and Cairns travel to other major cities in Australia.

For those in Cairns, they have a station that connects them to the Spirit of Queensland train line, which travels between Cairns and Brisbane five times a week.

The city also has an international airport, so residents can travel quickly to other cities via aeroplane.

Meanwhile, Perth’s isolated geography means that travelling by road or rail to other major Australian cities is a poor choice, as it will take you days to arrive at your destination.

This leaves Perthites with no other choice but to use aeroplanes to travel to cities like Sydney and Canberra within a reasonable time.

Perth vs Cairns: How They Stack Up

Let’s wrap up this city vs city discussion with a table that provides a quick summary of every factor we talked about.

FactorsThe Better CityWhy
Cost of LivingCairnsThe cost of living in Cairns is 38.2% cheaper than in Perth.
Real EstateCairnsThe real estate prices in Cairns are significantly lower compared to Perth.
Diversity and DemographicsPerthBoth cities have diverse populations, but Perth has a higher proportion of residents who come from overseas, resulting in a richer mix of cultures.
Career OpportunitiesTiePerth has a lower unemployment rate, but the Cairns residents enjoy a higher monthly average net salary compared to those in Perth.
Crime IndexPerthThere are more crimes recorded in Perth, but it has a lower crime rate than Cairns.
LifestyleTiePerth has a calmer climate than Cairns, but Cairns is better for those who love tropical climates.
Residents of these two cities believe Perth has a more efficient healthcare system than Cairns.
Residents of Cairns experience shorter commute times than those in Perth, but Perth has the SmartRider card that lets its users enjoy a 10% discount on all fares.

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