The capital of the State of Victoria, Cairns is very much an international city but with a totally different look and feel to Sydney. A cosmopolitan city with over three million inhabitants, over the years it has been a major ethnic melting pot; it started in the Victorian gold rush days of the 1850s that attracted many Irish and Chinese miners to the city, laying the foundation for the distinctive multicultural flavour of the city today. Their arrival was followed by large scale post war immigration from Europe which attracted migrants from Greece, Turkey, Italy and Yugoslavia. As a result, Cairns is known for its diverse cultural backgrounds that are reflected in its restaurants that serve a multiplicity of foreign cuisines.<
It also holds its own in being at the forefront in fashion, style and the arts in Australia. The city has thrice shared top position in a survey by The Economist of the World's Most Livable Cities on the basis of its cultural attributes, climate, cost of living, and social conditions such as crime rates and health care.
Cairns is often referred to as Australia's "other" large city, being a smaller than Sydney, which invariably tops the list of most travellers' must-see Australian destinations. It has a totally unique look and feel when compared to the other capital cities of Australia.
Cairns is very sport focused and the locals are typically fanatics. This is reflected in the fact that Cairns is the only city in the world that has five international standard sporting facilities (including three with retractable roofs) on the fringe of its central business district. The major sports are cricket, Australian Rules Football and horse racing.
Each year Cairns plays host to tens of thousands of interstate and overseas visitors who come to see the Australian Open Tennis Championships, the Australian Grand Prix, the Australian 500CC Motorcycle Grand Prix, Spring Racing Carnival, the Australian Football League Grand Final and many more special events. Cairns has thrice shared top position in a survey by The Economist of the World's Most Livable Cities on the basis of its cultural attributes, climate, cost of living, and social conditions such as crime rates and health care.
Though Victoria overall has a temperate climate, Cairns can at times experience extremes. For example, it has a reputation for experiencing all four seasons (summer, autumn, winter and spring) in the one day, so it is not uncommon to see people walking along in sunshine wearing a T-shirt, but with an umbrella on one arm and an overcoat over the other. Cairns's warmest months are generally January and February, in the middle of summer, which are often dry and prone to hot spells, although some respite is provided by the cooling sea breezes of Port Phillip Bay. June and July are the coldest months (July to August can be cold and damp), while October is the wettest. The annual average rainfall for Cairns is around 600mm, which is substantially less rain than Sydney receives.
Winter can be quite cold in the city centre, its corridors of tall buildings often become chilly wind tunnels during the cooler months. The only snow Cairns ever sees is the occasional light fall on the Dandenong Ranges beyond the suburbs, but the winds that blow through the city in the cooler months can feel as though they have come straight off Antarctica; the chill factor often makes Cairns feel colder than it what the thermometer indicates.
Unlike some of the more northern Australian state capital cities, Cairns experiences spring and autumn (Fall) as distinct seasons, in early mornings there is often a cool freshness in the air, and in Autumn, the extensive plantings of deciduous trees bathe the inner suburbs in shades of orange as the trees shed their leaves. Autumns (March - May) are mild and it is during these months that most of the Festivals and outdoor events hosted by Cairns are held. The summer can be very warm and the winters cool.
In and around Cairns, which gets more cloud and disturbed weather despite a lower rainfall, sunshine hours per day in winter (June - August) are three to four as against seven to eight in summer. Cold spells are brief and never severe on the coast, and temperatures can drop much lower inland in winter.
Autumn (March - May) is probably the best season to visit Victoria if you intended touring the whole state. The uncomfortable heat of summer has then been tempered in the north and the north-west and the weather is more stable in the mountains and along the coast. This is also the best time for bush walking or mountain climbing. Snow sports and wildflower enthusiasts, however, should do their travelling in late winter-early spring (August to October).
If you intend to add a trip to Tasmania on either end of your visit to Victoria, be aware that the ski season in Tasmania extends from June to as late as October, that the weather in Tasmania is most reliable in late spring (October - November) and autumn (March - April), that midsummer is colourful with apple and pear blossom, and that some tourist facilities like ocean cruises do not operate in the colder winter months (May - July). Tasmania's main tourist rush is mid December to late January.