Cairns or Whitsundays in March?

Feb 21st, 2007, 05:54 PM
  #1  
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Cairns or Whitsundays in March?

We are going to be in Australia next month (March) and want to make the obligatory trip to the GBR.

My question: I know March is rainy season -- considering that, should our base be Cairns (Pt Douglas) or the Whitsunday Islands?

My preference would be the Cairns area because I'd like to see the Daintree Rainforest (which I realize wouldn't exist if there weren't rain...), but I'm wondering if it will be a serious bummer to be there during the wettest part of the year. I know weather is unpredictable, but does anyone have words of advice?

By the way, if it matters, we are planning to stay for 7 days and are snorkelers, not divers.

Thanks!
20schwarz is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 03:16 AM
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The Whitsunday Islands are not on the reef, you need to take a boat from there to the reef. Cairns might be a better bet.
Susan7 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 03:57 AM
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Your weather question, schwarz, is almost impossible to answer correctly. Often the Whitsundays are under the same rainfall pattern as further north, we've just come out of a huge low pressure system which has affected all Queensland coastal weather. And another monsoonal influence is on its way. So March could bring pouring rain, light showers, brilliant sunshine or a mixture of all, which is the most likely. It will probably be a few degrees warmer in the far north than the Whitsundays.

Babinda and Tully, south of Cairns, and a significant way north of Whitsundays are the wettest towns in Australia. Also the greenest part of the country and truly spectacular at the moment, with waterfalls in full flood and rivers running high. Am told the white-water rafting on Tully River right now is "awesome". As is the Barron Falls, just out of Cairns, near Kuranda. Visitors who come in "dry" season never get to see anything like this. And yet the southern part of the state is in about the worst drought in history with the most severe water restrictions ever.


pat_woolford is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 02:10 PM
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Susan - My impression was that I would have to take a boat out to the reef regardless of whether I stay in Cairns or the Whitsundays (?).

Pat - Thanks for your very detailed answer. I know there are no guarantees with weather, but I'm suffering from terrible indecision and was hoping someone would just come along and tell me what to do... ;-) (okay, only partially kidding). Well, hopefully if we stayed for a week, we'd be able to catch clear weather at least some of the time.
20schwarz is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2007, 08:44 PM
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Hi, 20schwarz, I am no weather expert, so will leave that to Queenslanders, but I have been researching traveling to Oz for quite a while (we were planning to go last year so I have been at it off and on for 2 1/2 years) and I may get hung for this, but in my opinion there is much, much more to do in the Cairns area vs. the Airlie Beach/Whitsundays and many more snorkel options from there as well. Most of the boats from Airlie Beach are sail boats, which is great if you want to have fun sailing, but not so great if you want to book it out to the reef for your snorkeling (they are slower.) You can fly for the day from Cairns to Lizard Island to snorkel (www.daintreeair.com) or do a snorkel-only trip from Port Douglas (Wavelength) or go to a pontoon (Reef Magic or Quick Silver) or even an overnight for one or multiple nights. Plus the rainforest. . . . well, there are lots of things in the Whitsundays and near there, too, (which is why we think we'll go to both) but if you have to choose, go to Cairns/PD.
Sally in Seattle
SnRSeattle is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 12:06 AM
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Hi

Go to Cairns. It is a fantastic place. You can not swim off the beaches at that time because we have stingers in the water that will kill you. For snorkling go on a boat it will take you out to sea for about an hour and the stingers are not to bad out there. The Daintree is really worth seeing, take train rides etc. Cains has no beach and the Northern beaches are really a better place to stay. Have a look at Palm Cove a great little spot. We have not had a lot of rain this season, although saying that it has just started to rain in Sydney tonight- so I think that March could be a wet month all over Australia. Any way where ever you go you are coming to the BEST country in the world and I am sure that you are going to love it.
dane12 is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 01:54 AM
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dane, if you really work for Harvey World Travel I hope your comments aren't a reflection of that company's travel expertise.

It may have started to rain in Sydney tonight but that has nothing to do with weather 2,500kms north, so far Cairns rainfall in Feb has topped 5000mm. Its called the wet season, and Cairns is situated in the Wet Tropics.

But lets hope you're right, rain all over Australia might break the widespread drought.
pat_woolford is offline  
Feb 24th, 2007, 05:35 PM
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With respect to the weather it is obviously very hard to advise on, but I would think there would be little less chance of rainfall, cyclonic activity in proserpine/whitsundays than in Cairns. If a cyclone does cross the coast, then you won't be going to any offshore reefs , irrespective of where you are!!
Here is a bit more info

http://www.bom.gov.au/weather/qld/cairns/climate.shtml

http://www.whitsundays-australia.com/101391.php

What pat has mentioned about rainfall and temperatures sums things up nicely I think. If it were me I would choose the Whitsundays over Cairns because there is a more of a chance of good weather at that time of year! there is alot of snorkelling in the whitsundays

Power boats provide trips with this included
http://www.reefjet.com.au/vessel.html
http://www.fantasea.com.au/
and there are others
Fantasea has a trip to the outer reef if you would like to go that far.
the island trips are very good also


Hope this is of assistance











navgator is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 12:31 PM
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You're pretty wet anyway once you're snorkeling. If it's pouring rain, or potentially cyclonic, then in the Whitsundays you get to sit around. In Cairns, as you say, you go to the rainforest. Also, don't forget that there's a lot less rain away from the coast out to sea, as the mountains act like a sponge wringer as the clouds come in, both causing rain to drop, and to hold it in place. You should also do a good Tablelands rainforest trip as well as the Daintree for good wildlife.
beryl800 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 02:14 PM
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Thanks everyone for the many suggestions and links! It was helpful to hear advice from both "sides."

Well, I've gone ahead and booked my flights to... drumroll please... Cairns!

Now everyone cross your fingers that I'll have at least a few days of decent weather!

P.S. Yes, I know that I'll be quite sopping wet when I'm snorkeling ;-), but rain and high winds can reduce visibility due to choppier water and/or stirred-up sediments (or at least that's been my experience on other snorkel excursions, though perhaps the GBR is far enough out to not be affected as much.)
20schwarz is offline  
Feb 27th, 2007, 02:57 PM
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20schwarz, agreed about the sediments, but most of the rain isn't accompanied by wind, other than pre-cyclone - it just falls down. Makes it a bit duller, but so much is within 3ft visibility issues are not as great as in some areas. Late wet season freshwater run-off is more significant, and by March that will be happening, However, the closeness of everything overcomes a lot. You don't need 70 or 80 ft, or even pristine 30 or 40 due to proximity.

But regardless, you'll have a great time. It's pretty rare for all day rain, mostly it's some in the morning, clearing up for much of the day, maybe a bit again around 4pm and then at night. If there's a major system on the way in, it can rain more. You also can easily get a week of nothing.
beryl800 is offline  
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