New mosquito control strategies centred on the modifying of populations require knowledge of existing population densities at release sites and an understanding of breeding site ecology. Using a quantitative pupal survey method, we investigated production of the dengue vector Aedes aegypti (L.) (Stegomyia aegypti) (Diptera: Culicidae) in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, and found that garden accoutrements represented the most common container type. Deliberately placed ‘sentinel’ containers were set at seven houses and sampled for pupae over 10 weeks during the wet season. Pupal production was approximately constant; tyres and buckets represented the most productive container types. Sentinel tyres produced the largest female mosquitoes, but were relatively rare in the field survey. We then used field-collected data to make estimates of per premises population density using three different approaches. Estimates of female Ae. aegypti abundance per premises made using the container-inhabiting mosquito simulation (CIMSiM) model [95% confidence interval (CI) 18.5–29.1 females] concorded reasonably well with estimates obtained using a standing crop calculation based on pupal collections (95% CI 8.8–22.5) and using BG-Sentinel traps and a sampling rate correction factor (95% CI 6.2–35.2). By first describing local Ae. aegypti productivity, we were able to compare three separate population density estimates which provided similar results. We anticipate that this will provide researchers and health officials with several tools with which to make estimates of population densities.