17 Things To Do In Cairns With Kids
Looking for things to do in Cairns with kids? There’s a reason Cairns is such a popular holiday destination in Australia for families. With a tropical climate all year round, lush green rainforest, crystal clear oceans and enough activities (many of them FREE activities for kids), to keep you busy for weeks, Cairns is the perfect place to take a fun-filled family break.
15 Things to do in Cairns with Kids
If you are planning a trip to far North Queensland, most people choose to base themselves in either Cairns or Port Douglas.
For families with young kids Cairns is a great place to base because it is central to most attractions and has easy access to the islands.
There are plenty of family friendly places to stay in Cairns, and lots of kid friendly free activities in Cairns too.
We love walking up and down the esplanade, and planning day trips out, it really feels like you are on a holiday.
There are plenty of things to do in Cairns with kids and in the surrounding areas too, so whether you are a local family living in or near Cairns, or if you are heading to North Queensland with the family, check out a few of these things to do during your stay.
1. Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon
The Cairns Esplanade is full of easy and free ways to entertain the kids for a day. There is something for the whole family along the boardwalk.
The Cairns lagoon is one of the most popular swimming spots in the city and great for a refreshing swim in the heat of the day. There is a small man-made beach and the whole area is surrounded by shaded grassy areas with BBQ facilities, picnic benches and space to run around. It is one of the most popular free things to do in Cairns with kids.
Read More: Cairns Lagoon
2. Muddys Playground
Further along the esplanade is Muddy’s playground. Free and fun, the splash park and play areas are sure to be a hit with younger kids whilst parents can grab a great coffee or lunch at the cafe on site while keeping eyes on everyone. A must do when visiting Cairns with kids and another free thing to do in Cairns with kids. It will keep them entertained for hours.
Read More: Muddy’s Playground
3. Walk the Esplanade
One of the most popular Cairns attractions for families is the Esplanade. There are plenty of great restaurants, grass areas for picnics as well as BBQ facilities. It is where you will also find some of Cairns family tourist attractions.
One of the best things to do in Cairns with kids in the evenings is take a walk on the Esplanade. When it cools down outside the city comes alive. There is a great vibe with lots of people walking around with music coming from the bustling restaurants.
4. Wildlife Zoom & Wildlife Dome
A really fun thing to do in Cairns with kids is visit the Wildlife Zoom & Wildlife Dome which is right in the heart of the CBD on the top floor of the casino hotel. There are interactive wildlife presentations giving the whole family a chance to get up close to native Australian animals like cuddling koalas.
Spot the different bird species flying overhead or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous try out the rock climbing wall. Then finish off your trip in style by experiencing the zipline around the dome where you can whizz right over the top of the crocodile enclosure.
Read more: Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome
5. Cairns Aquarium
One of the newest attractions in Cairns is the centrally located Cairns aquarium, just a short stroll from the esplanade. It’s an educational and fun experience for everyone with an emphasis on showcasing the very best of Far North Queensland marine life.
Regular talks and presentations throughout the day will give you the chance to learn everything there is to know about some of the reefs most interesting sea life. Stroke sea stars in the viewing pool or blue-tongued lizards in the reptile area then wander through the underwater walkway while sharks swim overhead.
Read More: Cairns Aquarium
6. Cairns Botanic Gardens
A great spot to visit in Cairns with kids is the botanic gardens where you can meander through a 17-hectare verdant paradise. This beautiful garden offers a whole range of experiences, from walking on boardwalks among the melaleuca forests to admiring a bamboo collection and an Aboriginal Plant Use Garden.
7. Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
Easily the most iconic and well-known day trip from Cairns for any traveller is a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s an incredibly popular excursion and there are loads of different tour operators to choose from.
We did our tour with Quicksilver. They provided all of the equipment and took us out to one of the most popular spots to spot local marine life.
With clear waters, colourful coral and amazing marine life, it’s easy to see why so many families are excited to take the trip. A definite bucket list item on your Cairns family holiday. Full review coming soon!
8. Skyrail and Scenic Railway to Kuranda
Kuranda is a great day out from Cairns and you can really make an amazing day of it by using the Skyrail and scenic railway to get there and back. Take the cable car up the mountain range and over the impressive Barron Falls before stopping in Kuranda itself.
In the small town you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained including the famous historical markets, Birdworld, a butterfly sanctuary and koala encounters too.
When you’re finished for the day, ride the scenic railway back down to Cairns for a different view of Barron Falls.
9. Kuranda Village
Kuranda is at the end of both the railway and the Skyrail and as mentioned above is a great day to spend the day.
The village itself is the main attraction and you will find plenty to keep you entertained including the famous historical markets, Birdworld, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and koala encounters lots of markets, shops, and eateries. It is easy to walk around, and is quite kid friendly.
10. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
One of the most interesting things to do in Cairns with kids if you want to learn all about local aboriginal traditions and culture, is to visit Tjapukai cultural park.
The park offers a great way for families to learn all about Australia’s Aboriginal heritage through dance, live shows, art and interactive presentations. Kids will love the chance to learn how to throw spears and boomerangs as well as trying their hand at playing the didgeridoo and learning all about traditional bush tukka.
11. Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
Get up close and personal with Far North Queensland’s biggest and scariest predator at Hartleys Crocodile Park. You’ll get the chance to watch cassowary feeding shows, snake presentations and take a tour of a crocodile farm where you can see how farming helps conservation efforts.
The highlight of the day is the cruise where you’ll take a guided tour boat on the lagoons to spot crocs for yourselves and watch them being fed. Easily one of the best things to do on your Cairns family holiday if you love adventure.
Read More: Hartleys Crocodile Adventures
12. Mossman Gorge
When you are in Cairns with kids you can’t miss a visit to Mossman Gorge. This is one of the highlights for our kids, we all absolutely love this place.
It is the gateway to the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree. It is just over an hour from Cairns, quite close to Port Douglas, and well worth the trip. It is a popular place for family walks, hiking, and swimming.
Read More: Mossman Gorge
13. Palm Cove
Palm Cove is one of Cairns’ most popular beaches. Just 20mins away from Cairns centre, on the way to Port Douglas, this little seaside town offers a great place to swim, shop and dine. Since Cairns doesn’t really have a swimming beach, Palm Cove is a great option if you are in Cairns with kids and want to take them for a swim on the beach.
14. Day trip to Green Island
One of the best things to do in Cairns with kids if you have time for a day trip, is to visit one of the tropical islands. Green Island has lush tropical rainforest, white sand beaches and amazing coral right off the beach.
You’ll take a 1 hour boat ride from Cairns to reach the island and can spend the whole day exploring, swimming or even just soaking up the sun. We saw so many fish snorkelling off the beach and even got to swim with a few sea turtles too.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous there is scuba diving or take the kids on an exciting glass-bottomed boat ride if they’re nervous about getting in the water.
If you really want to splash out, treat the family to a scenic helicopter flight over the island and surrounding area.
15. Explore Fitzroy Island
Another popular island to visit while visiting Cairns is Fitzroy island. Bigger than Green island and a bit wilder, Fitzroy island is an unspoiled tropical paradise. You will need to take a 40-minute boat ride from Cairns, and you can spend the whole day there.
There are lots of water activities available such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and of course snorkelling and scuba diving. If you can stay over it is well worth a visit, we had 3 full days and could have stayed longer! Either island you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
Read More>> Fitzroy Island Review
16. Tablelands Waterfall Circuit
You can either choose to take a self-drive tour around the Tablelands waterfalls circuit or hop on one of the many guided tours in the area. There are tons of great waterfalls, calm swimming holes to cool off in and worthy photo opportunities.
Make sure to check out some other attractions on the route like the huge curtain fig tree. Stop at Gallo dairyland for lunch where you’ll not only get to sample some delicious cheese and chocolate but you can even watch it being made in the viewing rooms and there is also a working dairy farm on site.
Read More: Best waterfalls in Cairns
17. Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas
A little further north of Cairns is the town of Port Douglas where you could easily waste a few days soaking up the sun on the pristine 4 mile beach. If that’s not your style though, one of the best attractions in the area is the wildlife habitat, with its open-air exhibits.
Take a walk through the wetlands as animals cross the path in front of you and birds fly overhead. There are also lots of great free chances to get close to animals like when they bring the lorikeets out at lunch or the chance to feed the wallabies in the open paddock.
Planning your Cairns Family Holiday
Whether you are travelling to Cairns with a baby, toddler, young kids or older children, there are plenty of things to do in Cairns with kids to keep you busy.
When planning your Cairns family holiday, you want to be as prepared as possible. It’s important to not only know what to do in Cairns with kids and where to go, but also what to expect when you get there.
We have put together some information to make sure you have a great family holiday in Cairns including the best things to see and do, the best time to visit Cairns with kids, and how to get around.
When to travel to Cairns with Kids
There are two main seasons in Far North Queensland – the dry season, and the wet season. It’s important to understand each of them so you get the best out of your family holiday.
Dry Season in Cairns – From April to November is winter but the weather is warm and dry. It’s definitely the best time to visit Cairns with kids if you’re trying to escape the colder weather in other parts of the country. It’s a great time to visit if you don’t think the family could handle the scorching summer temperatures.
Wet Season in Cairns – November to March is the rainy season and the weather is hot and humid. Most people hear the words “wet season” and get scared away but this is actually a great time of year to visit. Visibility on the Great Barrier Reef is at its best and the waterfalls are running. The scorching days are usually finished with a refreshing afternoon shower but there it is also the time of year for tropical lows.
Where to stay in Cairns with Kids
There are some fantastic family friendly accommodation options in central Cairns and on the northern beaches. These include family resorts, city apartments. Many of them have nice pools too.
See our full post on Family accommodation in Cairns for more information and reviews on the best places to stay.
Getting around Cairns with Kids
Central Cairns has plenty of fun things to entertain the whole family and many of the things are within walking distance if you stay in the centre.
There are countless tour operators who can book your excursions with transport included so it’s possible to holiday without a vehicle.
However, if you really want to see everything the area has to offer you need to be able to visit the Northern Beaches and Tablelands areas. There isn’t a lot of public transport to places outside the city so it’s definitely a great idea to hire a car, at least for part of your trip.
Things to do in Cairns With Kids
Hopefully this list of things to do in Cairns with kids will help you out while planning your Cairns family holiday. There are so many Cairns family activities, whether you plan to stay in the city, or venture out into the tablelands or to the islands. If you do get the time, make sure to travel more of North Queensland as it really is a family’s paradise just waiting to be explored.
- Best waterfalls in Cairns
- Day trips from Cairns
- Things to do Port Douglas with Kids
- Things to do Gold Coast with Kids
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