Cairns is a fabulous city for families.
The central city area is flat and perfect for families to get around. Walking through the streets, checking out the stores, or stopping for ice-cream and other snacks is easy and entertaining.
The ultimate attraction is a trip to the Great Barrier Reef which is sure to make memories for a lifetime for the kids. Whether it is a half-day, full-day or overnight trip, the kids will never forget the chance to see, snorkel or swim in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
Most operators are well-equipped to help families have a great experience, with custom-built equipment for children and child-friendly facilities such as pontoons, swimming nets and water slides. Trips to popular reef islands such as Green Island are also a great way for kids to have a reef experience without being out on the water the whole time. Ferries depart from Reef Fleet Terminal in the city heart near Cairns Esplanade Lagoon.
Major attractions in the city centre for kids are the Cairns Aquarium, Wildlife Dome and Cairns Esplanade and Lagoon.
Getting up close to the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef is also possible on dry land at the Cairns Aquarium. This new facility is an amazing world-class venue packed with interactive educational fun. The young ones can also see rainforest plants and animals, which is great if you are short on time or looking to make the most of one attraction. Add a little more excitement with a Behind the Scenes tour, the Sea Explorer 5D virtual submarine tour, or camp out for the night at the aquarium for a Shark Sleepover. Open 365 days of the year, this a must-see attraction for all.
Once finished under the water, head to the Wildlife Dome on top of the casino near the waterfront. Wander through the Australian animal wildlife and take in free presentations and interactive sessions including feeding shows. The Cairns Zoom attraction has been custom-built inside the wildlife dome and provides a variety of ropes and zipline challenges for all ages. There are few better holiday stories than to zipline through the air over Goliath the crocodile!
When it is time to simply relax in the city, head for the Cairns Esplanade and Lagoon right in the heart of the city. There are boardwalks, paths and open green spaces where children can roam freely. Hit the paths with bikes or scooters or check out the custom-built Cairns Skate Park. Choose from beach volleyball courts, basketball courts and tennis courts. Or take advantage of the open spaces and play a ball game, throw a frisbee, or fly a kite. Don’t forget to check out the free exercise activities such as ‘aqua zumba’ and yoga. Grab a chance for some parent relaxation with a coffee from the cafe while the kids play, including a safe and fun water splash section at Muddy’s Playground.
The Lagoon is one of the most popular places on the Cairns Esplanade for people to hang out. There are sloping sides and grassy areas for the young ones to run around and splash in the water’s edge, or head into the lagoon for swimming.
The Cairns Esplanade is also a popular place for a family meal. Pick up supplies from the nearby supermarket and take advantage of barbecues on the foreshore to cook up a family feast. This is an immensely popular activity, even for breakfast! There is a cafe and restaurant strip running along the Esplanade as well.
Head out of the CBD to complete the checklist of must-see kids’ attractions.
A visit to Cairns is incomplete without learning about the region’s history and identity. Take the kids to discover indigenous Australian culture at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Experience dance, theatre performance, and art play a didgeridoo or throw a boomerang. Don’t forget to sample some bush food.
Long-time family favourite Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is a hit for kids and adults. As well as the famous croc show, children can feed and interact with other iconic wildlife including snakes, cassowaries, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and quokkas.
A ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway is a must-do experience for families. Depart from the Cairns Station in the centre of the city and wind your way through the rainforest and past spectacular waterfalls on this historic rail line which itself is an engineering feat from the coast to the Tableland. At the end of your train ride, on top of the mountain is the quaint village of Kuranda. This peaceful settlement in the rainforest offers family-friendly markets and animal attractions, including Birdworld Kuranda, the Kuranda Koala Gardens, and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, for a perfect family day out.
For the ideal itinerary, complete one leg of your visit to Kuranda with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This spectacular 90-minute journey takes you over the top of the rainforest stopping at two stations on the way, an ideal opportunity to explore the scenic lookouts from boardwalks.
Embrace a sense of adventure and head to AJ Hackett Bungy nestled in the rainforest. Thrill seekers aged 10 years and over can take on the iconic Bungy Jump, and the whole family can experience the Giant Jungle Swing that can take 1, 2, or 3 people. There is free entry to the tower climb and lookout, cafe facilities on-site, and live music on Sunday afternoons.
For something a little more relaxing north of Cairns, explore the strip of beaches that wind their way up the east coast, from the quiet and close Machans Beach, to relaxed local favourite Trinity Beach, to the trendy vibe of popular Palm Cove.