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Cairns is the perfect family-friendly holiday destination in north Queensland, with so many fun and exciting things to do in Cairns with kids. You will have no trouble finding ways to entertain children of all ages as you explore this vibrant city alongside the Great Barrier Reef.
Whether you are visiting Cairns with toddlers, teens or in betweens, you will find family activities both indoors and outdoors that the whole family will love.
Learn about Aboriginal culture together or spot animals in the wild. Day trip to the worlds oldest rainforest or the world’s largest coral reef! Cairns with kids is an adventure waiting to happen!
- The Ultimate Guide To Cairns With Kids
- Free Things To Do In Cairns With Kids
- Family-Friendly Attractions In Cairns
- Things To Do In Cairns At Night With Kids
- Cairns Day Trips & Tours For Families
- Cairns Family Accommodation
- Port Douglas Vs Palm Cove
- Getting Around Cairns
- Best Time To Visit Cairns
- Tips For Visiting Cairns With Kids
The Ultimate Guide To Cairns With Kids
You don’t need a huge budget to have fun in Cairns with kids! You can easily find adventure without spending a thing, with one of the many free activities in Cairns for families.
You can plan the ultimate family-friendly Cairns itinerary with all or some of these fun things to do.
There are plenty of free family things to do in Cairns and iconic Cairns attractions and activities to suit all ages. Check out the best things to do in Cairns with kids:
Free Things To Do In Cairns With Kids
Cairns has some of the best free activities for kids and families, making it a very budget-friendly travel destination if you are happy to keep it simple!
With the tropical climate and good weather most of the year-round, you can enjoy family time outdoors with some of the fun free attractions in Cairns.
Here are some of the most popular free things to do in Cairns Australia:
If you are looking for a fun place to swim in Cairns, the Cairns Lagoon is the perfect choice!
This free public swimming pool in the centre of Cairns, along the Esplanade, has lifesavers on watch from early morning until evening each day and plenty of room to suit the crowds on the hot summer days.
There are shallow areas of the lagoon perfect for toddlers and younger children who are not yet confident with swimming, and deeper areas to wade in and swim.
The 4800 square metre saltwater swimming pool is 5 foot deep at the highest point and accommodates up to 1000 swimmers at once. Wowsers!
And you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon!
The Cairns Esplanade, home to the lagoon, is a hub of activity all year round and is the perfect place to spend with the family.
Along the Esplanade you will find playgrounds, public BBQ facilities and picnic tables and quite often there will be events and activities happening as well.
The Cairns Esplanade is approximately 2.5 kilometres long, with walkways and bike tracks along the Cairns foreshore. There are markers along the way to tell you the distance you have walked too, in case you and your family want to keep track!
If you happen to have bikes or scooters with you, this is a great place for the kids to enjoy riding around.
You can’t go past a playground for free entertainment when travelling with kids and Cairns is no exception. There are several playgrounds in Cairns kids will love to explore.
The popular Muddy’s Playground is claimed to be one of the best playgrounds in Australia, with splash play areas and ankle deep water for keeping cool in Cairns.
There is also flying foxes, climbing structures and rope bridges, see-saws, swings and more.
Muddy’s Playground is set up in 3 zones to suit the play needs for children of different ages, which means it is perfect if looking for things to do in Cairns with toddlers.
There is also a cafe, picnic tables, shady trees and BBQ facilities to make an afternoon of it.
The playground is located at the opposite end of the Esplanade from the Lagoon and is an easy walk along the boardwalk.
Cairns Botanic Gardens
Located approximately a 5-minute drive from the Cairns CBD is the Botanic Gardens.
Here you will find some impressively large specimen of plants as you wander along the pathways and boardwalks.
The kids will love feeding the turtles and ducks down at Centenary Lakes.
Make sure you have your mosquito repellant on hand so you don’t become victim to the North Queensland mozzies though! No one wants to go home itchy!
Head To The Beaches
There is no denying that a visit to the beach is indeed a fun free activity for the family if you pick the right place!
Cairns itself does not have the best beaches but there are some beautiful beaches if you head a little north.
Having your own car transport will make it easier to get to the northern beaches from Cairns. Be sure to choose one with a lifeguard on duty for safety reasons too!
Check out the recommended swimming beaches near Cairns.
When heading north, Palm Cove beach and Four Mile Beach at Port Douglas are both supervised by lifeguards.
At certain times of the year, you need to be careful of jellyfish. Stinger season is between November and May, so if planning to spend time in the water, don’t forget your stinger suits!
Tip: Stockings and a long sleeve rashie vest are also quite effective against stingers if you don’t want to spend on a full stinger suit!
Check out the best Queensland beaches from Gold Coast to North Queensland
There are many different walking tracks in Cairns and in the surrounding areas if you have your own transport.
While the idea of going for a nature walk may not be exciting for some kids, this is a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and maybe even spot some native wildlife.
Some popular Cairns walking tracks include the Arrow Tracks at Mt Whitfield, Wangetti Trail (although at 76KM you will only want to do a part of this with kids) and Ivan Evans Rainforest Track.
Find maps and details on more walking and biking tracks in Cairns.
Visit A Swimming Hole
Within an hour of Cairns, you will find several natural swimming holes that are popular with locals and tourists alike.
While it is essential to adhere to all warnings in these swimming areas, when the weather conditions are fine, they can be a lot of fun!
Some great swimming hole day trips from Cairns include Josephine Falls, where there is a natural water slide, Crystal Cascades, Babinda Boulders swimming area and Mossman Gorge.
Find more Cairns swimming hole locations.
For more free things to do in Cairns Australia with kids, check out the Cairns Botanical Gardens.
Family-Friendly Attractions In Cairns
If you’re looking for a burst of adrenaline or cairns family activities, there are plenty of options the kids will love! These include both indoor and outdoor things to do in Cairns with kids and the surrounding area.
Check out the best Cairns attractions for families:
Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome
Cairns Zoom is located on top of the The Reef Hotel Casino in the Cairns CBD is the world’s first high ropes course inside a wildlife park.
What was once just a wildlife park within the dome is now the ultimate adventure hub for families. Try the Mid-Zoom and High-Zoom ropes courses, take a PowerJump or walk the Dome for some of the best views in Cairns.
And of course, there is plenty of native wildlife to see and learn about while you’re there (or if you’d rather skip the adrenaline rush completely), including a 4M saltwater crocodile, koalas, birds, reptiles and more.
- Location: The Reef Hotel Casino, 35-41 Wharf St, Cairns City.
- Opening Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM daily.
- Price: Adult tickets start at $21 for adult and $15.50 for kids for ZOOM. Wildlife park tickets are $25 for adults and $12.50 for kids. There are combo passes available.
Visit the only aquarium in the world that is completely dedicated to the habitats and wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical Queensland.
There are over 16000 animals within the aquarium and many unique encounters to get up close with these incredible underwater creatures.
The aquarium is only around a 5 minute walk from the Cairns Marina, located within the city centre.
While you’re there, enjoy dining at Dundee’s Restaurant or do a combined dinner or lunch and aquarium tour package for something extra special.
- Location: 5 Florence St, Cairns City.
- Opening Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM daily.
- Entry Price: From $42 per adult and $28 per child.
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure
Seeing a crocodile in the wild may be possible while visiting Cairns, however, a visit to Hartley’s is a much safer way of getting close to Cairns wildlife – including crocs!
The wildlife park is north of Cairns and makes for a great full or half day trip with kids.
Here you will see many of Australia’s native animals, including koalas, lizards, kangaroos, snakes, cassowaries, emus and more. Plus of course, saltwater crocodiles.
They also run crocodile spotting cruises on Hartley’s Lagoon if you are still eager to see a more natural setting… although sightings aren’t guaranteed!
- Location: Captain Cook Highway, Wangetti.
- Opening Hours: 8.30 AM – 5 PM daily.
- Entry Price: $41 per adult and $20.50 per child.
Kuranda Koala Gardens
Take a short drive to Kuranda for several wildlife experiences the kids will adore. And so will the adults!
Kuranda Koala Gardens is home to far more than just adorable koalas! Here you will find wombats, quokkas, wallabies, reptiles and amphibians, turtles, gliders, crocodiles and more.
It is also home to the only nocturnal wildlife exhibit in the Tableland region.
- Location: Kuranda Village, 2-4 Rob Veivers Dr Clifton Beach, Kuranda.
- Opening Hours: 10 AM – 3 PM daily.
- Entry Price: $19 per adult and $9.50 per child.
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
Seeing beautiful butterflies up close is a delightful experience for kids and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly exhibit in the Southern Hemisphere.
With over 1500 butterflies from a variety of species, the sanctuary is located a short walk from the Kuranda Skyrail and Scenic Railway Station, and a short drive from Cairns.
- Location: Kuranda Village, 8 Rob Veivers Drive, Kuranda.
- Opening Hours: 10 AM – 3 PM daily.
- Entry Price: $20 for adults, $10 for children or $50 for 2 adults and 2 kids family pass.
Birdworld Kuranda is home to over 60 species of birds, including a cassowary!
The wildlife park replicates native habitats for the birds, including native Australian birdlife and exotic parrots from the Amazonian jungle.
You will have the chance to hand feed many of the different birds during your visit for a fun experience the kids will love.
- Location: Kuranda Village, Rob Veivers Dr Clifton Beach, Kuranda.
- Opening Hours: 10 AM – 3 PM daily.
- Entry Price: $19 per adult and $9.50 per child.
Sugarworld Adventure Park
Sugarworld Adventure Park is a fun way to cool down and enjoy some Cairns activities for kids (and grown-ups)!
The park is located on 17 acres of parkland, approximately 20 minutes drive from Cairns, with a kids water zone, Splash Town, 3 super slides, a 9-hole mini-golf course and swimming pools.
Check the website for more.
- Location: Hambledon Drive, Edmonton.
- Opening Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM on weekends and during Queensland school holidays.
- Entry Price: From $12.50 per person, including Splash Town & Mini Golf. Extra for water slides.
Cairns Kart Hire & Laser Tag
Battle your family go-kart style at Cairns Cart Hire. Here you can enjoy a speedy session of go-karting together or try your luck at laser tag or an escape room.
The outdoor go-kart track is 450 metres long with electronically timed races so you can know who won.
They have 2 different escape room puzzles to solve and packages are $150 per room.
- Location: Cnr. Walker Road and Capt. Cook Highway, Cairns.
- Opening Hours: 7 days a week – check the website for trading hours and pricing.
If visiting Cairns with older children, a canyoning experience is sure to be a memorable day for you all!
While there isn’t an age restriction, having kids who are confident swimmers would make the day more fun for you all.
Go abseiling down a waterfall, jump off rocks and climb across rocky gorges in this outdoor adventure day.
Click here to book your canyoning experience
Rainforestation Nature Park
If enjoying a family holiday to Cairns, be sure to check out the Rainforestation Nature Park!
This all-weather Cairns attraction for families is home to the Army Duck Rainforest Tours taking you both on land and water, the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience, and the Koala & Wildlife Park.
You can do a Big Nature Value Package and experience all 3 attractions or just visit one if you don’t have time to do them all.
The Rainforestation Nature Park is located 40 minutes from Cairns on the Kuranda Range Road, near Kuranda.
Things To Do In Cairns At Night With Kids
When visiting Tropical North Queensland, it’s hard not to want to extend your day into the evening with warm weather most of the year round.
Thankfully Cairns can be a hub of activity even after dark, with plenty of things to do in Cairns at night.
The Esplanade Lagoon has lifeguards on duty until 9 PM each evening, with quite a few people staying for a swim after dark.
You may also find buskers and life entertainment around the Esplanade, or simply enjoy taking a stroll along the boardwalk without the steamy sunshine.
Enjoy A Night Picnic
Bring your dinner and a rug down to the Esplanade for an evening picnic near the water as you watch the sun set over Cairns. Alternatively, sit at one of the many picnic tables or have a family BBQ instead.
Visit the Night Markets
The Cairns Night Markets open daily from 4:30 PM and is a great place to find unique souvenirs, and delicious international food or enjoy a treat from one of the dessert stalls.
The churros and gelato were our favourites!
The markets are located at 54-60 Abbott St, Cairns City and entry is free.
As the sun goes down, you will find many families enjoying a spot of fishing around the Cairns Marina and in other locations around the city.
There are guidelines around when this is allowed so make sure you read the signs carefully and don’t trespass anywhere you shouldn’t. However, this can be a fun family activity into the evening.
Indoor Gaming Arcades
If you are keen on some indoor fun in Cairns at night or even if you need a wet weather activity for Cairns, Timezone and iPlay Cairns are both great options.
Have some fun battling it out on the arcade machines or with air hockey or a family match of bowling. Both stay open until late.
These make for great Cairns indoor activities for rainy days too!
Cairns Day Trips & Tours For Families
One of the best parts of visiting Far North Queensland is how many incredible day trips and tours are available within a short distance from Cairns. Check out all of our favourite Cairns day trips.
Here are a few family-friendly Cairns day tours perfect for visiting with kids:
Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway & Scenic Railway
While you can drive to Kuranda in under half an hour, taking a Kuranda day tour by either Skyrail cable car or the Kuranda Scenic Railway are a far more fun way to experience this quaint village in the mountains!
You can get to and from Kuranda with either the Skyrail or the train, or better still, take one mode of transport up to the mountain and a different one back down!
On our previous visit, we went to Kuranda by the scenic railway and did our return trip on the Skyrail and it was a lot of fun, with different views from each.
The kids will love the chance to experience either or both of these, plus there are plenty of things to do in Kuranda with kids too!
Green Island is one of the most popular day trips from Cairns, located just 45 minutes from the Cairns Marina by ferry. There are several tour operators that transit between Green Island and Cairns each day, so you can stay for just a couple of hours or for a whole day.
On Green Island you will have the chance to walk around the island national park, enjoy the beautiful beaches, or have a swim in the lifeguard zones.
But even more exciting is the chance to go snorkelling right off the beach and see shallow coral reefs up close. This is a great beginners option for kids who are snorkelling for the first time since it is shallow water and there is a lifeguard on duty.
For anyone who is not a confident swimmer, the best way to see the coral reef is on one of the glass bottom boats. This is a unique experience, staying dry while seeing the sea life below.
Green Island is also home to a wildlife park, Marineland Melanesia, which is mostly a crocodile park, where you will learn a lot about these massive prehistoric animals.
Make sure you visit the park during one of the crocodile feeding times at 10:30 AM or 1:30 PM.
Tour visitors to Green Island are typically able to use the resort swimming pool during their time on the island as well, and there are cafes for meals and snacks.
For another great tropical island day trip, Fitzroy Island is a popular choice for families.
Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling Tour
If your kids are older or if you are visiting Cairns with teenagers who are great swimmers, a Great Barrier Reef snorkelling day tour is an experience you will all remember!
We did an outer reef pontoon day tour, which includes snorkelling, an undersea observatory, a semi-submerged submarine tour and a buffet lunch. There is also the option to book additional activities such as scuba diving and sea scooter tours.
The best part of the outer reef is you often see marine life that you may not see so close to sure, such as sea turtles. This was definitely a highlight for us!
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and this is the best way to see the wonders of the natural world and beautiful scenery underwater.
There are many different Great Barrier Reef tours available from Cairns or Port Douglas.
What better place to experience nature than the world’s oldest rainforest – The Daintree Rainforest.
Head approximately 2 hours north to Daintree National Park for a variety of outdoors experiences for the whole family.
Take a Daintree River Cruise for some crocodile spotting in the wild. They were shy on the day of our cruise, but we did spot one pair of eyes peeping out of the water.
At the southern point of the Daintree National Park, stop off at Mossman Gorge for a lush rainforest walk and perhaps a swim in the swimming hole.
Mossman Gorge costs $12.50 per person for the bus, however it is a beautiful place to visit and the kids will love the suspension bridge… maybe!
Heading further north from Cairns, taking a ferry across the Daintree River, you will find yourself in Cape Tribulation.
Cape Tribulation is a stunning ecotourism destination where the rainforest meets the beach.
The road is sealed up until Cape Tribulation and suits most vehicles. If you want to go further along the Bloomfield Track, you will need a 4WD vehicle instead!
Click here to book a full day tour to Cape Tribulation, Daintree & Mossman Gorge
Daintree Discovery Centre
On your way to Cape Tribulation or back, you could easily spend a few hours or a day with kids at the Daintree Discovery Centre with aerial walkways, wildlife exhibits, a canopy tower, several different tours and interactive displays, cassowary spotting opportunities and more.
- Location: Turn off, Tulip Oak Road, Cape Tribulation Rd, Cow Bay
- Opening Hours: 8:30 AM – 5 PM daily.
- Entry Price: $37 for adults and $18 for children.
Another day trip from Cairns suited to families is the Atherton Tablelands. This is another longer day trip, taking around 90 minutes.
The drive takes you past Queensland’s tallest mountains. It is in the Tablelands that you will find the iconic Millaa Millaa Falls, Mt Mulligan Escarpment and Crystal Caves.
From heritage-listed natural landmarks to wildlife and unique far North Queensland experiences, you will find plenty of things to do in the Atherton Tablelands to entertain the whole family outdoors!
Cairns Family Accommodation
If you want to stay right in Cairns, there are family-friendly resort options to suit every budget or basic hotel options instead if you just want somewhere to rest your heads at the end of a busy day.
An Airbnb can be a great option for families. Check out these top Cairns Airbnb properties.
Having a resort with a swimming pool is something we recommend, since that way the family can enjoy cooling off in the water without having to worry about finding a safe swimming beach. Plus it’s swimming weather most of the year in North Queensland.
Although, if you stay close to the Lagoon, a swimming pool is not essential!
Here are some of the best places to stay in Cairns with kids:
Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina Cairns
The Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina is located right on the Cairns Marlin Marina, making it the perfect central location to almost everything!
It is a 1-minute walk to the Cairns Cruise Terminal, walking distance to the CBD, The Esplanade, Lagoon, Rusty’s market, popular attractions and most of Cairns’ best restaurants.
The rooms have been recently renovated and are generously sized.
And of course, there is a swimming area that has 3 different pools. A wading pool, a shallow pool and a massive swimming pool.
Check availability for the Shangri-La Hotel
Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort
Just a 7-minute drive from Cairns city, the 4 caravan and holiday park is the perfect budget accommodation in Cairns for families.
With accommodation options to suit tents, caravans, campervans, cabins and units and plenty of fun facilities the kids will love.
There is a splash park, swimming pool, mini golf, games room and jumping pillow to keep the kids entertained during your stay.
Check availability for the Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort
Riley, A Crytalbrook Collection Resort
Riley, A Crystalbrook Collection Resort is one of the newest resorts to open in Cairns, offering 5-star luxury and family-friendly facilities.
There are modern rooms to suit different size families and plenty of resort facilities to cater to your stay. You will notice efforts towards conservation during your stay as well, such as the use of recycled materials for items such as room keys and accessories.
The resort has a massive swimming pool plus a manmade beach for the kids to play on.
It is also centrally located within walking distance to the Esplanade and Lagoon.
Check availability for Riley, A Crytalbrook Collection Resort
Port Douglas Vs Palm Cove
If you are looking for accommodation outside of Cairns, you can find some incredible beachfront options in Palm Cove and Port Douglas that are perfect for visiting with kids.
It is around 20 minutes to Cairns from Palm Cove and 45 minutes to Cairns from Port Douglas, making both great alternatives if you have your own car.
If you are visiting without your own private transport, you may find staying further from Cairns at either of these locations will significantly increase the cost of your trip, since you will be relying on public transport more often.
Here are some great options to stay in Palm Cove or Port Douglas with kids:
Peppers Beach Club & Spa, Palm Cove
Peppers Beach Club & Spa is in an iconic family resort, with lush gardens, a lagoon pool, a rainforest rock pool and sandy beaches a short walk away.
It offers modern accommodation in Palm Cove, with plenty of facilities at the resort, including dining options.
They have 2 and 3 bedroom apartments to suit families staying in Palm Cove.
Check availability for Peppers Beach Club & Spa Palm Cove
Oaks Port Douglas Resort
Oaks Port Douglas Resort is located a few minutes’ walk from the Four Mile Beach.
It has a lagoon-style swimming pool, with a swim-up bar plus several restaurants on site.
For families, there are one and two bedroom apartments with modern tropical furnishings, all of which have recently been refurbished.
Check availability for Oaks Port Douglas Resort
Getting Around Cairns
There are so many things to do with kids in Cairns city that you can easily move around on foot if staying in the city centre.
If you choose to stay on the outskirts of Cairns or at either Palm Cove beach or Port Douglas, having your own car is highly recommended!
We have done both and on our previous stay without a hire car, we missed so many things because we either had to go walk really far in the heat or rely on buses and tours.
By hiring a car or having your own transport, you can easily take a day trip beyond Cairns and really explore this beautiful part of North Queensland.
Often this will work out cheaper for your Cairns budget as well, compared to the cost of public transport and a guided tour.
Click here to book a hire car for Cairns:
Best Time To Visit Cairns
There is no bad time to visit Cairns. The tropical climate means warm weather all year round, although if you don’t love the heat, visiting during the winter months could be ideal for your family.
Between April and September are considered the low season when the weather is a little cooler and accommodation prices tend to be slightly lower also.
This also avoids the Cairns wet season, which can be helpful if driving to Cairns from Brisbane or elsewhere in Australia. It reduces the likelihood of flooded roads and detours.
The summer wet season does bring the Cairns waterfalls to life though, making the scenery incredible.
Whenever you visit Cairns, you are in for a treat!
Tips For Visiting Cairns With Kids
Cairns is a fantastic place for a family holiday in Australia! There are so many family friendly activities and attractions, plus plenty of beautiful places to explore within nature too!
That being said, Cairns can either be an affordable destination or an expensive one, simply because there are so many options of things to do!
If you are looking to keep your budget down, pick 2 or 3 must-do Cairns experiences for your trip and otherwise make use of the many free things to do in Cairns with kids as well!
Cairns is a relatively safe destination. Like anywhere though, be mindful of your surroundings and belongings.
Here are some more quick tips for visiting Cairns with kids:
- Be sun smart – Sunscreen, protective clothing, hat and hydration.
- Pack the mosquito repellant – At certain times of the year, the mozzies are bad! Especially in the tropical rainforest.
- Swim between the flags – They are there for a reason and conditions can be dangerous so choose safe swimming beaches and always follow warnings.
- Stay in the city centre – If you don’t have a car, stay in the CBD to reduce your transport costs.
- Hire a car – You will see a lot more and it is cheaper than doing day tours each day.