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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!
There are plenty of 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!
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
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.
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 9PM 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, 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 for 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.
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:
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.
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.
EntryPrice: $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!
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.
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.
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.
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.