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There are so many fantastic things to do in Cairns with kids, with most of the best Cairns attractions for families being based around the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics rainforest, wildlife and the Australian indigenous culture.

Regardless of your children’s ages, there are a variety of Cairns tourist attractions for everyone. For the more adventurous families, there is rafting, sky diving, quad bike riding, and diving or for the families with younger children, there are encounters with wildlife, swimming, scenic train rides and boat rides.

Whatever your budget, you will love your Cairns holidays with kids. For families on a tight budget, there are heaps of fantastic things to do in Cairns for free. Families can hire a car and go exploring all of the Cairns family activities on their own or take one of the many day trips from Cairns. Others who like to let someone else do all the driving and organizing can join various Cairns day tours.

As you can see, regardless of kids’ ages or family budget there are loads of things to do Cairns offers for everyone! So read on to find out all the Cairns things to do, the family resorts Cairns has and how to get to and around Cairns to make your Cairns family holiday the best one yet!

Main image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

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Best Things to do in Cairns with Kids Map

To help you plan what to do in Cairns with kids, I’ve provided this handy map below, which shows you the location of all the different Cairns attractions.

Zoom in and out for a better view.

 

What to do in Cairns with Kids?

Wondering what to do in Cairns with kids? Keep reading below for our extensive guide on things to do in Cairns for kids.

You’ll see that I often recommend you purchase your tickets in advance from Experience Oz or Klook. Yes, I will receive a small commission if you do purchase from either of them – but as you will see in most cases, you will save yourself a stack of cash if you book through them. I use them myself to book tickets – sometimes I have been known to sit outside the ticket booth of an attraction and book tickets on my phone from them as they often have some great Cairns activity deals.

All the prices and information in this post are correct at the time of publishing and are in AUD.  To check the rate in your local currency, click here.

Cairns Esplanade 

Things to do in Cairns

One of the best things to do in Cairns for free is to spend a few hours on the Cairns Esplanade. Along the Esplanade you will find various street performers, see Pelicans and other birds wading in the water and it is also a popular spot to watch the sunset in the afternoons.

The Esplanade is such a popular place, with stacks of people sitting with friends having picnics and listening to music. There is also a great ice cream shop on the street which has over 100 flavours – grab yourself an ice cream and continue strolling along the Esplanade –  there are 2.5km of pedestrian and shared paths.

If you’re super keen, you can join in one of the free fitness activities they have on the Esplanade such as Yoga, Boxing, Zumba, Beach Volleyball and Pilates. You can see the class timetables here. These activities are some of the best free things to do in Cairns the whole family will love!

Location: Esplanade, Cairns

Opening Hours: Anytime

Price: Free

Muddy’s Playground 

Things to do in Cairns with Kids

What to do with kids in Cairns who need to burn off some energy? Take them to Muddy’s Playground of course! Muddy’s Playground is said to be one of the best playgrounds in Australia featuring a kid’s water park, rope bridges, flying fox, and slides. The playground also has a large café and BBQ facilities.

Your kids are going to love this one; Myla spent quite a while here and would have stayed even longer if we didn’t move her along. This is one of the best Cairns activities for kids, particularly if you’re looking for free things to do in Cairns.

Location: Esplanade, Cairns (approx. 1km north of the Lagoon)

Opening Hours: Daily 9am to 7pm (Sections of Muddy’s are closed for maintenance on Tuesday and/or Thursday mornings until noon. Even when maintenance works are being carried out, Council aims to have at least half the playground available for use)

Price: Free

Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

Best things to do in Cairns for free

Surprisingly to many tourists there is no beach in Cairns, but there is the man-made Cairns Esplanade Lagoon – which is my pick for one of the best free family things to do in Cairns. The lagoon is a gorgeous artificial, sandy-edged, 4800-sq-metre saltwater pool and is lifeguard patrolled as well as being illuminated at night. The lagoon ranges in depths from 32 inches to 5 feet and is patrolled by Life Guards.

There are fantastic facilities at the lagoon including BBQs, public toilets and showers and lots of covered pavilions. When we visited in July there were plenty of people swimming in the lagoon, but for us it was freezing!!! But we are from Brisbane so usually the weather needs to be a scorcher to be warm enough for us to swim.

A few hours at the Cairns Lagoon is one of the must things to do with kids in Cairns.

Location: 52 – 54 Esplanade, Cairns

Opening Hours: Wednesday 12pm to 9pm | Tuesday to Thursday 6am to 9pm

Price: Free

Drinks on the Lawn at Salt House

Places to visit in Cairns

Once the kids have burned off some energy at the Cairns Lagoon and Muddy’s Playground be sure to head down to Salt House for some drinks. Salt House is located just by the yacht club and may well be one of my favourite places to visit in Cairns!

What I love about Salt House is it’s perfect if you’re after family things to do in Cairns, as there is a great lawn area with deck chairs looking out across the sea – so the kids can still run around whilst the parents indulge in some lovely beverages.

Location: Marina Point, 6/2 Pier Point Rd, Cairns

Opening Hours: Daily 11.30am to late

Price: Whatever you decide to order from the menu

Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome 

For adventurous kids’ activities in Cairns, how about the world’s first challenge ropes course in a wildlife dome? With 2 levels of difficulty and 65 different challenges including a zip line over a 4.2 metre saltwater crocodile. Participants must be over 120 cm tall, over 20 kgs and aged over 6 years old.

At the Cairns Wildlife Dome, visitors can explore the various animal enclosure where wildlife such as wallabies, reptiles, fish, koalas, birds and crocodiles live in exhibits replicating their natural environments.  Get a close encounter in the Rainforest Aviary where various birds fly freely or learn about Australia’s native wildlife at the educational shows.

Tickets are separated into entry only or entry and Zoom activity, so if you’re just wanting to see the wildlife you can, and for those more adventurous members of the family you can buy both entry and an activity. See pricing and availability below.

Location: The Reef Hotel Casino, 35-41 Wharf St, Cairns City QLD 4870

Opening Hours: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

Price: Wildlife Entry including presentations is $26 per adult | $16 per child (6-14) | $68 per family (2A+2C) | To add a Zoom activity the price is $46 per adult | $32 per child (6-14) | Under 6s are free – Click here to book tickets online.

Dinner Cruise

Discover the beauty of Cairns from a different perspective – the water! The whole family will enjoy an evening upon a catamaran, cruising the calm water at Trinity Inlet. Take in the sights and sounds of this tropical port city as the sun sets and the sky transforms into a fiery red before calming to a silky black speckled with sparkling stars.

The views aren’t the only thing to enjoy. Onboard your tastebuds will be delighted by the sumptuous buffet meal with loads of fresh seafood and local produce. Being fully licensed, adults can also enjoy a cocktail, whilst the kids can sip on a mocktail. After 2.5 hours of cruising the waterfront precinct of Cairns, you will disembark to enjoy the rest of your evening on land.

Location: A Finger, Cairns Marlin Marina

Opening Hours: Departs daily at 6.30 pm (check-in at 6 pm)

Price: $105 per adult | $55 per child (4-14) – Click here to book tickets online.

Giant Swing

One of the craziest kids’ activities Cairns has on offer for those who love a thrill is the Giant Swing! Now, this isn’t just any swing, this swing reaches speeds of up to 120km per hour in just 3.5 seconds! You will be descending from 45 metres down to 1 metre over the World Heritage rainforest – but we’re not sure how much of it you will see as you’re flying so fast!

If you’re nervous to go it alone, don’t be; this swing can fit up to 3 people, so you can have up to 2 other people with you to experience this extreme speed and acceleration. There are minimum weight requirements for children, so check these out before going.

Location: Lot 2, McGregor Road, Smithfield

Opening Hours: Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Price: $99 per adult | $69 per child (up to 14 years) – Click here to book tickets online.

KUR Cow Farm Horseride & Petting Zoo

For city dwelling families, the Kur Cow Farm is one of the things to do with kids Cairns has on offer that lets you experience country life on a real working farm. There are over 600 hectares of farmland to explore on your 30-minute horse ride. Saddle up and walk, trot or canter along with your guide to discover the native wildlife and environment on this protected land.

When you’ve finished your ride head across to the petting zoo to cuddle up to baby goats, guinea pigs, alpacas, hand feed some of the animals, check the chicken coop for eggs and chat with the Green and Gold Macaws.

If you get hungry, there is an onsite restaurant with delicious organic produce where you can dine as you watch the cattle graze in the open fields and the kids can run around taking advantage of the huge expanse on this rural property.

Location: 112 Barnwell Road, Kuranda (see ‘Cairns Day Trips’ below as you might want to incorporate other activities on your day trip to Kuranda)

Opening Hours: Daily 9 am to 3 pm

Price: $85 per person (minimum age requirements) – Click here to book discounted tickets online.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Kuranda Scenic Railway

When most people think of Kuranda, they think of the historical Kuranda Scenic Railway.  This is a spectacular journey, as the Kuranda train winds its way through the dense world heritage listed rainforest offering passengers breathtaking views of steep ravines, waterfalls and the Barron Gorge.

The Kuranda railway was opened in 1891 and was built for the primary purpose of transporting supplies to the mine workers.  Construction of the railway took 5 years, with many lives lost due to the harsh working conditions the men had to endure to build the railway from sea level to 328 metres up the Macalister Range.

The train journey takes just under 2 hours and goes through 15 tunnels, around 93 curves, across 37 bridges mounted many metres above ravines and waterfalls including the spectacular bridge at Stoney Creek Falls, past the breathtaking views of the Barron Falls and through lush dense tropical rainforest before arriving in Kuranda.

The train carriages themselves maintain the feeling of a bygone era with rustic carriages restored to look like the original ones with lovely polished wood work and leather booth style seats.

Along the journey commentary is played informing passengers of various details about how the railway was constructed, as well as pointing out various photo opportunities along the way.

There is one stop along the train journey at Barron Falls.  The stop is for around 10 minutes giving passengers an opportunity to take in the fantastic sweeping views of the Barron falls and gorge.

This was the third time I have done this train journey and I have absolutely loved it every single time – honestly in my view you cannot come to Kuranda without experiencing the Kuranda Scenic Railway.

Location: Cairns Station: Bunda St, Cairns | Freshwater Station: Barron QLD 4878, Australia, 15 minutes drive from Cairns Airport

Opening Hours: Departs Cairns 9.30am & Kuranda return 3.30pm | Departs Freshwater 9.55am & Kuranda return 3.30pm

Price: One way – $50 per adult | $26 per child (4-14) | Under 4s are free | Return – $76 per adult | $38 per child (4-14) | Under 4s are free – Click here to book tickets online.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Kuranda Skyrail

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is another fantastic way to make the journey to or from Kuranda.

The Kuranda Skyrail is a 7.5-kilometre journey gliding across the world heritage listed Tropical Rainforest canopy with spectacular sweeping views of Cairns, the hinterland, the Barron Gorge National Park and the Coral Sea.

Along the way there are 2 stops where passengers can disembark the cable car to explore the rainforest.

The first stop is Red Peak Station which is  545 metres above sea level.  Here there is a short walk through the rainforest where you get up closer with a range of gorgeous trees including the 400 year old Kauri Pine.  Complimentary guided walks are available throughout the day, however there were none leaving at the time we were there so we didn’t get to join.

The second station is the where you get to view the spectacular Barron Gorge and Falls from 3 different lookouts.  Unfortunately, when we were there, the gorge did not have much water, but regardless it was still pretty impressive.  I can only imagine what it looks like during the wet season.  At Barron Falls Station there is also some historical displays as well as some interactive displays which are great for the kids.

The Skyrail was Myla’s favourite attraction in Kuranda and in fact our entire trip to Cairns.  She was so excited about being so high in the sky, she was giggling with excitement the entire time.

The journey to or from Kuranda on the Skyrail takes around 90 minutes which allows time to explore the 2 stops along the way.

Location: 6 Skyrail Drive, Smithfield 

Opening Hours: Daily 8.30am to 4.45pm

Price: One way – $59 per adult | $29.50 per child (4-14) | $147.50 per family (2A+2C) |
Return – $88.50 per adult | $44.25 per child (4-14) | $221.25 per family (2A+2C) 
Click here to see the range of Skyrail Rainforest Cableway options available.

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary

The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit in the Southern Hemisphere. The sanctuary is home to over 2000 butterflies from a variety of species and is one of the top things to do in Kuranda.

The Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary is located in the heart of Kuranda and is about a 10-minute walk from the Kuranda train and Skyrail or you can take the free shuttle into the village and walk from there.

It’s quite an experience being able to get up so close to the gorgeous colourful little butterflies.  We spent around 30 minutes looking around the butterfly sanctuary.

If you are visiting Rainforestation, there is a shuttle that runs regularly throughout the day between the 2 parks.  You can purchase tickets for the shuttle at either park.

Location: 8 Rob Veivers Drive in Kuranda (see ‘Cairns Day Trips’ below as you might want to incorporate other activities on your day trip to Kuranda)

Opening Hours: Daily 9.30am to 3.30pm

Price: $20.50 per adult | $13 per child (4-14) | $54 per family (2A+2C) | Under 4s are free – Click here to book tickets online.

Rainforestation Nature Park

Kuranda rainforestation

Rainforestation Nature Park is located in Far North Queensland, and is one of the top things to do in Kuranda. Home to the Army Duck Rainforest tours on land and water, the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience and the iconic Australian animals in the Koala & Wildlife Park.

There are 4 main activities at Rainforestation – Australian wildlife park, Aboriginal demonstrations, Aboriginal performance and the tour of the rainforest via the world war II army ducks.  Each activity takes around 30 minutes to complete.

Myla particularly enjoyed the Aboriginal demonstrations which included watching spear throwing, how to play the didgeridoo, boomerang throwing and Aboriginal traditional dancing.  She really liked the boomerang throwing.

For me, I really enjoyed the tour on the amphibious Army Ducks.  Our guide shared a lot of information about the rainforest as well as the ducks themselves – it’s just amazing how they can go from land into the water.

You will need at least 2 hours to experience everything in the park.

Location: 1030 Kennedy Hwy, Kuranda (see ‘Cairns Day Trips’ below as you might want to incorporate other activities on your day trip to Kuranda)

Opening Hours: Daily 9am to 3pm

Price: $53 per adult | $32 per child (4-14) | $138 per family (2A+2C) | Under 4s are free – Click here to book tickets online.

 

Cairns Aquarium

If you’re looking for things to do in Cairns city, the Aquarium is located in the heart of the Cairns CBD. Here you will find over 16,000 aquatic animals discovered in numerous ecosystems such as the 20-metre underwater tunnel, the 360-degree Oceanarium a 10-metre deep reef tank and more.

Kids will love the marine touch tank where they can stroke different sea life, the live diver feeds and the interactive animal presentations. And there is also a guided tour of the Turtle Hospital where you can learn all about the dangers sea turtles face and get up close with the turtles being rehabilitated.

This is one of the things for kids to do in Cairns they will love! The Aquarium is also one of the things to do in Cairns with a baby – first of all, because it’s free for children under 3, but also because it is super accessible for those with a pram. There are lifts, ramps and toilets with change tables.

Location: 5 Florence St, Cairns City QLD 4870

Opening Hours: Daily from 10 am to 3 pm

Price: $45 per adult | $29 per child (3-14) | $133 per family (2A+2C) | Under 3s are free – Click here to book tickets online.

Great Barrier Reef 

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

One of the biggest draw cards to far north Queensland and in particular Cairns is the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the best places to visit in Queensland.

There are a variety of great barrier reef tours from Cairns for families including outer reef cruises, day trips to various islands (such as Green Island and Fitzroy Island), sailing cruises and even scenic flights.

For families with small children or on a tight budget, the best way to experience the great barrier reef with kids is to take a half or full day trip to a nearby island. Green Island is a popular choice for families as it is close to the mainland and has a variety of activities and facilities for families to enjoy – see day trips to Green Island here. Fitzroy Island is a little further out and has a much higher quality of underwater reef viewing and would be my pick if I had to choose between the two – see day trips to Fitzroy Island here.

The most popular and probably the best way to really experience the reef is with one of the many outer Cairns reef cruises. It takes around 2 hours to reach the outer reef from Cairns and once there you will have the opportunity to experience the reef in a variety of ways including snorkelling, diving, underwater viewing platforms and glass bottom boat rides. Click here to learn more about scuba diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

On a previous trip to Cairns, we visited the outer reef with Sunlover Reef Cruises. The cruise takes you to Sunlover’s pontoon at Moore Reef where we spent 4 hours snorkelling, there is even a waterslide and we had a delicious buffet lunch. Other optional activities included scuba diving, guided snorkelling tours and Seawalker Helmet Diving. We found this cruise a great way to experience the great barrier reef for kids. We loved our day out on the reef with Sunlover Reef Cruises and highly recommend the day trip for families.

Click here to see a full range of the different Great Barrier Reef tours on offer.

Visiting the Whitsundays?  Click here to read about visiting the Great Barrier Reef from there.

Beaches around Cairns

Whilst Cairns itself doesn’t have a beach, there are some great beaches a short drive away. In fact, if you are planning on staying in the area for more than a few days, I would recommend you stay at one of the beaches instead of Cairns. Popular beaches to stay at are Trinity Beach and Palm Cove.

Cairns beaches include Machans Beach, Holloways Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, Clifton Beach, Palm Cove, Buchans Point and Ellis Beach.

If you’re a water-loving family, visiting the beaches is one of the things to do around Cairns the kids will love, but remember, when swimming in the beaches in far north Queensland ensure you always swim between the flags and within the stinger nets. Please don’t swim anywhere that is not sign posted as ok for swimming – this is crocodile country remember!

Cairns Wake Park

Another one of the fun things to do in Cairns for families is to visit Cairns Wake Park.   The Cairns Wake Park has an excellent aqua park with a giant jumpy castle, with various slides and inflatable climbing frames in the middle of the water. The park is only a short drive from Cairns, right by the Kuranda Skyrail and kids must be at least 6 years old to participate.

Location: Skyrail Dr, Smithfield QLD 4878

Opening Hours: Weekends & school holidays 10 am to 4 pm

Price: $15 for a 50-minute session or you can get 2 sessions for $20

Visit Markets

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

If you’re looking for some great Aussie souvenirs, then head on down to the night markets which are located between the Esplanade and Abbott Street. Souvenirs include everything from tacky shark t-shirts to nice jewellery and everything in between. With over 70 stores you’re bound to find something!

The night markets open at 4.30 pm and are also a great place to grab some dinner with a busy Asian style food court which is open from 10 am. The markets are open every day and one of the best budget friendly things to do in Cairns as you don’t need to buy anything, the atmosphere and people watching is an activity in itself!

For more local vibrant style markets head to Rusty’s Markets which are open Friday to Sunday and located between Grafton and Sheridan Street. Here you will find delicious tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs, flowers, local honey, good coffee and some yummy breakfast at almost 200 stores. So if you’re looking for what’s on in Cairns this weekend, or any weekend for that matter (as they’re open year round), head to Rusty’s for an eclectic experience.

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure

Located just 40 minutes north of Cairns or 25 minutes south of Port Douglas is Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. The park has over 2500 metres of boardwalks around the park where you can see various animals such as crocodiles, birds, koalas and reptiles. There are a variety of educational presentations as well as a boat cruise around the lagoon to see crocodiles.

This is one of the Cairns attractions and activities that has a real authentic vibe to it, with viewing platforms integrated into the surrounding bushland, giving a natural integration of tourism and wildlife in Cairns. Kids will love how close they can get to these mighty predators and plus it’s not super packed like the zoos can sometimes be.

Location: Captain Cook Hwy, Wangetti QLD 4871

Opening Hours: Daily 8.30 am to 5 pm

Price: $43 per adult | $21.50 per child (4-15) | $107.50 per family (2A+2C) | Under 4s are free – Click here to book tickets online.

Swimming Holes

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

One of the major drawcards to the region of Cairns is the natural landscape including the cool refreshing rock pools surrounded by thick lush rainforest.

One of the most popular swimming holes is Crystal Cascades, which is located a short 20-minute drive from Cairns. Crystal Cascades is a series of lovely waterfalls and croc-free swimming holes with water flowing over the rocks and boulders to create an idyllic setting. The cascades are accessed by a short 10-minute walk from the car park.

Other swimming holes close to Cairns CBD include Oasis Waterhole, Ross and Locke, Little Mulgrave Swimhole, Harvey Creek, Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls, Stoney Creek, Behana Gorge, Davies Creek, Emerald Creek Falls and Mulgrave River. Click here for information about the location of these swimming holes.

Please only ever swim where it is signposted as safe to do so – this is crocodile country!

White Water Rafting 

Joining a half day white water rafting tour is a great way to experience the rainforest and rivers in Far North Queensland and a great trip in Cairns for families with older children.

Rapids range from grades 1 to 4 and the tours are led by expert rafters who will teach you everything you need to know and help you navigate your way through the rapids in a safe environment. No previous experience is necessary.

Rapid tours take place on either the Barron or Tully River. Generally, the Barron River is better for first timers or for younger kids with up to grade 3 rapids. There is some white water rafting on a certain section of the Barron River where the rapids are only grade 1 and 2 so that children as young as 6 years of age can participate.

Check the minimum age with your tour group, as most operators require kids to be 12 – 13 years of age at a minimum.

Price: Rafting tours range in price but usually cost around $119 per person for a half day tour or $230 per person for a full day tour which includes lunch – Click here for discounted tickets to a range of rafting tours.

Canyoning 

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

If you’re wondering what to see in Cairns… you’ll get a whole new perspective of nature as you enjoy an exhilarating 30 metre zipline finishing when you splash down into freshwater rock pools, abseil down cliffs and actually through waterfalls (like you see in the movies), all whilst being surrounded by tropical rainforest.

No previous experience is necessary, the guides will teach you everything you need to know.

Location: Tour departs; 58 Grafton Street, This is under The Benson Hotel

Opening Hours: Half day tours depart at either 6.30am or 12pm

Price: $199 per person (must be over 12 years) – Click here to book tickets online.

Quad Bikes 

Another activity for the adrenalin junkies is quad bike riding. This is a unique way to experience the heart of the rainforest as you zig zag past spectacular scenery, ride through an orchard with more than 600 exotic fruit trees with tastings available (in season), and encounter cassowaries – all on your very own 4 wheeled quad bike.

No previous experience is necessary, these tours accommodate all skill levels and are suitable for kids 10 years and over. Tours are approx. an hour.

Location: Kuranda (see ‘Cairns Day Trips’ below as you might want to incorporate other activities on your day trip to Kuranda)

Opening Hours: Tours depart 12.30pm and 2pm

Price: $95 per adult | $75 per child (10-14) | $300 per family (2A+2C) – Click here to book tickets online.

Cairns Day Trips

There are several areas in far north Queensland which make fabulous day trips from Cairns including Kuranda, the Atherton Tablelands, the Daintree and Port Douglas. I recommend hiring a car and exploring the area on your own, or you can join one of the many Cairns day tours.

Kuranda

Kuranda Scenic Skyrail

Kuranda is a picturesque mountain village approximately 25 kilometres from Cairns, in Australia’s Tropical North Queensland surrounded by World Heritage listed rainforest of the Barron Gorge National Park.

For most tourists coming to Cairns, a day trip to Kuranda is a must do and getting there is half the fun via the famous historic Kuranda Scenic Railway or the modern-day Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

Once you have arrived in the Kuranda Village, there is a variety of things to see and do including seeing Australian wildlife such as koalas, butterflies (visit the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary), birds, kangaroos and reptiles, learn about Aboriginal culture through dance and demonstrations, see the Barron River and stroll through the Kuranda markets looking at local arts and crafts.

The majority of the Kuranda attractions can easily be accessed by foot – most attractions are side by side or only a few minutes walk away.

For more information on all the Kuranda attractions, ticket prices and getting around read our post on things to do in Kuranda.

Daintree National Park 

Best Daintree Rainforest Tours

The Daintree region covers almost 900,000 hectares of Tropical North Queensland and is home to the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park. The area includes the Mossman Gorge at the southern point, the Daintree River at its centre and then all the way up to the dense rainforests of Cape Tribulation. The region has numerous tourist attractions including the lush dense rainforest, crocodile infested rivers, cool freshwater streams, pristine beaches and the Great Barrier Reef.

This is the only place in the world where 2 World Heritage listed sites exist side by side – Daintree National Park and the Great Barrier Reef.

You can visit the Daintree in a day trip from Cairns, or better still spend a few days exploring this magnificent area.

Read our post on the 15 things to do in the Daintree as well as some recommendations on where to stay and how best to get around.

Atherton Tablelands 

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

A visit to the Atherton Tablelands is a great day trip from Cairns with attractions including quaint townships, cascading waterfalls, spectacular lookouts, towering fig trees, volcanic crater lakes and natural pristine pools. The Atherton Tablelands is a highland region, set 1000 metres above sea level located 90 minutes southwest of Cairns.

Here are some attractions to check out during your day trip to the Tablelands:

  • See the waterfall circuit and see Malanda Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls, Zilliee Falls, Ellinjaa Falls, Dinner Falls, Millstream Falls, Mungalli Falls, Nandroya Falls, Tchupala Falls and Wallicher Falls;
  • Swim in Lake Eacham, a clear blue lake surrounded by lush rainforest. There are various walking tracks around the lake to explore;
  • See the Cathedral Fig – one of the largest strangler figs in North Queensland. The fig is over 500 years old, 43 metres round and 50 metres high and has a canopy spanning over 2 hectares;
  • Visit various cafes and shops 186 Mount Haren Rd, Kuranda QLD 4881 in the townships where you can purchase coffee, honey, fruit, dairy products and macadamia nuts; and
  • Stop at the Millaa Millaa Lockout for spectacular views across the Tablelands. The lookout is on McHugh Road between Millaa Millaa and the Kennedy Highway.

Port Douglas 

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

Port Douglas is a coastal town located an hour’s drive north of Cairns, famous for its fancy beach resorts it is a great day trip from Cairns or a central location to base yourself in to explore the nearby Daintree.

If you do decide to stay in Port Douglas, here is a range of accommodation to check out.

Here are some of the top family friendly things to do & kids activities in Port Douglas Queensland:

  • Join a boat cruise to see the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas;
  • Explore a local swimming hole such as Spring Creek, Shannonvale Water Hole, Syndicate Road Swim Hole and Finlayvale Road Swim Hole. Click here for more information about these swimming holes and their location;
  • Check out Wildlife Habitat. Animals include crocodiles, Koalas, Kangaroos, reptiles, birds which are housed in 4 different areas including the wetlands habitat, the rainforest Habitat, Woodland Habitat and the Savannah Habitat.  Entry is $39 per adult and $24 per child (4-14) – click here to buy tickets online.  If you’re keen you even have breakfast with the birds at an additional cost;
  • Go window shopping on Macrossan Street – the main street of Port Douglas is full of boutiques, art galleries and cafes;
  • Swim at Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas’ gorgeous beach which has a stinger net so you can swim without any concerns;
  • Check out the Port Douglas Markets where you can buy local made craft, jewellery and produce; and
  • Admire the gorgeous St Mary’s by the Sea and beautiful white timber church which was built in 1911 and has spectacular views across the coast.

When to Visit?

Anytime! Being in the tropics, Cairns is warm all year round.

If you are not a fan of the hot and humid weather, it may be best to visit during the cooler months from June to August.

The summer months are also when Cairns experience the most rainfall. This is one of the best times of year to see the rainforests surrounding Cairns as the rivers are full making the waterfalls spectacular viewing.

Click here for a month by month guide on the weather in Cairns.

Best Place to Stay in Cairns

Cairns is a fantastic place to base yourself to visit all the wonderful attractions both in Cairns and the surrounding areas. There are some great Cairns resorts for families available, we’ve recommended three below all for different reasons – so if you’re looking for Cairns accommodation based on budget, facilities or location, you’ll find something to suit you below. And if not, you can check out the full range of accommodation on offer in Cairns here.

Hides Hotel

 

During our recent visit to Cairns, we spent a few nights at the Hides Hotel. The Hides Hotel is a fantastic budget family friendly hotel in a central location perfect for seeing everything in Cairns and within walking distance to the Cairns Esplanade, Reef Cruise terminal and plenty of places to eat.

We stayed in a family room which had a queen bed and 2 singles. Often in family rooms, particularly in budget hotels, the space is so cramped, but this was lovely and spacious, as was the bathroom. There is no bath in the bathroom, but there are additional taps down low in the shower for washing small children.

The hotel also has a small pool, whilst nothing fancy it’s perfect for families.

A light breakfast of toast, cereal, boiled eggs and tea and coffee is included which is served on the hotel’s lovely old veranda.

Also across the road from the Hides Hotel is a supermarket, which was great for us as we always purchase snacks to take out and about with us during the day. There is also a range of family friendly cafes and food courts nearby.

There is nothing fancy about the Hides Hotel, but for the price and location, I doubt you will find a better option. If you are wondering where to stay in Cairns, I can highly recommend the Hides Hotel.

Click here for the latest prices or to make a booking at Hides Hotel.

Reef Palms

 

If staying close to the Esplanade is important when choosing your accommodation, the Reef Palms is worth a look. At only a 3-minute walk to the Esplanade, this relaxed motel will have you at all the shops, restaurants and cafes within minutes. Whilst it is a little further afield to the centre of town – around a 20 minute walk, but if you’re walking along the Esplanade, this is sightseeing within itself.

Rooms can accommodate up to four people in two queen beds. The main selling point of the rooms are they contain a kitchenette with fridge, microwave, stovetop, toaster, kettle and a sink – all great things to have on hand when travelling with small children, to prepare and store meals.

Onsite the hotel has a pool and spa along with a children’s wading pool, there is an outdoor area with free BBQ facilities, laundry facility to freshen up your travel clothes and free WiFi.

All in all this is a well priced hotel with cost-savings built in as you are able to prepare meals. 

Click here for the latest prices or to make a booking at Reef Palms.

The Benson

 

If you have a little extra budget to spend, why not splurge on Cairns’s newly renovated Benson Hotel. This hotel is centrally located in Cairns city and gives off real Great Gatsby vibes. It is sumptuous and plush, yet still suitable for kids.

Rooms are a classic design and can sleep families of four in two queen beds. Peak out the window for views over the city to the water and mountains. In the room, you’ll have a bath/shower combo which is perfect for those travelling with little kids, a Smart TV with streaming services, complimentary tea/coffee and a bar fridge.

The Benson facilities include a picture perfect pool and a restaurant open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with a bar attached. Free WiFi ensures you can capture all your family photos and upload/share to make all your friends jealous.

Whilst this is one of the pricier accommodation options available in Cairns, it is a stunning property and the location is central.

Click here for the latest prices or to make a booking at The Benson.

Getting Around

If you plan on visiting the surrounding areas of Cairns, I would highly recommend you hire a car. However, you don’t necessarily need to hire a car for the entire time, do what we did and just hire a car for the days that you need it. Group your driving days together and hire the car just for those days. For days that you are joining tours or just hanging around Cairns, you will not need a car as tours pick you up, and everywhere in Cairns is within easy walking distance from each other.

Click here for tips if you’re also heading to Townsville.

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I hope you found this guide on top things to do in Cairns Australia helpful. We have plenty more guides covering family friendly places in Queensland, including the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Whitsundays and more… check them out so you’re prepared for your Queensland family holiday!

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