When my wife and first moved to Australia we choose Cairns as our home. Little did we know then what an oasis Cairns and the far north of Queensland, Australia would prove to ourselves and our then to arrive little one.
In tropical North Queensland you can camp with your family on pristine Fitzroy Island and snorkel from your door on the pristine reef environment. Or take them to learn more about the local crocodile population.
We tried everything there was to offer in the area for families and made a website of it. We have since condensed those ideas down to what you see on this page. Here is my selection of the best things we found to to share with you.
The video playlist below starts with a quick one minute overview of what's available with some spectacular images followed by our top 10 family attractions in Cairns. The list is not by any means comprehensive, and we will give you ideas of where to search for and quickly find what it is your family loves to do. Here it is:
VIDEO: Cairns Adventures
VIDEO: Things to do in Cairns: The Cairns Esplanade (Insider Tips from Local Kids)
Hanging out at the esplanade is sure to find it's way into your itinerary at some stage. Such a lot of great free family friendly activities are constantly scheduled for all ages. Kids are sure to join in with activities like beach volleyball, bouldering, Tai Chi, Zoomba and heaps more. Right at the top of the esplanade at the city end is the massive free entry lagoon pool with lots of kid friendly beaches and shaded areas.
VIDEO: Palm Cove on the Cairns Northern Beaches - The Ultimate Tropical Family Paradise
Fitzroy edges out a great some great options for family friendly accommodation in the Cairns area. Many people say that the beauty of Cairns begins when you leave the city. In many respects this is true of the city with such abundant natural features like the Great Barrier Reef and the world heritage listed wet tropics Rainforests which engulf the mountains surrounding the city. Both Palm Cove and and Port Douglas to the north offer enhanced natural locations better than Cairns. Although you may loose out a little in convenience to many of the top attractions. Our advice is in to jump a regular boat from the Reef Fleet Terminal down town and head to the tropical paradise which is Fitzroy island. There is even camping available if the good vale resort seems a little over done. See our full review on Fitzroy Island for families. Fitzroy offers some outstanding snorkeling from the beach to view the corals of the inner reef. It is possible to book tours from the outer reef from here.
Top Family Friendly Cairns Accommodation:
Video Below of Fitzroy Island Resort
The smaller white sand coral key style Green Island also offers accommodation and slightly safer sense which perhaps makes it a better choice for those with younger children or a day trip. There are even more connections (and tourists) to reef tours and the mainland which is only 20 minutes away. My recommendation is to save this for a day trip.
I find it difficult to see how a family holiday to Cairns is complete without a swim in a rainforest stream. Chrystal Cascades is the most popular with locals and is about 20 minutes form the center of town. You can follow the signs from the suburb of Freshwater if you have a car. The path up past the series of waterfalls is sealed and offers wonderful views of the stream. Calm pools are all easily accessed by stairs leading down to them and well shaded by the ample rain forest vegetation.
Muddy's is a family friendly, safe kids playground about a 10 minute walk north of the esplanade pool. Bring the kids swimmers to enjoy all the water features. You can find more on Muddy's and other great activities like this on Cairns Kids Activities.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway takes the family up, around and through the rainforest covered mountains surrounding Cairns and into the other worldly rain forest hippie village of Kuranda at an altitude of about 600m. You pass waterfalls and go through lots of tunnels as the commentary describes the history and features of the area. A feature is a stop at Barron Falls which tumbles hundreds of meters through down.
The Skyrail is more than a simple cable car ride into the mountains. Sure the views are spectacular and cover more than 7km of rainforest canopy, but there are also visits to ranger stations, the Barron Falls and visitor information centers. Often the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience is bundled with the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
The entertaining and creative Aboriginal cultural park is part of the essentials to understanding the true nature of the local landscape. Learn about the seasons and traditions of the local people and the land which they are intimately connected to. This is also surprisingly entertaining for children as they learn to throw a boomerang or make a fire.
There is also a great African animal zoo up on the range near Kuranda but as far as convenience and diversity is concerned this is the best. A little up the Captain Cook past Smithfield on the highway on the way to Port Douglas is the Cairns Tropical Zoo. Great place to meet some cute and cuddly local and international species, and pat a kangaroo or two.
You can see crocs on the banks of many of the rivers in the local area in winter. But Hartleys is the best place to see them in action both in shows and in the local lagoon. About 30 minutes north of the city. Include this in a trip up to Port Douglas which you should also prioritize in any family vacation to Cairns. See more Information on our Crocodile Adventures feature here.