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Where Can I Take My Kids in Cairns?

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Tom Linkins
Updated Tue 07 Feb 2023

Mum and bub playing with sandcastles

Cairns is paradise for families on vacation. This sunshine city is teeming with fun for everyone, from the endless summer days and spellbinding rainforests to the treasure trove of croc and stinger free watering holes, and of course, the Great Barrier Reef — home to Pixar royalty, Nemo, Marlin and Dory. There’s something to inspire awe and joy in every member of the family, of all ages!

The Cairns Aquarium

Royal blue tangs swimming in aquarium

Regardless of whether snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef is on your agenda, a visit to the Cairns Aquarium is highly recommended. This fabulous aquatic venture offers the opportunity to learn all about the amazing ecosystems thriving in the vicinity of Cairns. From the swampy creatures that inhabit brackish creeks to the amphibious friends that cling to the leaves of rainforests, all the way out to the hustling and bustling tropical traffic of the reef system. The kids can get up close and personal with the creatures of the deep blue in a safe, educational and engaging capacity, and dispel any fear or trepidation they might harbour about venturing out onto the reef for a family dive. Let the family fall in love with all the wonderful creatures and corals that make the Great Barrier Reef the underwater wonderland we know it to be.

Go Wild and Meet Iconic Australian Wildlife

Sleepy koala

The creatures on the lands in Cairns are just as fascinating as those on the reef, and no family vacation would be complete without an intimate encounter with any one of our cuddly or creepy local wildlife. Hit up the legendary Hartley's Wildlife Park for some gnarly close encounters with the ancient and ferocious saltwater crocodile — for the daredevil's in the family, you can even score the hair-raising opportunity feed one of these scaly fellas their lunch! Imagine sharing that at show and tell! From snakes and crocs to cassowaries and koalas, you'll be an expert in Australian fauna in no time. 

The Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat have a slightly larger array of birdlife and marsupials, with the opportunity to hand-feed wallabies and kangaroos and see emus, possums, cassowaries and crocodiles in imitations of their natural habitats.

Glass Bottom Boat Tour

Turtle grooving through shallows of reef

Glass bottom boats and semi-submersive tours are as close as you can possibly get to the reef without getting wet, and operators are increasingly adding them to their day tours. They're an especially great activities for families with varying skills in scuba and snorkelling, and with little ones who aren't big enough to don the stinger-suit and snorkel gear yet. These tours give everybody in the family a chance to see first hand the underwater wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef! So settle in and count the corals and the colours of the tropical fish as they pass by your feet. For more information, check out our list of day tours offering glass bottom boat tours.

Pack a Picnic and Explore the Waterfalls

Areial shot of Millaa Millaa Falls

The rainforests surrounding Cairns harbour a treasure trove of countless waterfalls and watering holes, all within less than a day’s drive! If you don’t have access to your own set of wheels there are also a number of tours departing Cairns that will transport you to the sweetest oases. These watering holes provide safe swimming spots free of stingers and crocs, and are great destinations to spend the day lazing under the sun and picnicking with your little and loved ones. So, pack a hamper and immerse yourselves in the paradise of Crystal Cascades, Millaa Millaa, Josephine Falls or — if you’re in the mood for more of a drive — Souita Falls.

Take a Splash in the Cairns Lagoon

Kids playing in sand on Lagoon

The Cairns Lagoon is located along the Esplanade and is a popular stinger and croc free destination for families looking to escape the heat and splash about. Score front row seats to the best views of the ocean as you recline on the manmade dunes and watch the little ones build sandcastles and splash around in the shallows. Patrolled by lifeguards (6 am to 9 pm) and covering more than 4,800 square metres, the Cairns Lagoon is one of the premier swimming spots for kids and families. Feel free to pack some snags too, as there are twelve barbecues up for grabs and ample picnic seating. 

Take a Ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway

Aerial shot of Kuranda Scenic Railway

Ready for a rainforest adventure? All aboard the century old Kuranda Scenic Railway. This beautiful heritage transports passengers through enchanting thickets of Barron Gorge National Park’s wetlands, rainforests and eucalypt rainforests. Reaching staggering heights, you’ll score front row views to the sheer majesty of a plunging waterfall and expansive leafy canopies. The final destination is the quant and charming mountaintop village of Kuranda, where many more adventures await. Ride the Skyrail to the rainforest floor and even higher heights, explore the Kuranda Heritage Markets, or go on a rainforest safari through croc infested waters on a WWII Army Duck!

The Cairns Night Markets

Treats at the Cairns Night Markets

The Cairns Night Markets are a great early evening activity. Let the kids roam through the untold treasures of stalls within sight while you peruse through dresses, hats and gifts for friends and family back home. And when everybody tires of shopping and good little boys and girls become hangry monsters, hit up the food hall for an extensive array of international cuisines. Of course, you’re probably not going to make it out of here without stopping by one of the delicious dessert stalls for a little post-dinner sweet treat!

Start planning the ultimate family getaway to Cairns today! And chat with our amazing travel experts to make this the best vacation yet.

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