When you think of places to visit in Australia, Cairns seems to be up there with the best. The promise of long sunny days with stunning scenery, a laid-back yet trendy vibe with an enormous amount of choices of attractions to indulge in. Cairns is the perfect summer holiday destination.
So once you arrive, what should you do? What seems to be a long list of activities, we put together the best Cairns attractions for families visiting.
With Cairns being an excellent base for the Great Barrier Reef, nearby rainforests and cooler hinterland. Let’s get to the serious business of highlighting the ones you need to notice.
Top things to do in Cairns
Swim at Cairns Lagoon
Queensland is renowned for its Free Council operated swimming Lagoons and water parks, and of course, Cairns Lagoon is no exception. Entry to the Lagoon is FREE making for a great cheap family activity for kids of all ages. Parking is not free at $1.40 per hour, or find some free street parking nearby.
The main beach in Cairns is a mud flat so the 4800 Sqm saltwater Lagoon is the perfect family swimming area, and of course is free from Crocs and Stingers. The Cairns Lagoon hosts fun water features for kids, cafes available for snacks, free entertainment is available at times, and also daily FREE exercise activities. Check out the timetable if you are interested.
Free BBQ’s are also available for those that love a snag and salad or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy under one of the many shady trees.
Opening hours – 6 am – 9 pm daily except Wednesdays which is midday to 9 pm so they can attend to weekly maintenance.
Toilet and Showers are available, wheelchair access
Patrolled by Life Guards
Got Younger kids? No problem – The Lagoon has a lovely shallow end for kiddies. But if you are looking for more interactive playground fun, then keep reading below 🙂
Price – FREE
One of our most favourite playgrounds for children is located at the North end of the Cairns Esplanade. Roughly a 15-minute walk from the Cairns Lagoon. It features fun, safe water play areas, interactive playground features, BBQ’s, undercover eating areas and a lovely cafe.
Opening hours – 9 am – 6 pm daily
Parking out front – FREE
Price – FREE
Kuranda Skyrail & Train
A great family day out is the visit up to Kuranda via the Kuranda Scenic Railway Train and or Sky Rail. By choosing a package with both the Train and the Sky Rail, you get to enjoy a variety of scenic views offered from both providers, while having time in Kuranda to wander around and enjoy the historical village. For full details, images and footage read all about our day out at Kuranda via the Kuranda Skyrail & Train.
If you want the same tour as we did, you can purchase your ticket here through Get Your Guide – Kuranda Railway & Skyrail from Cairns to Kuranda
It takes the hassle of trying to find the best company & price. We found Get Your Guide through a friend, and now it’s our go too for tours around the world. We found an excellent 5-hour city tour for Hong Kong in March through Get Your Guide that I couldn’t find on google. If you see a cheaper tour for the Kuranda Tour, they refund the difference. You cannot lose!
Price – $$$
The Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is one of the gateways to the Famous World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef that is 2300 km long. Exploring the reef is one of the main reason visitors head to Cairns. You don’t want to miss it. Visit the outer reef when selecting your tour to experience the best snorkeling and diving. However, if you have young children, consider Reef Magic Cruises. Transfer to the Marine World pontoon via a fast, stable catamaran and discover the Great Barrier Reef magic. You get your own table and chairs on the sundeck (awesome family feature) and facilities include Morning/Afternoon Tea plus a full hot/cold buffet lunch with vegetarian options. There are fresh water showers to wash off after your dip and for smaller children, a wonderful submersed snorkel platform to allow easy access to the water. Book your tickets here to avoid missing out
Price – $$$$
Tjapukai – Australia Indigenous Cultural Centre.
Tjapukai by Day is an educational and entertaining venue that provides visitors with an authentic Aboriginal cultural experience.
Enjoy performances, dance, food, and arts. Tjapukai by Day is all-weather, wheelchair and pram friendly, offering unique experiences in one location.
A fantastic Family educational experience with unique traditional face painting on arrival.
Price – $
Rustys Markets are available Friday through to Sunday and is now a Cairns tourist icon. Full of fresh, beautiful produce, you can grab healthy family produce here. A must do on the weekends in Cairns. Find yourself some unusual fruit and veggies.
Open Friday & Saturday from 5am – 6pm & Sundays 5am – 3pm
A very modernised version of markets that are found in Asia, targetting the tourist dollar.
We wandered in and straight out, but before we left, we found the massage area. Several operators were offering full body massages for $25 AUD for the hour. Very cheap for Oz. Centrally located near the Esplanade, you can find cheapish Asian food court meals, and get a cheap Pedi’s.
Each Saturday between 8 am – 4 pm. The Esplanade Markets showcase local, quality made products from jewellery, leather work and homewares to pottery, clothes, and skincare.
Price – All 3 of the markets are FREE to wander around.
6. Swim and slide at Crystal Cascades
Fresh swimming holes are one of our most favourites things to do in Queensland Australia, and Crystal Cascades was refreshing and very enjoyable. Just a short 20 min drive from the city center, you will find the crystal clear swimming holes, and the beautiful Cascades surrounded by a lush tropical rainforest setting.
We spent the morning at Crystal Cascades, bring floaties and reef shoes to enjoy it even more. Read all about our time there.
Price – Free
7. Spot a Croc at Hartleys
We had seen several advertisements for Hartleys Crocodile Adventures, and after being at Australia Zoo, we did wonder if it was worth heading to another park showcasing impressive Crocodiles. We did hesitate visiting, but after a traveller raved about Hartleys, we decided to go.
Hartleys was very educational and their man-made self-sufficient croc lagoon was so impressive. Our favourite part of the day was the Croc boat tour around the lagoon but there is so much more to the park. We planned 4 hours here and spent all day wandering around. Highly recommended. Book your tickets here in advance especially during school holidays as it was very busy the day we visited and to get in we needed to turn up very early.
Tip : Pay the extra to feed the Crocodiles yourself.
Price – $$
8. Sugar World Waterpark
Looking for waterslide family fun? Then you are going to love the Sugar World Waterpark. Run by the Cairns Regional Council. Not as large as you would find in the larger cities, but nor is the entrance fee.
Some of the highlights are below
The Supajet Body Slide
Tandem Tube Raft Slide
Mat Racer Slide
Kids Interactive Play System
A whole day could easily be spent here and more.
Opening Hours – 10am – 4pm
Please note the park is closed annually from July 10 to September 1st for maintenance.
Price – $
9. Find the Best Cairns Beaches
If you are heading to Cairns to lay on the central beach in town, then you will be a little disappointed. While they may not have the best central beach, they do have a string of awesome Northern Beaches just 15 – 30 minute drive out of Cairns. These pristine Cairns beaches will keep any beach loving family super satisfied. We did the hard work and spent a day discovering them for you. Yup! our job is so so hard 😉
You can read all about it over on this post showcasing the BEST family beaches for you to visit. Loads of pics and footage to help you decide and we have made it easy with Accommodation options.
Do what we did and visit them ALL.
Price – FREE
10. Cairns Wake Park
A super cool place is Cairns Wake Park situated next to the Kuranda Sky Rail. We spotted this on the Skyrail coming down from Kuranda. Suitable for families with children 6 years or older.
Split into two sections
- The Wake Park
- The Aqua Park
Cairns Wake Park is Tropical North Queensland’s one and only Cable Water Ski Park, offering a unique watersport experience to the young and old. Beginner to Advanced can have fun through a well designed and safe activity. All beginner equipment is provided, ranging from kneeboards to wakeboards as well as life jacket and helmet.
The Wake Park is suitable for ages 10 and above. During school holidays they do have a Kids club. You can suss out more via their website.
The Aqua Park is suitable for ages 6 and older. The park is fun AND safe, with full-time supervision and free flotation devices for all children and adults. Adjoined to the Wake Park, the Aqua Park is suitable for the whole family.
Price – Depend on session times – $ – $$
Discover Family Travel Wrap Up
With so many Cairns Attractions on offer, there are endless ways to fill up holidays with fun and educational activities for your family. Not to mention just walking around the city centre indulging in ice cream or finding the best resort with the best pool. Cairns is Australia’s favourite summer holiday destination for a reason. If you have been to Cairns, we want to hear from you. What did you love the most?