Things To Do in Cairns, Australia With Kids
Cairns in Queensland, Australia is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It also offers an enviable array of attractions for the whole family. Our recent visit was filled with culture and adventure set against a tropical backdrop. We hope these fun things to do in Cairns with kids will help with your travel plans.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Cultural experiences are a huge part of our trips. The unique Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park gave us a glimpse into the indigenous Australians, the Tjapukai Aboriginals. We witnessed aboriginal songs and dances and were shown traditional uses of local plants. Their interactive kid’s program allowed the kids to paint stones, learn to play the didgeridoo, and experience spear and boomerang throwing during the day tour. It’s no wonder it was a popular place for school field trips. My kids loved this place!
We highly recommend attending the dinner and dance show on another day for a completely different experience. Highlights were learning how to start a fire and watching a memorable show by the Aboriginals which helped us understand even more about their culture. The dinner buffet was delicious!
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
There is no better way to see panoramic views of Cairns than riding the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Soar high above the tropical rainforest and stop at stations to learn about this world heritage site’s flora and fauna. Don’t miss the ranger-led walks. We loved the Diamond view gondolas with the glass floors. If you’re really adventurous, they also have a canopy glider which is an open air ride on top of the rainforest. Visitors can ride to and from the mountain village of Kuranda, which takes about 90 minutes one way.
This charming “village in the rainforest” has several attractions like a boat cruise, butterfly sanctuary, koala garden, Birdworld, venom zoo, rainforest walks and candy making. We only had a few hours at Kuranda Village but enjoyed seeing the various street art and its famous markets. Plan to spend a day here.
Kuranda Scenic Railway
We took a narrated, two-hour ride from Kuranda on the refurbished train carriages of the Kuranda Scenic Railway. With a brief stop at the spectacular Barron Falls, it was a relaxing and wonderful way to enjoy the amazing views through the tropical rainforest. We also learned a lot about the history and sacrifices many people made to build this engineering marvel. The kids loved passing through the many tunnels.
How about visiting a farm to learn about Australia’s crocodile species? Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures has local wildlife displays and presentations set amidst boardwalks, woodlands and rainforest. The Hartley’s Lagoon cruise sounds like a fun way to see the crocodiles cruising the waters.
Cairns Tropical Zoo
Our Australian bucket list included feeding kangaroos and cuddling koalas. Luckily, we were able to do both while visiting Brisbane a few weeks earlier. But, if you’re in Cairns, don’t miss the Cairns Tropical Zoo because it’s one of the few places in the world to offer this koala cuddling experience. It was one of our most unforgettable travel moments.
The zoo has 60 kangaroos to meet and hand-feed. There are also wildlife displays and shows of Australian reptiles, birds and mammals. Kids will love seeing the wombats and cassowaries. Families can also have breakfast with the animals or have a nighttime experience.
Great Barrier Reef
There are plenty of choices for day trips to the Great Barrier on activity platforms or islands for the water lovers and even non-swimmers in the inter or outer reef areas. Activities include kayaking, snorkeling, diving, glass bottom boats and semi-submersible rides.
Green Island is the most popular choice for day trips for families due its accessibility, shallow waters and activity choices. Based on our preferences, we spent a day in Fitzroy Island for snorkeling, hiking through a National Park, swimming, coral viewing and visiting a turtle rehabilitation center. The abundance of sea life, especially corals, was amazing despite the cold water during their winter season.
No matter which trip you choose, you’re guaranteed spectacular underwater scenery. Book early, especially during Australian school holidays.
This recreational area is a hub of family-friendly facilities and activities. Located along the seashore, the pedestrian paths are perfect for walking and running. They even have free fitness stations throughout the area. The many playgrounds and lawns were spacious and clean for everyone to use including picnic tables, a skate plaza and a small rock-climbing park.
The free Lagoon is a salt water swimming space with lifeguards and shower facilities. With Cairns’ wonderful weather, it’s a perfect place for families to visit all year. Don’t miss the markets every Saturday for local arts and crafts. If we lived here, we’d be at the Esplanade every weekend.
We stayed at Hilton Cairns, which was on the waterfront. It was very close to downtown, the Esplanade and the Great Barrier Reef day trips marina. The sea views from some of the rooms were gorgeous.
>>For more inspiration, see all of our vacation photos from Australia.
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Know Before You Go
- Purchase an Opal Card for the best public transportation experience. The Opal Card is valid in Sydney, The Blue Mountains, Central Coast, The Hunter, and the Illawarra.
- Flinders in Melbourne is famous for its street art. Wayward Wanders offers tours throughout the area.
- For walking, the Bondi to Bronte route is one of the best in Sydney. It is only four miles long and moves past cliffs, beaches, and has a beautiful view of the ocean.