If you’re heading to Cairns with the family you’re in for an amazing holiday! You won’t be short of things to do that will keep the kids – and adults – very happy!

Here’s our list of the top ten family activities to do in and around Cairns.

  • Cairns Esplanade

In the heart of Cairns you’ll find Cairns Esplanade. The walkways and boardwalks are great for easy walking with kids (or cycling or rollerblading if you’d prefer) and give you a chance to take in the blues of the ocean and the lovely lush greens of the local flora. What’s more, you’ll find Muddy’s Playground here too, where the kids can muck around in the water play area (perfect for preschoolers) and run off some energy in the playground. The esplanade (and adjacent Esplanade Lagoon) is part of the new Active Living Free Fitness initiative too, so if you’re wanting to get active on your break check out the free fitness classes like Zumba, Aqua Aerobics and ‘Mumbalates’ too!

  • Esplanade Lagoon

Useable beaches are sadly not a part of the Cairns experience (although check out number 4 on this list, Fitzroy Island, for some idyllic beach options) but this amazing Esplanade Lagoon almost makes up for it. The expansive man-made ‘lagoon’ has a beach-style entry (complete with sand) making it perfect for little ones and those just wanting a paddle. There’s plenty of space, and depths across the whole lagoon go up to 1.5 metres. The Lagoon is one of the best family activities in Cairns – it’s free, open every day and great for all ages.  

  • Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park

The Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park will captivate children and adults alike. Run by the local Djabugay people, the centre shares aboriginal culture through stories and activities. Discover local bush tucker, learn how to throw a boomerang – and a spear! – and find out how to identify significant plants in nature. Only 15 minutes from central Cairns, this is a must-do for families.

  • Fitzroy Island

If you’re worried about the lack of useable beaches in Cairns – don’t be. Once you learn about Fitzroy Island you’ll realise you’re right near an island paradise for families! Jump on the Fitzroy Flyer and after a relaxing 45-minute cruise (which the kids will love) you’ll be soaking up the sunshine on the magnificent beaches tucked in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. A great day out for families, you can make your visit as relaxing or as active as you want. Explore the rainforest tracks or lie out under a palm tree. Perhaps you’d rather sit beachside with a cocktail while the kids play on the sand? For something the whole family will love, book a tour of the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre where you can learn about and sea turtles up close. And if it’s too hard to decide what to do, accommodation is available on Fitzroy Island too so you can easily make your day trip a longer adventure. 

  • The Great Barrier Reef

Depending on the age of your kids, snorkelling or kayaking both provide amazing access to the vibrant corals and spectacular sea life. It’s definitely worth considering a tour on a glass-bottomed boat. Perfectly designed to make experiencing the reef easy, there are many different places you can book in for a tour. Set off from Cairns, the Whitsundays, Port Douglas, Fitzroy Island or Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach boat tours and Fitzroy Island have glass-bottomed boat tours leaving at a minimum twice daily, and you can opt for a snorkelling option as well or a ‘staying dry’ coral viewing tour.

  • Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Be enchanted by the Atherton Tablelands as you soar above the treetops of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. Setting off from Smithfield (just 15 minutes from Cairns) means this is an easily accessible activity and a great day out for the whole family. The cableway has two stops along its track and once you’re in Kuranda there’s plenty to do so allow a bit of time to explore or grab lunch there too. 

  • Kuranda Scenic Railway

Climb aboard the hundred-year-old carriages of the Kuranda Scenic Railway then sit back and enjoy the views through the remarkable heritage-listed rainforest and nearby mountains. The train ride itself is great for older kids who will appreciate the scenery, while the town of Kuranda is great for younger kids who will find lots of fun in the town itself and all it has to offer (check out number 10 on this list for ideas!). Consider combining this outing with a trip on the Skyrail to really make the most of your family day out.

  • Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge is well worth the hour and a quarter drive from Cairns. With some of the best scenery Australia has on offer, you’ll find a great range of easy walks amongst nature here. Starting from the Visitor Centre there’s a shuttle bus that takes you right to the gorge. From there you can hike, go for a swim, or choose one of the easy walks that are very suitable for kids. The suspension bridge is a great experience for the whole family. 

  • Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure

For a truly Aussie wildlife experience make sure you stop at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure. Crocodiles, believe it or not, are just the beginning. You’ll also find snakes, cassowaries, koalas, and kangaroos here too. Some of them are even eager to be hand-fed, which can be a real highlight for kids. Then, hop aboard a boat cruise on Hartley’s Lagoon, and make sure you check out times for Hartley’s world-famous ‘crocodile attack’ show.  

  • Australian Butterfly Sanctuary 

Located in Kuranda, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly aviary in the southern hemisphere. Your whole family will be captivated by the brightly coloured wings of over 1500 butterflies. Explore the lifecycle of a butterfly when you visit the breeding labs which generally hold up to 4000 caterpillars and chrysalises. 

Make the most of our top ten family activities to do in and around Cairns and you’ll be creating lifelong memories of wonderful family experiences.