Cairns is a popular Queensland city near the northern tip of the country's east coast by the Great Barrier Reef. You'll find plenty to do in this city no matter what your interests are, but if you're travelling with the whole family, you'll need to craft an itinerary that will keep everyone happy. A wealth of outdoor activities can be found here that will get your family active, along with educational attractions that are especially valuable for the young kids in your family. That's just the beginning, however, so take a look at some of the top kids' activities in Cairns you may want to add to your holiday itinerary.
Educational things to do with kids in Cairns
1. See the castle at Paronella Park
When you visit Paronella Park, you'll find something that you may not have expected from the rainforest around Cairns. Inside, you and your family can explore a castle built by a Spanish entrepreneur more than a century ago. The architecture is certainly impressive, but you'll also find numerous displays and exhibits highlighting the past of this fascinating destination, making the experience as educational as it is fun. Plus, the local flora and fauna here are downright breathtaking since the castle grounds are situated right next to a serene waterfall frequented by travelling bird species.
2. Tour the vibrant Cairns Botanic Gardens
At the Cairns Botanic Gardens, you'll find a wide variety of fascinating and vibrant flora showcasing some of the most impressive plant life of Australia, along with some species that are a bit more exotic. You can always explore the gardens at your own pace, but you'll also find guided walking tours with an expert who offers additional insight into the plants here along with a history of the area. Additionally, The Little Taccas program offered here lets children under 5 years of age participate in fun activities like arts, crafts, discovery walks, storytelling and sing-alongs. Don't forget to keep an eye out for the local birds as well, which can be just as colourful as the flora.
3. Check out an open-air museum at Historic Village Herberton
The Historic Village Herberton offers your family a chance to effectively travel back in time to the mid-19th century to get an idea of what life was like during the pioneering era. You'll find more than 50 buildings here that are maintained and restored to match their 19th-century glory when they served as part of a tin mining town. Among the buildings, you'll find several exhibits offering even more insight into this historical area, including a dress shop, a toy story, a blacksmith shop and a dentist, among many others. Memorabilia from times past can be found within as well, like old toys, clothing and even horse carts.
4. Explore the past at Cairns Museum
At Cairns Museum, you and your family can look at the rich history of the city and the region to discover how it grew to be the shining jewel of Queensland that it is today. A number of exhibits await you inside that cover a variety of topics, including the history of the city itself as told through the locals. The town was built on swamps, sweat and sugar, and you can discover how the tropical climate here played an integral role in the growth and development of the area. Don't forget to check out the temporary exhibits, which often focus on interesting local characters throughout history.
5. Explore the canopy at the Daintree Discovery Centre
When you and your family visit the Daintree Discovery Centre, you can explore the fascinating rainforest near Cairns from a unique perspective. You'll find several bridges and paths that will take you to the top of the canopy of Daintree Forest, letting you see just how diverse the different levels of the forest can be. The skywalk is just one of many paths, however, as you can also explore the lower levels of the rainforest. Additionally, the guidebook they offer with admission includes 68 pages of information that you're free to take home with you.
Find family activities in Cairns about the local wildlife
6. See marine life at the Cairns Aquarium
At the Cairns Aquarium, you'll be able to see a wide variety of marine life, with a particular focus on those native to the waters around North Queensland. You and your family can explore the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef with more than 16,000 animals available to see. Among the population here, you'll find some of the rarest and most elusive creatures in local waters along with a few intimidating and deadly ocean predators. As it's located in the heart of Cairns, the aquarium is also remarkably easy to get to, so it's simple to fit into your itinerary.
7. Discover the animals of Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas
If your family is looking to get up close with fascinating animals, Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas is one of the best destinations in the Cairns area. Here, you can see and even hand-feed wallabies and kangaroos, and you might also catch a glimpse of a cassowary or a tree kangaroo. Additionally, this attraction offers a crocodile feeding presentation, though that may not be your ideal kind of experience if you're visiting with particularly young children. Don't forget to check out the koalas if you're looking for an unforgettable photo opportunity.
8. Learn about conservation efforts at the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre
One of the most important wildlife destinations in the Cairns area is the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Here, you'll find 6 of the 7 species of marine turtles in the world, as those 6 are all native to the Great Barrier Reef area. When your family visits, you can learn all about the plight of the turtles and the enormous effort it takes to rehabilitate them and ensure a future for their species. Not only will it be satisfying to see these turtles, but your little ones will leave with a greater understanding of how their actions can impact the well-being of these incredible creatures.
Enjoy active things to do with kids in Cairns
9. Play around Muddy's Playground
When it comes to kids' activities in Cairns, there's nothing quite as iconic as Muddy's Playground. This attraction offers year-round fun with plenty of equipment and adventures for your little ones to embark on. You'll find water play areas to help the kids stay cool during those hot summer days, as well as sound chimes, a rope bridge, several slides, mouse wheels, entire playhouses and even storytelling areas. Additionally, you'll find picnic tables here along with a barbeque if you're looking to make a day out of your visit to this playground.
10. Go swimming at Crystal Cascades
Crystal Cascades is a bit of a hidden gem around the Cairns area, as this freshwater swimming hole is rather secluded and hidden within the surrounding rainforest. You can access it by car, but you'll find several canoeing tours that eventually reach the area as well. The water itself is cool and refreshing, and it's plenty calm and safe enough for your kids to enjoy. Keep in mind, however, that this swimming hole doesn't have any posted lifeguards, so make sure you're vigilant when visiting with kids. It takes about 18 minutes by car to reach this destination if you start from the Cairns city centre.
11. Relax at the Esplanade Lagoon
The Esplanade Lagoon is one of the most popular Cairns activities for families, as it creates a relaxing pool area for kids and adults alike to go swimming. You won't find many decent natural beaches in Cairns, but this man-made lagoon offers the next best thing, including an entrance area that's sandy, much like a beach. Additionally, you'll find lifeguards on duty, so you can relax with peace of mind knowing you and your little ones are protected, though you'll still find plenty of shallows around the lagoon area. You'll find some deep areas, too, if you or your older children are looking for those kinds of swimming experiences.
12. Embark on an unforgettable adventure at Cairns Zoom
Cairns Zoom is a domed adventure course set up within a wildlife immersion exhibit. You'll find stunning flora and fauna showing off Australia's most impressive natural features, but that's just the beginning. You can also enjoy 65 elements of crossings and zip lines offering action-packed fun that the whole family can enjoy. One of these zip lines will even have you racing over a massive crocodile, which can seriously get the adrenaline pumping. If you're feeling brave, you can also try the climbing courses as well as the 13-metre free-fall challenge. Keep in mind that kids need to be at least 8 years of age to participate here.
13. Play at the Fig Tree Playground
When your family visits the Fig Tree Playground, you'll find a wide variety of activities and things to do built all around a massive fig tree. Around the playground, you'll find a variety of steps, slides, ropes and tunnels that your little ones will love to play among. Keep in mind, however, that this playground isn't suitable for kids who are too little. The sheer number of entry and exit points here can make it hard to keep track of little runners, and the nearby water could be a hazard to toddlers. Instead of tackling the giant fig tree playground, especially young kids can find fun at the accompanying treehouse.
14. Jump at the first AJ Hackett bungy tower
Bungy jumping has become a phenomenon around the world, but the first bungy tower is still up and running just 20 minutes north of the Cairns city centre. When you visit AJ Hackett, you can try out several different jump styles, but that's just the beginning. This attraction also features the Minjin Swing, a massive high-speed jungle swing that will have riders racing through the rainforest at speeds up to 120 kph. Anywhere between 1 and 3 people can experience it at once, so keep that in mind when taking your family along for the adventure.
15. Splash around at the Aqua Park
When it comes to things to do with kids in Cairns, nothing offers a simple and straightforward good time quite like the local Aqua Park. You'll find a wide variety of activities, including pools and inflatable obstacle courses that your family can run through. Both children and adults can find fun here, with adults being able to enjoy some peace of mind since the entire park has full-time supervision. Keep in mind, however, that the minimum age requirement is 6 years old, so if you have kids younger than that, they won't be able to participate.