Cairns with Kids: A school holiday survival guide
‘Did someone say ‘school holidays’? Are we at end of term already? Didn’t they only go back yesterday?’
Tropical North Queensland is a playground that will keep both grown-ups and kids entertained for days. Think trees as old as dinosaurs, fish as big as boats and crocodiles! Lots of crocodiles. It’s an adventure wonderland that has something to offer the whole family these school holidays.
While holidaying with kids may not be footloose and fancy-free; there is something magical about seeing the world again through the eyes of a child. Let their curiosity and imagination rub off on you these school holidays as you experience the wonders of Tropical North Queensland.
Child-friendly places to stay, easy in/easy out dining options and exciting things to see and do for the whole family…Here are our top tips for holidaying with kids in Cairns.
For family-friendly holidays in Cairns we recommend looking into apartment-style accommodation and Bailey, a Crystalbrook Collection Hotel and Residences offers just that. With one, two- and three-bedroom stays available including kitchen facilities, a private rooftop pool and five-star amenities for mum and dad - there is plenty of room to unpack and make yourself at home. It’s a win-win for all (and we’re not being biased).
Smack bang in the middle of the action but with plenty of room to move around, Boardwalk Social, located at Flynn, a Crystalbrook Collection Hotel, is a great family-friendly option for lunch or dinner.
After a big afternoon spent on the Esplanade, the kids will no doubt have worked up quite an appetite and the Boardwalk Social menu has something that will appeal to all ages.
While the adults can sit back and enjoy the view – or watch the latest game on the big screens – the little tuckers can munch on a variety of finger food yummies, or check out the kids happy hour special, ice cream included, naturally.
Parents and children alike will rejoice at this little gem, located in the middle of Cairns’ largest waterpark and playground on the Esplanade. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Muddy’s is a hive of activity from dawn to dusk and offers up all your typical kids meals, along with some fancier options for adults and all importantly, the coffee is strong and always on tap.
Nunu Restaurant is located a short 30-minute drive from Cairns, in the picturesque satellite suburb of Palm Cove. It’s more of a special occasion dining option but is also a great place to take the kids as they can play under the swaying palms while the adults sit - toes in sand - and enjoy a few moments of serenity.
Family-friendly recommendation: The coconut and banana hotcakes with coconut sugar caramel and coconut sorbet is always a hit.
Get your groove on at the Cairns Esplanade. Curving itself around the CBD shoreline, it’s a super popular spot to hang out for anyone who loves the great outdoors. BBQs are dotted in easily accessible spots where you can laze and graze under the palms, there’s the huuuuge lagoon complete with sandy beaches, fountains, shallow spots for the small kids, all looking out over the Coral Sea. There’s also a skate park, bike paths and entertainment in the evenings. Active Living classes are on throughout the day, so if you ever wanted to try your moves to Aqua Zumba or Yogalates, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Did we mention it’s entirely free?
Island hopping is a favourite pastime for both locals and tourists alike and a visit to Cairns really isn’t complete without a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Fitzroy Island is definitely the family favourite of all the islands here in the north, not least for being dubbed the best beach in Australia. In addition to its white sand and azure water for days, Fitzroy nails the activity list - double kayak tours, a massive ocean trampoline, glass-bottom boat trips, scenic hikes to rainforest peaks. Kids will love all the bright, colourful fish and a visit to the turtle rehabilitation centre will make a lasting impression on all. Accommodation is available, but day-trippers are most welcome.
Get a bird's eye view from the tops of the trees with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Buckle up in a gondola that ascends mountain through layers of rainforest canopy, stopping twice along the way at Red Peak and Barron Falls station, where you can see, hear, smell and learn all about the inner workings of our magical rainforests. Back on board the gondolas and you’ll glide gracefully over the mighty Barron Falls before arriving at the final stop, Kuranda, the whimsical and other-worldly mountain village that perches high above Cairns. Following a magical morning spent exploring Kuranda, the kids will love a return trip home via a very Harry Potter-esq train ride travelling onboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Journey through world-heritage listed rainforest, pass majestic waterfalls and steam along over perilous – but uber safe - bridges as you make your way down the mountain and into Freshwater Station.
Finding Nemo has never been so much fun. Explore the magical underworld of the deep blue at one of Cairns’ most visited attractions, the Aquarium. Boasting more than 16,000 animals, including some of the world’s most fascinating, elusive and deadly creatures under the sea, you’ll leave with a whole new appreciation for the biodiversity of the ocean; and hopefully as a life-long warrior for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns Aquarium also has an onsite café and restaurant, Dundees at the Cairns Aquarium.
Crocodiles, we promised you crocodiles, and Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures does not disappoint. Not for the squeamish, spectators will gasp in horror and delight at the world-famous crocodile attack show or watch in awe as Saltwater crocs are hand-fed by experienced rangers. Kids will also love the wildlife exhibitions, which includes some of our furry favourites: wombats, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, along with a very impressive Komodo Dragon, alligators, cassowaries, snakes and lizards. You can easily spend a full day or more exploring everything Hartley’s has to offer, with crocodile and snake shows running morning and afternoon sessions.
For those travelling with teens or slightly older children, Cairns has many hidden waterfalls and swimming holes to cool down in. Crystal Cascades is a popular gem among locals, and it is easy to see why. Hidden among tropical rainforest and canopied by ancient trees, a series of small waterfalls cascade into a large freshwater pool surrounded by granite boulders. Pack a picnic and feel a million miles away from reality in a pocket of rainforest that time forgot.
Explore the Atherton Tablelands
Road trips can do wonders for mum and dad’s sanity, especially if the little ones will nap onboard. Select your favourite playlist, grab a coffee for the journey and settle in for a scenic drive to the Atherton Tablelands, situated 90 kilometres from Cairns. First stop on the itinerary is a visit to Shaylee’s Strawberry farm, to pick-your-own punnet. The kids will delight in finding the biggest, juiciest strawberries to devour on the car ride home or stop in for one of Shaylee’s famous strawberry sorbets or home-made jams. Strawberry season is typically August to November and will be suspended during wet conditions. Following on the paddock-to-plate journey, kids will be gob-smacked to discover Gallo Dairyland, a working dairy and café. With more than 350 milking cows on-site, the dairy offers daily milking demonstrations that is equal parts educational and entertaining for the kids. Mini-milk lovers will also enjoy visiting the animal nursery where they can interact with calves, alpacas and chicks. Before you hit the road, be sure to stop in for a bite to eat at Gallo’s café and pick up some gourmet cheeses and chocolates, all made on site. We told you there was something for everyone.
Top image courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Queensland