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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.

Explore the latest offers and packages from Crystalbrook Collection in Cairns

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.

Crystalbrook Bailey Residences

The Bailey Bunch

For family-friendly holidays in Cairns we suggest looking into apartment-style accommodation, and Crystalbrook Bailey Residences offers just that. With one, two- and three-bedroom stays available including kitchen facilities, a private rooftop pool and five-star amenities for parents - 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).

Enjoy a Bailey Bunch family holiday with free movies (we will provide bags of popcorn and chocolate bars), card games, a disposable camera to snap the fun and two coffee vouchers for Mum and Dad. Experience Hartley's Crocodile Adventures with free tickets for the whole family (2 adults, 2 children) and a bonus souvenir crocodile or python family photo!

Plus, join the Crystalbrook Crowd and receive 10% off all Crystalbrook Collection restaurants and bars. 

Crystalbrook Bailey is the thoughtful, arty five-star hotel in Cairns with 3 restaurants and bars, a gym and sauna and room to move. 

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Crystalbrook Flynn

Family Flynn Style

Enjoy quality time with a side of fun, right on the Esplanade in the centre of the action in Cairns. With two pools (and inflatables) to splash out in, over 200 free in-room movies, a Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience (2 adults, 2 children) and daily breakfast at Flynn’s Italian.

Plus, 10% off your accommodation and 10% off Crystalbrook restaurants and bars when you join the Crowd. Time for some quality family time with a side of fun.

Crystalbrook Flynn is the social butterfly, located in the heart of the city overlooking the Cairns Esplanade and Coral Sea. With three levels of fun, two pools, three bars and restaurants, a gym and spa, it's time to take the plunge. 

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Crystalbrook Riley

BYO Kids

Time to pack the whole family. Enjoy a tropical holiday with the little ones and soak up some family time, Crystalbrook Riley style.

Enjoy a kids pack on arrival, the 1,000 square metres of pool to play in, cabanas to laze, a trip to the Cairns Aquarium and just imagine your room as a cinema with over 200 free movies and your own popcorn maker, or become a junior Citizen of the Reef with our partner Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. Kids to enjoy one complimentary meal with one paying adult at Paper Crane or poolside dining.

Plus, join the Crystalbrook Crowd and receive 10% off all Crystalbrook Collection restaurants and bars. 

Crystalbook Riley is located on the Cairns Esplanade, two bars and restaurants, a gym and spa, bikes, and 1000 square metre pool. 

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Boardwalk Social by Crystalbrook

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 our free kids pizza with any main meal purchased. 

Muddy’s Café

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

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.


Cairns Esplanade

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?

Fitzroy Island

Family Walking On A Sandy Beach
Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

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.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

A Close Up Of A Hillside Next To A Forest
Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

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.

Cairns Aquarium

Cairns Aquarium
Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

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.

Crocodile Adventures

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.

(Do go) chasing waterfalls

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

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