10 Free Things to Do in Cairns With Children
Wondering where to take the kids in Cairns that won’t cost a fortune? As one of Australia’s most family friendly cities and a tourist mecca, there are many fantastic things for families to do in this tropical NQ city.
Cairns is often voted one of Australia’s most family-friendly cities, both for tourists and local residents alike. And, it’s not just because of the laidback tropical lifestyle and wide-open spaces.
As a popular tourist destination there are endless amounts of trips and activities on offer. However, if you’re travelling as a family and paying for 4 or 5 people, the cost of daytrips can soon start to mount up before you know it.
If you are planning on doing a few day trips we would definitely recommend spending the money on a reef trip and a rainforest experience, but there are also quite a few things to do in Cairns with kids that won’t cost you a cent.
Here’s our list of favourites to help balance out your family budget:
1. botanic gardens
If you’re not familiar with tropical flora then a trip to the Botantic Gardens in Edge Hill is definitely worth adding to your itinerary. Kids will enjoy following the path down the gulley into the creek and parents will enjoy the scenery.
It’s not a huge park so once you’ve done a circuit of the gardens, walk across the road and wander along the boardwalks through the mangroves to Centenary Lakes. But keep an eye out for ‘wait-a-while’ vines, because if they catch on your clothing you will be waiting a while we can assure you.
If you’ve got older kids and you’re feeling active, take the walking track up behind the Botanic Gardens from the visitors centre. The Red Track is steep but fairly short and gives you a great view of the airport at the top and makes a great photo with views over Cairns.
And once you have tired yourself out there are some good cafes in Edge Hill where you can stop for coffee and milkshakes. We would recommend Wild Bean near the visitor centre rather than the one within the gardens, or walk towards the village.
Cairns is blessed with a number of really great playgrounds in Cairns.
Muddy’s on The Esplanade and the Figtree Playground near the Reef Terminal (also known by locals as The Treehouse) are probably the most popular and closest to the town centre.
These two playgrounds are pretty amazing and the kids might not want to leave.
Always a favourite with kids, the Esplanade is a must-do for families in Cairns. You could quite easily spend the day here.
If you’re visiting in the summer months, we’d recommend going in the late afternoon and taking your own food along for an evening BBQ.
There are lots of free BBQ facilities by the Lagoon and this is a great way to experience the tropical Aussie lifestyle – cooking up some ‘snags’ on the barbie as the sun goes down.
4. swimming holes
The Rocks at Redlynch and Crystal Cascades are the closest to the town centre but you will need a car to get there.
Sitting in natural rock pools in the rainforest is a special experience that the kids will definitely remember.
5. skate park
The skate park in Cairns is one of the best in Australia and even if you don’t have a go yourself, it’s fun to go and watch other kids and teens doing their tricks.
There is one section that is easier where kids can take their scooters.
6. cattana wetlands
This is a birdwatcher’s paradise and an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
These wetlands attract a wide variety of birdlife and you can wander along the wooden boardwalks through the rainforest and around the wetlands any day of the week.
The wetlands are close to Yorkey’s Knob so you will need a car to get there.
What’s a family holiday without a day at the beach?
There are a number to choose from in Cairns, all of them in the northern suburbs, and some of them also have playgrounds.
But make sure you swim inside the stinger nets for your own safety if you are visiting the beach during stinger season when the box jellyfish inhabit the beaches (November through to May).
The weekend markets at the Esplanade and the Cairns Night Markets are worth browsing around.
You might need to pull out a few dollars for ice creams or souvenirs but its relatively cheap entertainment. And the foot massages at the markets are pretty good too after sightseeing all day.
9. art galleries
There are quite a few art galleries in Cairns and most of them have free entry.
The Cairns Regional Gallery near the Esplanade on Abbott Street is the biggest and will definitely appeal to kids as it often has kids activities.
Canopy Artspace on Grafton Street is also a great little gallery that mentors emerging indigenous artists and showcases local artwork.
10. check out the marina
It’s always worth checking out the marina and seeing how the other half live on their luxurious super yachts.
Depending on the time of year, Cairns sometimes gets the world’s biggest private boats moored up as well as the occasional cruise liner. But just wandering up and down the pier admiring the boats is always fun.