Locals Guide to Cairns With Kids

Published date: 14/12/2020
A kid in a swim ring posing with lemon pieces at Pullman Cairns

School holidays are upon us, folks. And while we love uninterrupted family time and all of the joys that come with, finding a way to entertain kids that doesn’t involve endless hours of iPad or screen time can be tricky. Luckily for families visiting Cairns, there’s lots to do. Be it a stroll along the Esplanade or a trip out to the reef, our city by the sea is chock-full of ways to keep the kids busy without totally sacrificing your chance to relax and have an adult holiday of your own. 

We’ve asked a few staff members and parents of Pullman Cairns International for their insider tips on how to holiday in Cairns with kids of all ages in tow: 

Daniel Rosendale - Front Office All Rounder
“Waterfall day at Josephine Falls and Milla Milla Falls! And don’t forget a stop at Lake Barrine and the tea house there, where you can see a platypus if you’re lucky. There’s also Crystal Cascades closer by.”

A trip to the Tablelands for a few waterfall dips and nature walks is a day that the whole family will truly enjoy. Josephine Falls boasts a natural granite waterslide, while Milla Milla provides the perfect backdrop for a family holiday photo. If the kids plan on swimming, just be aware of the day’s conditions, as currents can be strong after a big rain. A stop at the historic Lake Barrine Teahouse is also a must when you’re traipsing around the Tablelands. Though the informative lake cruises have been put on hold for the time being, the restaurant is still open and slinging out delicious Devonshire Tea and filling lunches. 

Nearer to Cairns, Crystal Cascades is a local family favourite for many reasons. This series of freshwater swimming holes is surrounded by lush rainforest trees, plenty of native critters, and its walking tracks and BBQ areas make for the perfect afternoon adventure.

Reiko Kusuda - Food & Beverage Supervisor
“Muddy’s playground on the Esplanade. Green Island is also a good day trip for kids.”

Muddy’s Playground is the perfect way for active kiddos to burn some energy on a long summer day. Located right on the Esplanade, this sprawling free park offers a splash zone, ropes courses, toddler play area, classic playground equipment, massive interactive chimes, and much much more. Refuel at Muddy’s Café, or make use of the many picnic tables and BBQs scattered around with lunch from home.

A trip to Green Island requires a bit more planning, but kids are sure to love the options to snorkel, cruise around in a glass bottom boat and play in the island's soft white sand. 

Nerida Meakin - Director of Sales & Marketing
“My family has a lot of favourites. The Nature Play Space at Centenary Lakes, walking the Red Arrow (with cold drink at NOA as an incentive!)… and Sugarworld is always a big hit!”

Just a few minutes from Cairns CBD, the Edge Hill neighborhood offers lots of hidden gems for everyone to enjoy. The Nature Play Space at Centenary Lakes is a playground like no other. Lurid orange slides and blue swing sets are replaced by ropes courses built into hills, dinosaur bones buried amongst the sand boxes, and a sensory garden that invites everyone to touch and smell native flora. 

For an active afternoon, the 1.5km Red Arrow walking track takes families up (and we mean up—there’s about 250 steps, so make sure you’ve all got runners on) through Mt Whitfield Conservation Park, through the forest and past several spectacular points that look out over Cairns. After you’ve completed the loop, treat the kids to a well earned milkshake and yourself to a cold something or other at nearby NOA

To cool down on one of Cairns’ infamously hot summer days, a trip to play in Sugarworld Adventure Park’s many waterslides and splash pools is a surefire winner for kids of all ages. 

Leissa Prouchandy - Guest Experience Manager 
“Goomboora Park has an adventure playground and a creek that feeds from Crystal Cascades. It’s easy for the kids to swim as the current isn’t too strong, and there’s a big pathway that goes all the way to Crystal Cascades that you can cycle and walk along.”

Goomboora Park’s gentle creek feeds from the same water as Crystal Cascades’, but offers much gentler currents for beginner swimmers. The adventure playground will entertain the young ones, while parents and older kids will love a stroll or a bike ride along the beautiful walking track. 

So, what are you waiting for? Cairns is calling. Pack up that sunblock and those rashies, and get the family ready for one of your best summer holidays yet.


Alina Polishuk is a freelance writer who visited Tropical North Queensland three years ago and never left. She's passionate about sustainable travel, reading cook books, and is always planning the next adventure.