Family things to do in Cairns aren’t hard to come by.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oldest rainforests.

But there are also plenty of family attractions in Cairns, so you don’t have to go far for a fun day.

We’ll show you all the best natural attractions, wildlife parks, tours, and some are even free!

If you’re looking for a fun family holiday, Cairns has many things to do suitable for kids, teenagers, and adults.

Check these out!

1. Great Barrier Reef

One of the planet’s natural wonders, The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s most loved attraction.

Made up of beautiful coral reefs, sandy islands, and cays, the reef is home to thousands of sea creatures.

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the perfect base for a family adventure.

Snorkeling and diving cruises depart Cairns every morning, starting at 8am.

For 5 hours, guests can explore the reef’s clear waters and an array of tropical marine life.

If snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, this is one day trip you don’t want to miss.

Cruises start at $165 which includes the boat ride, lunch, and snorkeling gear.

For extra special experiences, scuba sessions and certification are also available.

  • Hours: Cruise departures from 8am
  • Location: Off the east coast of the Queensland mainland, Australia

Check Tours Official site

2. Green Island

Green Island is a coral sand cay, just a 45-minute boat ride from Cairns.

This tropical paradise features lush rainforests, white-sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters.

You’ll find a variety of family activities on arrival such as snorkeling, scuba diving, boat tours, and nature walks.

There’s also a 4-star resort on the island with 46 luxurious suites

These spacious suites offer either poolside or rainforest views.

The resort has two swimming pools, a poolside bar, and an award-winning restaurant.

Whether it’s just for the day or overnight, you’re in for a memorable adventure.

  • Hours: Cruise departures from 9am
  • Location: Island offshore northeast from Cairns

Check Tours Check Resort Official site

3. Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is an offshore island located 45 minutes by boat from Cairns.

Its white-sand beaches and tropical rainforests make it an ideal spot for a family getaway.

Explore the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef on a full-day tour to Fitzroy Island for just $92.

On arrival, you’re free to roam around the island and explore!

Snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, relax on a white-sand beach, or tour the reef in a glass-bottom boat.

Take a hike on the beach or through the island’s tropical rainforest.

Located between the beach and the rainforest is the Fitzroy Island Resort.

Guests can relax in the swimming pool or take in a movie at the resort’s cinema.

At night, head to the sea view restaurant which features island dishes all made with local ingredients.

  • Hours: Cruise departures from 8:30am
  • Location: Island offshore northeast from Cairns

Check Tours Check Resort Official site

4. Michaelmas Cay

Michaelmas Cay is a boating, diving, and snorkeling location off the coast of Cairns.

What makes Michaelmas Cay unique is its nesting seabirds.

Michaelmas Cay is one of the most important seabird nesting sites on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Cay’s exterior beaches are only accessible Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 3pm.

Access to all other areas is prohibited to protect the nesting seabirds.

All-day catamaran tours leave Cairns every morning at 7:30am.

Guest explore the Great Barrier Reef in Michaelmas Cay aboard a luxury yacht for $225.

The tour includes snorkeling gear, lunch, and afternoon tea.

  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am-3pm
  • Location: Island offshore northeast from Cairns

Check Tours Official site

5. Barron Gorge National Park

Barron Gorge National Park is one of Northern Queensland’s most popular outdoor regions.

You’ll see a tropical rainforest, river gorges, waterfalls, and a variety of wildlife.

The Park is easily accessible from Cairns, and there are a variety of day trips and tours available.

Some visitors ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway to explore the Barron Gorge National Park.

While others jump on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to get a bird’s eye view.

Both tour options have stops so you can explore Barron Gorge National Park.

  • Opening Hours: Open daily 24/7
  • Address: Wrights Lookout Rd, Kuranda QLD 4881

Check Tours Official site

6. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Explore the rainforests and waterfalls of Barron Gorge via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. 

It’s an outdoor adventure with aerial views from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef. 

Soar through the treetops of Barron Gorge and view one of the oldest rainforests on earth. 

En route to Kuranda, stop and explore the rainforest at Red Peak and Barron Falls. 

At Red Peak, you’ll see lush tropical gardens, climbing palms, rare birds, and insects. 

The best time to view Barron Falls is during the wet season when tropical rains bring the waterfall to life.  

Once in Kuranda, you’re free to explore the village and surrounding areas. 

Passengers can return to Cairns via the Skyrail or by Kuranda Scenic Railway. 

  • Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 9am-5pm
  • Address: 6 Skyrail Dr, Smithfield QLD 4878

Check Tickets Official site

7. Kuranda Scenic Railway

The Kuranda Scenic Railway is one of Australia’s most spectacular train rides. 

Starting from Cairns, it winds its way through lush rainforests and into the Barron Gorge before stopping at Kuranda. 

During the journey, you’ll see panoramic views of rugged mountains and tumbling waterfalls. 

The Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Trip departs Cairns for Kuranda every morning at 8:30am.

In Kuranda, passengers have a variety of activities and attractions to choose from. 

They can browse local markets, grab some authentic Aussie lunch and visit wildlife parks. 

For the return to Cairns, they can choose the Railway or the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. 

  • Timetable: Departs from Cairns 8:30am or 9:30am; departs Kuranda 2pm or 3:30pm. Check full timetable.
  • Address: Cairns, Freshwater, or Kuranda station

Check Tours official site

8. Cairns Wildlife Dome

Explore the rainforest in the heart of Cairns at Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome.

This family-friendly attraction is home to a variety of Australian animals.

You’ll see koalas, tropical birds, snakes, and even a saltwater crocodile.

They feature presentations and animal shows presented by the park’s wildlife keepers.

If you have kids, they’ll love the rope courses, ziplines, and a dome climb.

One of the ziplines takes participants over Goliath, their resident saltwater crocodile.

Cairns Wildlife Dome is on top of The Reef Hotel Casino.

Tickets start at $15 for adults and $10 for children.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 9am-5pm
  • Address: The Reef Hotel Casino, 35-41 Wharf St, Cairns City QLD 4870

Check Deals Official site

9. Cairns Aquarium

Cairns Aquarium is Australia’s newest, most spectacular aquarium. 

It’s the only aquarium to feature aquatic life from the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s rainforests. 

There are over 71 marine life exhibits showcasing Queensland’s unique species. 

Guests get a closer look at some of the world’s most elusive and deadly creatures. 

Swim with sharks and rays in the aquarium’s underwater world. 

Or join the Aquarium By Twilight, a guided night tour that discovers how the animals behave after dark. 

Cairns Aquarium is a family-friendly attraction, and admission is just $44. 

It’s also very popular, so it’s best to book your ticket in advance. 

  • Opening Hours: Daily 10am-3pm
  • Address: 5 Florence St, Cairns City QLD 4870

Check Deals Official site

10. RainForeStation Nature Park

RainForeStation Nature Park is an award-winning attraction inside Kuranda’s rainforest. 

You can explore the rainforest on a World War II Army Duck Boat.

Their vehicles can operate on land and in the water, so it will definitely be a unique experience.

Experienced guides will share insights into the tropical plants and exotic wildlife around the park. 

The Army Duck Boat tour of the Nature Park starts at $26.50. 

Other tour packages include the Army Duck Tour and an Aboriginal rainforest walkabout. 

If you want to save money, it’s best to go for Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway packages that include RainForeStation admission. 

  • Opening Hours: Thursday to Tuesday 9am-3pm
  • Address: 1030 Kennedy Hwy, Kuranda QLD 4881

Check Tours Official site

11. Kuranda Koala Gardens

Kuranda Koala Gardens is a wildlife attraction in the rainforest village of Kuranda.

Their free-range enclosures allow you to get up close to native Australian wildlife.

This free-range habitat is home to koalas, kangaroos, wombats, and wallabies.

There’s also a tropical lagoon, home to several freshwater crocodiles.

Kuranda Koala Gardens is one of the few parks in Cairns where you can hold a koala for a souvenir photo.

The perfect opportunity for a family photo!

Visitors can reach Koala Garden via Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 10am-4pm
  • Address: 2/4 Rob Veivers Dr, Kuranda QLD 4881

Check Tours Official site

12. Birdworld Kuranda

Birdworld Kuranda is home to one of Australia’s largest collections of free-flying birds.

There are over 60 protected species of native and exotic birds including Amazonian Macaws, Cockatoos, and Cassowaries.

Inside, you’ll see a resemblance of the birds’ native habitats with waterfalls, ponds, and exotic plants.

There is hand feeding and many photo opportunities, so don’t forget to bring a camera.

Often, birds may fly up to you and land on your shoulder.

Prices are just $20 for adults and $10 for children.

But it’s best to get a package where you have access to Birdworld, Koala Garden, and the Butterfly Sanctuary.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 10am-4pm
  • Address: 8 Rob Veivers Dr, Kuranda QLD 4881

Check Tours Official site

13. Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly aviary in the Southern Hemisphere.

It’s a short walk from the Skyrail and Kuranda Scenic Railway Station.

For 30 years, they have impressed visitors with their laboratory and breeding facilities.

You can join a 30-minute guided tour of the breeding nursery, laboratory, and aviary.

Staff in the nursery and lab keep the aviary well stocked and thriving.

Thanks to these experts, 80% of the sanctuary’s butterflies reach maturity.

The aviary is home to over 1,500 tropical butterflies from several different species.

Entry and the guided tour of the aviary and lab are $20.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 9:30am-3:30pm
  • Address: 8 Rob Veivers Dr, Kuranda QLD 4881

Check Tours Official site

14. Rusty’s Market

Rusty’s Market is one of the most successful and well-known markets in Cairns and Australia.

Starting with a handful of stalls, Rusty’s has become a Cairn’s tourist icon.

It features over 100 stalls offering fruits, vegetables, flowers, bread, and seafood.

There are also a variety of international food and beverage stalls.

If you’re looking for souvenirs, there are stalls offering specialty products, clothing, jewelry, coffee, and chocolates.

It’s only open on Fridays and weekends, so many locals do some here for a fun family day out.

  • Opening Hours: Friday & Saturday 5am-6pm; Sunday 5am-3pm
  • Address: 57/89 Grafton St, Cairns City QLD 4870

Check Tours Official site

15. Cairns Night Markets

For those who are bored at night, this is the place to be.

The Cairns Night Market comes alive after dark with 70 retail outlets and a variety of food options.

Explore the shops, try different foods, and meet some locals.

You’ll find touristy souvenirs, t-shirts, local food products, and handmade crafts.

One whole aisle has massage shops, the perfect place to relax after a long day.

Near the entrance, there’s a 200-seat food court with fresh seafood and a variety of Asian options.

The Cairns Night Markets and food court are open daily from 4:30 pm.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 4:30pm-10:30pm
  • Address: 54-60 Abbott St, Cairns City QLD 4870

Check Tours Official site

16. Cairns Botanic Gardens

The Cairns Botanic Gardens is famous for its exhibits of tropical plants.

It’s a great spot for families to learn about rainforests and horticulture.

There are over 4,000 different species of flora from around the world.

Many local bikers, joggers, and walkers visit for some fresh air in the lush landscape and towering trees.

There are also native bird tours, an orchid collection, and exhibit halls full of exotic plants.

At times, there are markets on weekends and it can get crowded. 

Entry is free, so you can take your family here for a picnic.

  • Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am-4pm; Weekends 9:30am-2pm
  • Address: 78-96 Collins Ave, Edge Hill QLD 4870

Check Tours Official site

17. Cairns Esplanade

The Cairns Esplanade has been a focal point for locals and visitors since the late 1800s. 

It’s a popular recreational area for backpackers, joggers, sightseers, and skateboarders. 

The area around the Swimming Lagoon is a great place for families.  

At the Swimming Lagoon, you can soak up the sun and enjoy safe swimming. 

It’s also a popular picnic and BBQ spot with 12 BBQ facilities available for use all day. 

Further down the Esplanade are playgrounds, beach volleyball, and a skatepark. 

The Esplanade is the best place to relax and take in Cairn’s ocean and mountain views. 

Many luxury hotels can be found here too since it’s so close to most of Cairns attractions. 

  • Opening Hours: Daily 24/7
  • Address: Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870

Find Luxury Hotels on the Esplanade

Cairns Things To Do Map

Find Tours in Cairns


What can you do in Cairns for free?

You can explore the shops at Rusty’s Markets or Cairns Night Markets, visit Cairns Botanic Gardens, or swim in the Esplanade Swimming Lagoon.

These are all free attractions in Cairns, unless you buy something at the shops of course.

How long should you spend in Cairns?

You should spend at least 3 days in Cairns.

A 3-day stay allows visitors to discover the main attractions including the Great Barrier Reef and Barron Gorge National Park.

Most visitors join a day tour to see the Great Barrier Reef.

For Barron Gorge National Park, you can join the Kuranda Scenic Railway tour or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

Check out some hotels in Cairns that have swim-up bars.

This will ensure you have a relaxing family holiday.

What is there to do in Cairns at night?

You can shop and eat at the Cairns Night Market until 10:30pm.

The Cairns Aquarium also offers night tours of the aquarium.

For dining, the Cairns Esplanade features several restaurants and cafes that are open late.


Cairns Things To DoHours
Great Barrier ReefCruise departures from 8am
Green IslandCruise departures from 9am
Fitzroy IslandCruise departures from 8:30am
Michaelmas CayTuesday to Sunday 9:30am-3pm
Barron Gorge National ParkOpen daily 24/7
Skyrail Rainforest CablewayWednesday to Sunday 9am-5pm
Kuranda Scenic RailwayCairns station 8:30am or 9:30am
Cairns Wildlife DomeDaily 9am-5pm
Cairns AquariumDaily 10am-3pm
RainForeStation Nature ParkThursday to Tuesday 9am-3pm
Kuranda Koala GardensDaily 10am-4pm
Birdworld KurandaDaily 10am-4pm
Australian Butterfly SanctuaryDaily 9:30am-3:30pm
Rusty’s MarketFriday & Saturday 5am-6pm; Sunday 5am-3pm
Cairns Night MarketsDaily 4:30pm-10:30pm
Cairns Botanic GardensMonday to Friday 8:30am-4pm; Weekends 9:30am-2pm
Cairns EsplanadeDaily 24/7