Adventure | Beach | Family 20 October 2023

12 Things To Do with Kids in Cairns and Port Douglas

Cairns and Port Douglas are the perfect places for a tropical family escape. Discover the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, immerse yourself in the lush Daintree Rainforest, and get up close with Australia's unique animals – we’ve rounded up the dozen best things to do with kids of all ages.

Take the family north to discover the natural wonders and brilliant activities that guarantee you’ll all have a blast. If you need a base, Oaks Cairns Hotel is set right above the Cairns Waterfront Lagoon, while Oaks Port Douglas Resort is a serene and spacious resort perfect for rest and relaxation.

1. Explore the Great Barrier Reef 

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the great natural wonders of the world, which is why any trip to Far North Queensland should include a reef adventure. There are so many ways to explore this UNESCO World Heritage-protected treasure, from helicopter rides to glass-bottom boat tours, but we think the best bet is a classic full-day reef tour. The kids will love snorkelling above the colourful coral, spotting Nemo and his friends.

This premium Great Barrier Reef Cruise departs Port Douglas daily for the marvellous Agincourt Ribbon Reefs. No doubt you’ll make fin-tastic family memories!

2. Rainforest adventures in the Daintree

The area around Cairns and Port Douglas is home to not one, but two fantastic UNESCO World Heritage sites. The second is the Daintree Rainforest, which is estimated to be 135 million years old. Sir David Attenborough has described it as “the most extraordinary place on earth”, and there are so many different ways you can explore.

Join a kid-friendly rainforest walk that makes it easy for youngsters to connect with nature, or seek out the unusual, like a River Drift Snorkelling Tour. Perfect for older kids and teens, you’ll float through the rainforest, down the crystal-clear Mossman River looking for platypus and turtles below and bright-blue Ulysses butterflies above.

3. Splash about the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

Nestled right below Oaks Cairns Hotel, the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon is a favourite with the little ones. This sprawling playground and water park, with a man-made lagoon and sandy shores for safe swimming, is an unmissable thing to do in Cairns with kids. Families love coming here to picnic and use the barbecues, and the picturesque waterfront setting is unbeatable.

4. Introduce the kids to local wildlife

In Cairns and Port Douglas, adventure-loving families can dive into thrilling wildlife encounters. There are three renowned wildlife parks and sanctuaries to visit, including the Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome, Rainforestation Nature Park, and Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas, where kids can cuddle koalas, feed wallabies, and get up close with kangaroos

These immersive experiences offer an exciting and educational way to introduce your little explorers to Australia's incredible wildlife. 

5. Take a day trip to Kuranda

Take the kids on a fun adventure to Kuranda, where getting there is half the fun. Start with the Kuranda Railway, a bucket-list rail journey from the Great Dividing Range to the Atherton Tableland, through lush rainforests and picturesque landscapes. Built in 1891, this scenic service drops you in the heart of Kuranda.

Once in the charming mountain village, explore the markets then take the kids to the Koala Gardens, Birdworld, or the Butterfly Sanctuary. When the day is done, return via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Suspended high above the treetops, you’ll float above the rainforest and down to sea level.

6. Zipline over a mega crocodile at Cairns Zoom

In the heart of Cairns, this wildlife park and high ropes course will get your heart racing. There are two levels of challenges and ziplines to conquer, plus a 13-metre drop called the Power Jump. That’s not to mention the big zipline over a four-metre-long croc called Goliath. Adventurous kids and teenagers will love this activity. 

7. Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

Speaking of crocs, dive into a reptile-rich world with your family. At Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, the kids can come face to face with crocs, slithering snakes, and more. Meet these prehistoric dinosaurs in real life when you feed freshwater crocs and see mega saltwater crocs devouring a meal. You can catch the crocodile farm tour twice daily, as well as a thrilling crocodile show. 

8. Connect with culture at Mossman Gorge

Meet the traditional owners of the land, the Kuku Yalanji, when you join a special, culturally rich tour of Mossman Gorge. A 20-minute drive from Port Douglas, located within the Daintree Rainforest, your Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk begins with a traditional ‘smoking’ ceremony to cleanse and ward off bad spirits.

Then, your local guide will lead you through the forest, showing you bush food sources and weaving creation stories into the experience. You’ll end with a traditional bush tea and damper.

9. Swim with dwarf minke whales 

From June to September each year, dwarf minke whales make an annual migration off the coast of Port Douglas. At around eight metres long, these whales aren’t exactly small, but they are friendly and may approach boats.

If you visit this time of year, join a reef excursion that gives you the chance to tick the experience of swimming alongside these majestic mammals off your bucket list.  

10. Let the kids play while you enjoy a coffee at Muddy’s

A 10-minute walk down the Cairns Esplanade from Oaks Cairns Hotel lies a popular cafe and playground that’s open from early until late. Let the kids play while you enjoy a coffee, juice or iced drink at Muddy’s Cafe, a local favourite. And if you get hungry, the tacos and burgers here are really good, too!

11. Visit the Port Douglas Sunday Market

Every Sunday, the Port Douglas markets pop up by the waterfront at Anzac Park. These markets are a true treasure where only locally grown or locally made goods can be sold. Here you’ll find unique souvenirs, from jewellery and clothing to furniture and toys, plus beautiful local produce and tropical fruits. It’s a great way to spend your Sunday morning.

12. Play at Four Mile Beach

This expansive stretch of white sand and swaying palm trees is the postcard-perfect vision of Tropical North Queensland. Find a quiet patch to sink your toes into the soft sand and let the kids run amuck.

During stinger season (November to March) a dedicated swimming enclosure pops up so little ones can splash about without worry. At the northern end, you’ll find tidal rock pools with starfish and molluscs.

Afterwards, retreat to the Port Douglas Surf Club for lunch. There’s a beachfront playground for the kids, and seafood platters for mum and dad.

If you need a base in Far North Queensland, look no further than Oaks Cairns Hotel, which is set right above the waterfront lagoon, or Oaks Port Douglas Resort, with its expansive resort-style pools and swaying palms.