The international gateway to Tropical North Queensland, Cairns is the closest jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef from the Australian mainland and with around 300 days of sunshine a year and plenty to explore it is a safe, fun and affordable destination for families.
Thrills and Spills
Thrill-seeking families with kids over six should head to the Barron River to ride the rapids on a rafting adventure while older kids might like to take a leap of faith on a bungy jump in the Cairns tropical rainforest or brave the Minjin Jungle Swing, a multi-person swing that falls 45 metres in seconds reaching speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour. Kids over four who want to take to the skies should try an unforgettable hot air balloon ride over the breathtaking countryside.
There are plenty of opportunities to visit the reef but there’s just as much wildlife to meet on dry land. The Cairns Wildlife Dome has Australian native flora and fauna on display right in the centre of the city and at Cairns Tropical Zoo you can cuddle a koala and feed the kangaroos and wallabies. They also offer a great night zoo experience with fun cane toad races for the kids. Gentle souls will enjoy the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld and the Koala Gardens at Kurunda, 25km northwest of Cairns, while braver boys and girls might prefer the Venom Zoo or dining with Australia’s largest pride of lions at Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve.
Back to Nature
Book a Great Barrier Reef tour to see firsthand what makes it famous word wide. Snorkel and scuba or explore without getting wet in a semi submersible submarine or glass bottom boat tour to see the spectacular coral gardens. Both the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableways are a fabulous way for the family to travel through lush and lovely world heritage rainforest and past the majestic Barron River waterfalls. And one local secret worth visiting is Crystal Cascades, a freshwater swimming hole fed by waterfalls and secreted away in a tropical rainforest.
Five of the best
1. Take a boat trip to the beautiful Great Barrier Reef for a day of fishy family fun.
2. Enter the lions’ den at Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve for an extreme dining experience.
3. Take a swim at the crystal clear man-made Cairns Swimming Lagoon on the Esplanade.
4. On weekends explore the Cairns Esplanade Markets with loads of activities and live music to entertain the kids.
5. One of the best playgrounds in Australia, Muddy’s on the Esplanade has both wet and dry play areas and everything from rope bridges, a flying fox and playhouses to slides and see-saws – plus an on-site cafe for mum and dad.
More information: www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au