Family Vacations to Cairns, Australia

Picture of Cairns Beach
A sea plane of Cairns Beach, Australia (Tourism Australia)

Cairns, Australia, Family Travel Tips

  • Keep an eye out for the local specialty, Morton Bay Bug. These mini-crayfish come from the waters of Queensland and northern Australia. If kids are put off by the shells, pick a dish that uses just the flesh.
  • Beware of box jellyfish season, October to June. If you are going to swim then, use a beach that has stinger nets.
  • Sunscreen, sun hats, sunglasses, and light breathable clothing are all essential for a visit to Cairns.

Ask any Australian to name a resort town on the Great Barrier Reef coastline and chances are he will say Cairns (pronounced "cans" by some Aussies but you'll want to say "kernz"). It may not be the prettiest settlement on the Queensland littoral and it is certainly not a place to go to get far from the madding crowd. But the wide variety of hotels, restaurants, activities, and trips available in the area makes Cairns a justly touted family destination. Set among some of the world's most impressive stretches of reef and rainforest, Cairns is the number-one resort choice for families vacationing on the tropical North Queensland coast.

The center of Cairns is largely flat and laden with modern buildings, but its surroundings provide the real drama. On one flank, the Pacific Ocean awaits with the Great Barrier Reef just below its surface, while inland, the beaches give way to the tropical greenery of impenetrable rainforests. To the south lies the fellow Queensland town of Townsville and still farther south is Brisbane, while to the north the evidence of human settlement lessens and disappears completely in the wilds of Cape York. This is a region alive with strange and colorful wildlife, from the bright coral and green sea turtles out on the reef to the kangaroos in the bush.

Families can stroll along the famous Esplanade on the lazy, tropical waterfront. There are plenty of dining options at all price levels, and accommodations range from simple budget affairs to luxury hotels. An impressive array of day trips start from town, including full-day introductory snorkel trips on the Inner Reef and expert-level scuba diving on the Outer Reef. One of the most popular family trips is the Reef Magic cruise, where a catamaran takes you and your family out to More Reef and the Marine World platform, where you have lunch and snorkel. On land, the Kuranda Scenic Railway is a historic journey into the rainforest. Two parks, the Cairns Tropical Zoo and the Tjapuki Aboriginal Cultural Park, are close to town. The former offers a chance to get up close to some of the country's most famous indigenous wildlife, including the opportunity for young ones to cuddle a koala, while the latter provides an insight into the fascinating aboriginal culture of this area.

Published: 29 Apr 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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