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  • Renee Cluff

    Email Renee Cluff

    22 free and cheap ways to keep the kids entertained in and around Cairns

    One of the things you often hear about Cairns is what a great place it is to raise children.

    There’s a reason for that.

    Apart from being summer all year round, the laid back lifestyle lends itself to kids being kids.

    Unlike their capital city cousins, Cairns children still ride their bikes to school, to the local shops or to the beach to throw in a line.

    They're blessed with being wedged between two World Heritage sites, with the Great Barrier Reef to the east and the Wet Tropics, if they're not in the midst of it, just to the west.

    And in this wonderland, there are so many cheap and free things to do!

    Tropic Now has come up with 22 of the best.



    Mountain biking

    We have the highest profile rainforest mountain bike trail in the world right on our doorstep, at Smithfield. It’s played host to the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships, so it’s got to be good enough for the kids. The park has 60km of trails at varying levels of difficulty – surely enough to wear them out! Maps can be found at Ride Cairns.

    Exotic fruit feast

    Tropical north Queensland is home to some of the most delicious and rare fruits of anywhere in Australia. Head into Rusty's Markets and go on an tropical, exotic fruit taste-testing expedition. Blindfold the kids if you want to up the ante even further. Spend a fun couple of hours and less than $20 and you’ve made some memories!


    Nature’s swimming pools

    Thanks to being home to the most northerly part of the great dividing range, which takes in Queensland’s two highest mountains, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to swimming holes and waterfalls. Closest to town are Crystal Cascades at Redlynch and Stoney Creek at Kamerunga, but the kids also love Josephine Falls at Miriwinni for its natural stone waterslide. If you’re really willing to explore, check out Tropic Now’s guide to the best swimming spots.

    Man-made pools

    There are public pools at Babinda, Woree, Gordonvale and Smithfield, as well as the world's first mineral public pool at Kuranda. The best - and closest to Cairns - is the Tobruk Memorial Pool, which has a FINA-approved Olympic pool, a 25-metre pool, a toddler splash area and a Flow Rider. Children can swim all day for under $5 and parents are charged $5.70. Kids under two years of age are free.

    More: Cairns Regional Council


    Beach shenanigans

    Within half an hour north of the city, you can take your pick from eight stunning beaches between Machans Beach and Palm Cove, many of which also have children’s playgrounds. One of the most popular for families is Trinity Beach. There’s a water sports business there, which hires kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. In the dry season, you can buy the kids a wrist band for $15 to use the ocean-surface inflatables, such as trampolines and jumping pillows. Stinger nets are up during the wet season.

    Picnic in the park

    There are literally hundreds of fantastic, suburban parks to take the kids to for a picnic and a play. However, one of the standouts is Goomboora Park at Brinsmead. Massive fig trees provide excellent shade over the play equipment, you can ride bikes along the cycle path and remember to take your swimmers for a dip in the cool waters of Freshwater Creek, which meanders through the park. Plus, it’s dog friendly!


    Roll the day away

    If your children are into roller skating, roller blading, skateboarding or scootering, take them to the skate parks at Redlynch, Woree, Edmonton, Gordonvale, Babinda and Trinity Beach. The Trinity Beach park, named Coastwatcher Youth Space, also has table tennis, a basketball court, parkour elements, soccer posts and a rock climbing wall.

    More: Cairns Regional Council

    Paradise Palms

    At this Kewarra Beach resort, there’s plenty for the kids to do. It has a circus-themed play village, complete with slippery dip, climbing frame, jumping pillow and Queenslander-style cubby houses, as well as a miniature soccer field. For the young ones, there’s also a fully-fenced playground with soft fall ground cover. A 25 metre pool and an 18-hole mini golf course round out the activities. The playground and pool are each $4/child – or $20 for a family and mini-golf is $8/child or $30 for a family.

    More: Paradise Palms


    Esplanade fun 

    Spend a morning walking along the Cairns Esplanade and having a go at all of the activities. Bring your skates or boards to have a crack at the skate ramp on the northern end, drop in at Muddy's playground for a splash in the water jets, go rock climbing at the boulder park and finish off with a swim in the lagoon.

    More: Cairns Esplanade

    Cairns Central

    There's almost always free children's concerts and activities on at the shopping centre during school holidays and on weekends. The kids can also hit the playground, see a movie or enjoy an ice-cream.

    More: Cairns Central


    Drop in a line

    The Palm Cove jetty was meant to be a launch wharf for cruise boats but the southeast swells got in the way. Now, it's the perfect place to take the kids fishing. On a clear day, they can look down and actually see the fish they want to target. There's mackerel, barramundi, giant trevally, queenfish and sharks. Even if the children don't have any luck, there's always someone else on the jetty who is reeling some big ones in.

    More: Bransford's Tackle 


    Hiking hit

    From the Cairns Botanic gardens, you can access a series of walking circuits suitable for a variety of ages and fitness levels. The Red Arrow, Blue Arrow and Green Arrow bush trails also have stunning views. If you're quiet (yeah, right!), you might even get to see some local marsupials , like the red-legged pademelon or echidnas.

    More: Mt Whitfield walking tracks


    BMX bandits

    There are no less than 14 free BMX tracks in the Cairns Regional Council area. Try one a day and rate them!

    More: Cairns Regional Council


    ACTIVITIES FOR $15-$30

    If you've got a bit of cash to splash, you can also try these out:

    Ten Pin bowling @ Go Bowling Cairns

    Roller skating @ Cairns Skating Centre

    Rock climbing @ Cairns Climbing Club

    Trampolining @ Jump Mania

    Ice skating @ DFO Cairns (limited times)

    Water skiing @ Ski North Babinda

    Playground play @ Inflatable Kingdom

    Wake boarding or aqua play @ Cairns Wake Park

    Water sliding @ Sugarworld