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What to do in Cairns City with kids on a budget

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Cairns city has a lot to offer families beyond being a base point for expensive reef and rainforest tours. They are both incredible experiences and highly worthy of a visit, but if you've been there done that, or are travelling on a budget there's plenty of options to fill your days.


We love a free outing and lucky for us our kids are at an age where a playground visit is the highlight of their day! Cairns Esplanade is scooter and bike friendly, with designated paths and interesting things to see and do along the way.


Voted by our kids, here's our top 3 favourite playgrounds in Cairns:


- Treehouse (Figtree) playground, South end of Esplanade, great for toddlers and young children. Only downside is it has entries and exists from all directions and it can be exhausting keeping tabs on your kids. Tip: Grab a cuppa at the Wharf One Cafe first, you'll need it.


- Nature play at Centenary Lakes, part of the Botanical Garden, fun for all ages. Whilst you're there, take a walk to check out the Chinese gardens and then cross over to the Tanks, they have markets there on the last Sunday of the month from April - November.


- Muddies on the Esplanade; stacks of play equipment for various ages and a water play area, fun for toddlers and younger kids. There's a skate park for the older kids right next door.


The Pirate Ship on the North end of the Esplanade is also fun and safe for young children.

Tree house playground


Nature Play


The Esplanade Lagoon is always a favourite amongst visitors as there isn't a swimming beach, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you about that, the iconic woven fish art in the lagoon is in every Cairns search and brochure.


The Cairns Aquarium is good if you have a spare morning or afternoon when the weather isn't accommodating. It's interactive, educational and our kids all had fun. Tip: Discounted tickets can be purchased using your NRMA / RACQ memberships online.


The Prawn Star is a unique dining experience for fellow seafood lovers. It's an eat-in trawler, right on the Marina at the Pier.

The Prawn Star

Finally a visit to Cairns wouldn't be complete without checking out Rusty's Market, it's a fresh produce market popular with locals, you'll find it in-between Sheridan and Grafton streets.


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