Wild adventures and water fun in Cairns with kids

Play and spray at The Esplanade Lagoon Cairns

Whatever floats your holiday boat, there’s no denying how much fun there is to be found in Cairns with kids. For us, one of the most important elements of any successful family holiday is the accommodation, because let’s face it when you’re travelling with young kids, you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time in it.

Luckily, the new Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourfront wins us over the minute we check in to our interconnecting family rooms.

Kids relaxing at the Holiday Inn Cairns Harboursde

From that familiar signature Holiday Inn lemongrass scent and the genuinely nice staff to the bowl of fruit waiting in our room…. it’s just one of those rare hotels that immediately feels like home.

my little fruit bat love sour fresh fruit bowl at Holiday Inn Carins Espalande

Except our home doesn’t have king-size beds, cloud like pillows or a balcony overlooking pretty Trinity Bay.

A pretty specactular start to our morning at the Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside

Nor do we have a sexy sapphire blue swimming pool and spa.

Getting crazy in the pool at Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside

And, unlike the Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourfront, the kids don’t stay or eat for free at our place. In fact, Raffles alone costs about the same to feed as a stable of sumo wrestlers. So when I say the hotel feels like home I mean if our home was a spacious, chic, impeccably clean designer apartment with bouncy beds, free and nutritious food for the kids and an entire team of staff on duty 24/7.

making themselves at home at the Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside

Speaking of nutritious, I am blown away by the exceptional Kids Menu, developed in partnership with Nutrition Australia. Not only is there not a chicken nugget or hot dog in sight, all of the nutritionally balanced kids recipes use fresh wholesome ingredients with less added salt, sugar and fat. And they taste great. Even Raffles, who has been known to start quivering in horror at the mere mention of a kids menu, is impressed with the tasty treats on The Unbelievably Awesome Kids Menu (no, I’m not gushing, that’s its name).

And as kids aged 12 and under eat free (when dining with at least with one paying adult) any time of the day, he does his level best to taste his way through the menu. Nacho bowls with fresh avocado, DIY falafel rolls, pumpkin and fetta frittata and homemade pizza are all scoffed… in the name of research, of course.

Room service Chorizo and Chilli Prawn Pizza

Sugarpuff too – though less inclined to consume her own body weight than her walking stomach of a brother – is suitably impressed with her juicy, salad stacked lean beef burger and eggy rice.

But it’s not all about the kids. The à la carte menu at Teshi’s Restaurant is pretty impressive too. The delectable soft shell crab, perfectly cooked steak and succulent pork belly with scallops, all whipped up with native elements, leaving us more than satisfied.

The soft shell crab with a passionfruit and chilli hit is a winner at Teshi's at The Holiday Inn Cairn Harbourside

And by us I mean Raffles because as usual he pinches most of our meal too.

When the kids aren’t face first in a plateful of food or lolling in the pool, the lovely front desk staff help us to find and organise the best activities in Cairns with kids. There’s a convenient and free hotel shuttle bus available to ferry us in to the main part of town but in the morning we decide to take the 20-minute walk along The Esplanade to soak up the views and the atmosphere.

The Esplanade is a top spot in Cairns with kids

We scan the treetops for the pretty decorations that dangle languorously from the branches.

Pretty lanterns hanging in the trees on The Esplanade Cairns

And we stop to make small talk with market dudes.

Making friends at the markets

But in spite of the leisurely pace, we’re on a mission. We have a date with Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome, an incredible all-weather high ropes challenge course immersed into a wildlife exhibit on the rooftop of the Cairns Casino.

Kids in action at Cairns ZOom

And it is here that Raffles, ably assisted by Mr Eats World and the spectacular resident native birdlife, takes on 65 complex and challenging crossings, tunnels, nets and ziplines – including one that has him dangling like a worm on a fishing line over the top of a four-metre saltwater crocodile named Goliath.

ZIplining over a four-metre crocodile at Cairns ZOom


Four-metre croc Goliath at Cairns ZOOM

While the boys do their best Tarzan impressions, Sugarpuff and I keep our feet planted firmly on solid ground and instead explore the wildlife exhibits, visit the koalas and pademelons (small and very cute wallaby-like critters) and spot native animals and birds roaming free in the dome. Much to our relief, Goliath, along with a few venomous snakes, are a few of the exceptions to the free-range rule.

After checking the boys still have all their limbs in place, and on a tip form one of the lovely staff at the Holiday Inn, we head a few blocks into town to Rusty’s Markets.

Fresh Mangos at Rusty's Markets in Cairns

The colourful local market is chock full of fresh locally grown produce. But this is not the stuff of your usual fruit and veg market.

Pineapple power at Rusty's Market Cairns

Here we spot Indigenous, Chinese, Thai, Indian and Italian favourites along with locally caught seafood, tropical fruits and more varieties of banana than you can poke a Minion at.

We fill our backpacks with kilos of fresh lychees, ripe mangoes and the sweetest sugar bananas and head back to The Esplanade, where wewe sit under the shade of a gnarly curtain fig tree gobble the lot!

Devoruing a bag of lychees under a fig tree on The Esplanade Cairns

There’s even a soundtrack of live music for us to listen to while we munch.

Live music and a great atmosphere on The Esplanade

Then there is nothing left but to give in to the temptation of The Esplanade Lagoon, a safe 4,800 square metre filtered saltwater lagoon pool with lifeguards on duty, sandy beaches, shaded spaces and a children’s water play area.

Kids playing in The Esplanade Lagoon Cairns

The Esplanade proves to be something of a time bandit and when, hours later, we realise it is just about time to dry off and head back to the hotel for the evening’s planned adventures, the kids have to be bribed to dislodge themselves from the lagoon with the promise of a quick pitstop at Muddy’s Playground, a must visit when your in Cairns with kids.

Getting his spiderman on at Muddy's Playground in Cairns

Muddy’s leaves other playgrounds in its dust! It’s freaking enormous with separate areas for toddlers, water features, climbing nets, flying foxes, see-saws, swings, slides and puzzles.

It doesn’t take the Raffles and Sugarpuff long to discover the water jets shooting out of the ground and they are once more soaked and running amok in the water play area.

Getting wet at Muddy's Playground Cairns

Seems their idea of quick and ours aren’t quite the same… dinner might have to wait.


Disclosure: The Eats World’s were guests of Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside

Sharing the holiday fun with Essentially Jess for #IBOT

12 Comments on Wild adventures and water fun in Cairns with kids

  1. Em @ Have A Laugh On Me
    March 8, 2016 at 10:37 pm (8 years ago)

    What a buzz, and I’m envious of your trip! My sister lives in Cairns but it’s too pricey for me to take 3 kids up – one day… xxx

      March 9, 2016 at 10:13 am (8 years ago)

      We found our dollar went a fair way up there. And there are some great airfare bargains around! Hope you make it 🙂

      March 9, 2016 at 10:14 am (8 years ago)

      Thanks Christine, It was fabulous. We loved the holiday. It was so great for families 🙂

  2. Ana
    March 9, 2016 at 10:14 am (8 years ago)

    I’m so jealous right now! We love Cairns and it looks like you had a hoot 🙂

      March 9, 2016 at 10:17 am (8 years ago)

      A hoot was indeed had by all Ana x

  3. Anne
    March 9, 2016 at 4:02 pm (8 years ago)

    I want to go there!

      March 14, 2016 at 10:08 pm (8 years ago)

      And we want to go back 🙂

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    March 9, 2016 at 9:09 pm (8 years ago)

    They look like they are having the best time ever! What a childhood these two are having 😀

      March 14, 2016 at 10:10 pm (8 years ago)

      They had a blast and yes, I have to admit I don’t quite recall my childhood being so packed with lovely resorts, swimming pools… or ziplining over crocs

  5. Mr Eatsworld
    March 14, 2016 at 1:05 pm (8 years ago)

    I got Raffles to zip over the croc first. Is that wrong?

      March 14, 2016 at 10:11 pm (8 years ago)

      I guess you had to find out if he was hungry….


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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