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.
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.
Except our home doesn’t have king-size beds, cloud like pillows or a balcony overlooking pretty Trinity Bay.
Nor do we have a sexy sapphire blue swimming pool and spa.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We scan the treetops for the pretty decorations that dangle languorously from the branches.
And we stop to make small talk with market dudes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
There’s even a soundtrack of live music for us to listen to while we munch.
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.
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.
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.
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