Review: The Riley Cairns with Kids

Sunrise at The Riley Cairns © Aleney de Winter

© Aleney de Winter

Imagine an airy and bright five-star, family friendly retreat that’s home to a flock of giant (inflatable) galahs and is big on freshness and fun, but boasts a big heart and serious green cred, right on the Cairns’ Esplanade? Let me introduce you to your new favourite Cairns hotel, Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort.

The brand new and buzz worthy Riley Cairns is the result of a sensational $170-million makeover of the Rydges Tradewinds motel.

The Riley with kids

© Aleney de Winter

From its lobby of soaring ceilings to its bespoke wooden and bamboo furniture and snuggly sofas in light natural hues, the hotel is as stylish as it is fun with the natural beauty of Tropical North Queensland invited in through quirky touches and installations.

The Riley Cairns

© Aleney de Winter

And then there’s THAT pool.

Here are just a few of the reasons we recommend a stay at The Riley Cairns with Kids

The Riley Cairns offers spacious family rooms


Riley Bedroom © Crystalbrook Collection

© Crystalbrook Collection

Sophisticated, contemporary, and fun, most of the Riley’s 311 gorgeous, sundrenched rooms and suites occupy the restored original building, but 55 are nestled in a brand new 12-storey tower, which is also home to two of the Riley’s three restaurants and its Eléme Day Spa.

Standard rooms offer private balconies, decently proportioned bathrooms with rainforest showers, a minibar stocked with local treats, free WiFi, and an Apple iPad with cool mood apps and a virtual concierge service. While we were more than comfortable in a standard room with a roll out bed, family rooms sleeping up to six are available and feature two interconnecting rooms with twin balconies, two bathrooms and two TVs, so there’s no arguing over who watches what. A huge selection of complimentary movies as well as a genius Staycast by Google Chromecast for video streaming keeps the youngest guests in our room very happy indeed.

cushion at The Riley

© Aleney de Winter

What keeps mama happy is special little touches like the galah print cushions, yoga mat and gorgeous blue-patterned robes and slippers stashed in the wardrobe, as well turn down treats like pillow spray and a sleep mask.

The Riley Cairns is a sustainable superstar

Recycled timber room keys at The Riley Cairns

© Aleney de Winter

From the paper free check-in and out,  room key cards made from 100% recycled wood and decor created from recycled materials to its extensive use of solar energy and ban on single use plastics, this socially and environmentally conscious hotel knocks it out of the park when it comes to responsible luxury.

Decor made of recycled timbers at The Riley

© Aleney de Winter

In place of in-room bottled water you’ll find H20-to-go in recycled paper cartons along with reusable glass bottles in their Tower rooms. In-room menus, area guides and hotel info is digital, accessible via a virtual concierge on supplied in-room tablets. And even the Crystalbrook’s bespoke amenity range, crafted from essential oils and indigenous Australian ingredients, are all supplied in refillable containers pump packs.

But the Riley’s social responsibility doesn’t end on-site. More than 80% of the hotel’s fresh produce is sourced locally, ensuring a smaller foot print, and any unused food form the hotel’s restaurants is re-distributed to in-need members of the community via OZHarvest. And the hotel is one of the founding members of Citizens of Great Barrier Reef, an incredible movement guiding everyday citizens to reduce their own impact on the fragile reef ecosystem.

The Riley’s pool is its sparkling heart

The Riley Cairns is built around a stunning 1000-square-metre, sand-fringed lagoon pool that’s the sparkling heart of the property, and quite irresistible to younger guests, particularly given its flock of inflatable galahs, plus the giant yellow duck and a rainbow-hued unicorn that had invaded the pool during our visit.

Rubber duck at the Riley

© Aleney de Winter

The cleverly compartmentalised pool offers a lap pool, couples jacuzzi, a shallow sandy beach section for small children and deeper waters for those wanting to make a real splash. There are also plenty of cabanas and shaded lounge chairs on the sideline for eagle-eyed parents to watch their wee ones as they play in the water. Best of all there’s sunscreen and filtered water available for use by the pool, free of charge, to ensure kids are sun safe and hydrated.

Unicorn inflatable at The Riley

© Aleney de Winter

For those not intent on lazing slothfully by the pool, there’s also yoga for guests and a fitness centre. And the sublime Eléme Day Spa offers a menu of soothing natural treatments, muscle-melting massages, and, if you’ve time on your side, a phenomenal five-hour Ultimate Safari ritual.

There’s a feast of tropical flavours at the Riley

duck confit khao soi lao curry with lotus crisps at Paper Crane, The Riley

© Aleney de Winter

With three restaurants and bars you don’t need to leave the hotel to enjoy Cairns’ finest cuisine. Showcasing local produce and small artisanal producers, the executive chef team works diligently to keep food miles down and the restaurant’s culinary footprint small.

The Riley Cairns’ rooftop Mediterranean-style restaurant, Rocco, even stocks Crystalbrook Station’s own beef, which is ethically raised and grazed just three hours away.

Rocco at The Riley, A Crystalbrook Collection Resort © Crystalbrook Collection

© Crystalbrook Collection

Greenfields is all about healthy eating, its wholesome options including a delicious grain bowl, guilt-free dessert, plus cold-pressed juices made on the spot from local tropical fruits.  And crowd pleaser, Paper Crane serves up sublime buffet breakfasts and a palate pleasing whizz around the streets of Asia come lunch and dinner. The kids were quite partial to the lunch time bento boxes stuffed full of fresh sashimi or tempura steamed rice, plus pickled vegetables and Asian salad with sesame dressing. And come dinner time Raff dove head first into a spicy duck confit khao soi lao curry with lotus crisps while Sugarpuff devoured a smashing chicken and prawn nasi goreng.

The Riley’s location makes exploring easy

Carins Esplanade

© Aleney de Winter

Just steps from the gnarly curtain fig tree-lined Esplanade Boardwalk, The Riley Cairns is perfectly placed to explore the many delights of Cairns. Leap on one of the Riley’s free hotel bikes to get around to the best bits of town including the sprawling, kid-friendly Cairns Lagoon, fabulous Muddy’s Playground, the brilliant new Cairns Aquarium, croc-packed adventure at Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome. There’s also dozens of great eateries and the vibrant Rusty’s Market, an undercover marketplace packed with Indigenous, Thai, Chinese, Indian and Italian specialties as well as an abundance of fresh local seafood and colourful tropical fruit. Of course, there are also two unmissable World Heritage-listed sites nearby, The Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef, and The Riley is just a short walk to the Departure Terminal meaning easy access to the watery wonderland that awaits families on the reef.

The Eats World’s stay at The Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort Cairns was independently paid for.

Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort
131-141 The Esplanade,
Cairns City
+61 (0) 7 4252 7777



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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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