10 Family Friendly Things to Do in Cairns during Winter

Its hard not to get just a little bit excited when school holidays fall during winter in the tropics. This is our peak season for tourists and its easy to see why. Humidity is negligible, the sky is often a crisp blue and the temperatures hover around the mid 20s (Celsius not Fahrenheit!). It’s the perfect weather for going outside and exploring and enjoying family friendly things to do in Cairns. Here’s 10 of MY favourite family activities……

1. Beaches

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Palm Cove – on a busy day!!!

It’s where we (the locals) all head during the winter period. The sea temperatures are just right (around 20C), the sun is not too hot and the breezes (particularly in the morning) are spot on.

PLUS all the locals know that this is when our marine ‘nasties’ take a break – it’s no longer stinger (jellyfish) season and the saltwater crocodiles rarely go ‘walkabout’ during the colder months – ie. they’re not as hungry, become sluggish (and less likely to roam into the beach/sea zone) and are generally found lazing about on riverbanks trying to warm up.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

If you can find a beach swing even better!!!

Cairns’ palm fringed northern beaches are perfect for little ones learning to swim and you’ll find all the main spots are patrolled (look for the lifesaver hut and the red and yellow flags). It surprises many but BIG waves are pretty much non-existent along the Far Northern coastline thanks to the Great BARRIER Reef blocking those big oceanic swells. And because of the lack of real surf you won’t find any of those other scary bonuses, such as strong rip currents that occur along the southern coastline of Australia. The good news is that the waves that do occur in TNQ are the perfect size for loads of body boarding fun.

For families with really young children Kewarra Beach, Holloways and Ellis Beach seem to be the most popular. As the kids get older, Trinity Beach and Palm Cove are good choices as there is also the option of watersport hire here. Click HERE to read about SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) hire in Palm Cove.

 If you’re heading further north don’t miss Port Douglas Four Mile Beach. If its further south, then pull in and check out Mission Beach. Both beaches boast miles and miles of sand and palms, perfect for walking or biking or just chilling.

2. Visit an Island

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Island beaches on the Great Barrier Reef are the best

The Great Barrier Reef should always be on your ‘to do’ list BUT for those of you that are just seeking sunshine then you can’t beat chilling out on a beach on a tropical island (whilst others frolic in the marine zone). From July to August you may even be lucky enough to see humpback whales on your boat journey, they migrate up the coast during this period to have their babies.

Popular with Cairns locals are Fitzroy and Green Island. Both islands offer cheap boat transfers from Cairns city as well as various departure times.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Plenty of turtles & coral around the jetty of Green Island

Green Island (a tropical cay) is a great option for really young families as there is always plenty going on despite its smallish size – a patrolled beach zone, a swimming pool open to day visitors, a crocodile zoo and some shopping. Click HERE to read more about Green Island.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Lots to do on Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island (a continental island) is an easy journey from Cairns (the boat skirts along the coastline for most of the way) and if your heart is set on spotting a sea turtle then you can always pay a visit to the Turtle rehab centre on the island (bookings essential). Fitzroy has some great walks, an ocean trampoline plus SUP and kayak hire from the beach hut. Click HERE to read more about Fitzroy Island.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

You won’t find many others at the Franklands Islands

A little bit off the beaten track but well worth it because no other tour operators visit it, is the Frankland Islands. The boat ride includes a cruise down the Mulgrave River system and the island is a mixture of coral cay and continental so you get the best of both worlds. Click HERE to read more on Frankland Islands.

If you’re heading further north to Port Douglas then Low Isles is a must.

3. AQUA Action

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

No reason to stay dry during Winter in the Tropics

Get wet? In winter?? Why not!! I know the locals will argue otherwise (they get a bit soft after spending a season or two in the tropics) BUT it really is still warm enough to enjoy the water and let those sunny tropical rays dry you off. Both the beaches and the reef should be calling you at this time of year but there are some other options……

These are:

  • The Cable Ski Park at Smithfield which has a great Aqua Park and run kid-friendly wakeboard sessions over the school holiday period. Click HERE to read more.

    Things to do in Cairns in Winter

    Fun, Fun, Fun at the Cairns Aqua Park

  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding – SUP is now a popular option along our Far Northern Coastline and you can either head to the beach or venture up croc free rivers. Click HERE to read about Palm Cove options OR HERE to for Pt Douglas (Mossman River). Other options closer to Cairns are WhatSupCairns and Copperlode Dam with Copperlode Fish & Kayak.

    Things to do in Cairns in Winter

    Rainforest SUP on Mossman River

  • SugarWorld WaterPark (4 tube slides, a pool, gardens and an aquatic playground) is located south of Cairns and open throughout the school holidays and only on the weekends when school is back. Click HERE for more information.

    Things to do in Cairns in Winter

    Get ready for lots of thrills on Bad Fishy

  • Jet Boat action with Bad Fishy. A great way to enjoy an adrenalin pumping thrill ride around the Cairns Trinity Inlet Marina and view the city from the water. Its a 35-minute boat journey that doesn’t tie up your whole day and provides a great afternoon pick me up and beats a cup of coffee hands down. Click HERE to read more.

4. Camp

Are you wondering where all the Grey Nomads flock to at this time of year? Visit any of Tourist Park or camping ground around the Far North and you’ll find bucketloads of people fleeing the winter temperatures of the southern states.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Ocean Views are the Best!

This is the time of year we always like to throw a tent in the back of our car and head to one of the many camping spots along the Tropical North Coastline. You can read all about our favourite spots by clicking HERE.

If you want to try something really special then try camping on the reef. Check out your options by clicking HERE.

5. Take a Hike

Winter in the Far North is really the best time to get your hiking boots on. The kids won’t whinge as much (hopefully) cause it’s not as hot, the vegetation is not as dense (believe it or not) and the tracks are easier to follow.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Checking out the views from Glacier Rock

Easy day hikes around Cairns with views can be found in my articles 4 quick climbs around Cairns  and the  Yellow Arrow track.

A more challenging hike but still doable with the kids is Glacier Rock near Stoney Creek. Click HERE to read more.

Seriously Epic hikes with a view are: the Pyramid, Bartle Frere (Queensland’s highest mountain) and Lambs Head (near Davies Creek).

6. Outdoor Movies

When the winter weather (the dry) really kicks in you can expect warm blue days and crisp, clear nights up in the Far North. Thankfully its still warm enough to stay out in the evenings and watch a movie under the stars.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Enjoy a Moonlight Cinema
Image by QT Port Douglas

Some great options are:

7. Visit Cooktown via the Bloomfield Track

The drier winter months means that many of our Far Northern dirt roads become more user-friendly. Thankfully the inland road to Cooktown is completely sealed now but its the epic Bloomfield Track through the Daintree that you should really consider tackling.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Beautiful beaches like this one in the Daintree are all along the Bloomfield Track

There’s only 35-kms of unsealed road along the coastal route to Cooktown now and if you’re happy to take the extra time this journey will take then it’s definitely worth it.  Click HERE for more info on travelling to Cooktown.

8. Visit Kuranda

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Lots of FUN places to visit in Kuranda

Kuranda is great at any time of the year because of its market stalls, rainforest and river walks plus it has a number of animal sanctuaries (butterfly, bird, reptile and a native zoo) that will keep the kids happy.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Skyrail Cableway is a fun way to go up the mountain to Kuranda

Another reason its so fun is because there’s a few different ways you can get up and down the mountain to Kuranda, either via Skyrail Cableway, the Kuranda Railway or self-drive.  Read my article here for more info –> 6 Things you can’t affort to miss in Kuranda.

9. Cairns Show

This one always rolls around during our winter period and it’s definitely worth thinking about early on because the early bird tickets can save you some money (if that’s even possible with a show!).

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Brace yourself for some Show action

If the Cairns Show doesn’t appeal, then try one of the smaller options that are happening around our region at this time of year. Our favourite is the Mareeba Rodeo because you get to see a lot of ‘cowboys’ and outback station families and some real live rodeo action. Click HERE to read more.

10. Visit the Cape

Cape York Peninsula is definitely on my hit list. If you have enough time on your hands (and if you’re well equipped for a bit of 4WD action) then you should really consider a trip to the Tip.

Things to do in Cairns in Winter

Beyond Cooktown is the wilderness of Cape York, so hop in a 4WD & go Adventuring

Winter (the dry season) is the best time to tackle those formidable dirt tracks that take you through the Cape York wilderness, plus camping in a tent or swag is far more comfortable at this time of year.

Personally, we are still waiting for someone to sponsor and supply us with a 4WD and camp-trailer so if you know someone who’s keen for us to document and SHARE this journey please let us know.

Good Things to Know:

  • The peak tourist season & the most popular times to visit Cairns is in winter (June – August). The clear skies and comfortable temperatures are perfect for exploring the region & the water temperatures on the reef vary from a comfortable 22°C in winter.
  • You’ll find crocodile signs on all beaches around the Far North and crocodiles may be present in the ocean. The time to be aware of crocodiles is at night and during their breeding season, September to April. As TNQ locals, we prefer camping and swimming at the beach during the winter months (as mentioned before crocodiles are less inclined to be ‘on the move’, less ‘hungry’ and more sluggish in general). NOTE: this is only our opinion – please make your decisions based on your own knowledge and facts of the area. For a good article on Crocs written by an ex-TNQ local Click HERE.
  • Stinger (jellyfish) season is generally from November through to May. Click HERE for more information.
10 Things to do in Cairns Winter with the kids via @AdventureMumma

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Do you love winter in the Tropical North? What are your favourite things to do in Cairns during the winter?


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