Last Updated on April 9, 2021 by Travels with Kids
North Queensland is an excellent Australian holiday destination for families. You can base yourself either in Cairns or Port Douglas and tool around the area for several days, making day trips to each of the area’s main attractions. We have extensive guides on Things To Do In Cairns With Kids as well as What To Do In Port Douglas With Kids. We think both spots have a lot to offer vacationing families! In this post, we will share what we think are the best Cairns family accommodations.
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Location, Location, Location! Where Is The Best Place To Stay In Cairns
Deciding on where to stay in Cairns with a family is an important decision at the beginning of your trip. The location of your hotel or apartment really affects how you view the city. In Cairns, there are four main locations:
The Cairns CBD, Especially Along The Cairns Esplanade
This is for people who like being in the heart of the action. Basing yourself here gives you the ability to walk to restaurants or along the Esplanade.
Outside Cairns City: The Suburbs Of Cairns
This is where you’ll find Cairns family resorts. These are largely self-contained apartments. It has water parks for the children, good onsite restaurants, and everything you would expect from a resort. Having your own car is necessary.
Located about 20km (25 minutes) north of Cairns CBD, Trinity Beach is a beautiful tropical oasis that has a stinger net in place during the stinger season. There is a sheltered cove to swim in and motorsports are not permitted. There are a few restaurants and a pub but really it’s a place to relax and take it easy. Having your own car would be necessary.
Palm Cove is located just a bit further north than Trinity Beach, about 30km or 35 minutes north of Cairns. It is almost halfway to Port Douglas, which is a further 45minutes drive north. Palm Cove has a lovely holiday atmosphere, with a beautiful beach opposite a lot of excellent restaurants and shops.
Palm Cove has a reputation for being quite exclusive. However, there is not a lot to do except beach walks, fishing from the jetty, or enjoying laid-back restaurant meals. If you are looking for a bit more action, then Port Douglas might be a better choice, or Cairns city even more.
If you are not sure whether to base yourself in Cairns or Port Douglas for your Cairns holiday, Palm Cove might be a good option, given that it is basically equidistant between the two. So whereas we chose to spend several nights in Cairns, and then five nights in Port Douglas, you could base yourself in Palm Cove (or Trinity Beach, for that matter) and then have an equal amount of travel each day!
The Best Family Accommodation In Cairns: Our Top Picks Of Where To Stay
When we traveled to Cairns with kids, we spent 4 nights in Cairns, before moving on to Fitzroy Island for a couple of nights, and then our final five nights were in Port Douglas. For us, basing ourselves in Cairns for the start of our trip made the most sense given all the things we wanted to do while there. Once in Port Douglas, we did things in the Northern Cairns Area.
As we always travel on a budget, every cost adds up. For the first five days while staying in the heart of the city we chose not to hire a car. This meant one of the most important things in choosing a hotel was that it be centrally located. You can see that reflected in our top 3 choices: The Rydges Esplanade, The Novotel Cairns, and the Mantra Esplanade Cairns.
Should we return to Cairns again (and we will!), I suspect we might choose to hire a car from day one of our stay (with a pickup at Cairns airport) and base ourselves at one of the family resorts in Cairns that are out of the Cairns CBD, like the Colonial Club or Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut (described below!).
Rydges Esplanade Cairns Resort
For our family accommodation in Cairns, we chose the Rydges Esplanade Cairns Resort. It was an excellent kid-friendly choice and would be amongst the best of the Cairns resorts for families.
When we were making the booking, we were a little concerned that it was located about 1 km up the Esplanade. However, when I did a little bit more research, I found it was literally a stone’s throw from Muddy’s Playground – one of the main Cairns attractions for families. When I further learned that the Cairns Esplanade actually runs from Muddy’s Playground right around to the Cairns Lagoon, I was sold!
We thought that the Rydges Esplanade Resort was an excellent choice for Cairns family accommodation because they offer dedicated family rooms. For example, the kids’ room has an Xbox and TV at the end of each bunk bed, and games available from reception.
We were traveling with the baby and had our cot for her (one of our Baby Travel Essentials). If you don’t have your own toddler cot, no worries! My friend also stayed at the Rydges Esplanade and they set up a toddler bed for her – ask when booking!
The rooms were not large (for family rooms), but did have a nice balcony with a view of Cairns. Rydges Esplanade Cairns has a beautiful pool area, too, and the kids played in it every afternoon and evening.
Given that we spent the vast majority of our time around Cairns doing day trips or down at the Cairns Lagoon – and not in the room – Rydges was a good, affordable choice for us, despite the small room size. Check here for current rates at the Rydges Esplanade Resort Cairns.
Rydges Hotel Bonus
We always like it when a hotel has an eco-friendly policy, and “Go Green at Rydges” has an excellent one. In exchange for reduced housekeeping during the day, you get a $10 credit per night!
Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort
Our second choice for kid friendly accommodation in Cairns was the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort. I liked that it was especially close to the Cairns Lagoon Pool and the CBD. When traveling with kids it is always best to limit walking distances!
While this is an older-style hotel, some rooms have been recently renovated and get good reviews. In comparison to the Rydges Esplanade (where we got a family room), we were going to get a standard double room at Novotel. Based on the photos I saw on the hotel websites, I assumed that this meant there would be less space in this style of the room. That is why I ultimately decided that the Rydges Esplanade would be a better choice for where to stay in Cairns with kids.
I still think Novotel makes it on the list of best family accommodation in Cairns. It has a pool, a huge lagoon, and is very close to the Cairns Esplanade. Novotel would have been a hit with the kids. It also has a swim-up bar which tends to be popular with the whole family!
Mantra Esplanade Cairns
It would be remiss of me not to mention our first pick for Cairns family accommodation. Unfortunately, it was booked out for the dates we wanted to travel.
We always try to stay in self-contained family hotels as it enables us to quickly and easily replicate more of a ‘home’ routine. For example, we can give the children the same breakfast cereal as at home while they do their coloring or play with their Lego in their pj’s. This is a far more kid-friendly experience than getting them dressed, and taking them down to a restaurant or buffet for breakfast where everyone has to be well behaved. This extends the stress of the day for the kids.
We were therefore attracted to the one, two, and three-bedroom self-contained Cairns holiday apartments at Mantra Esplanade. Make sure you ask for a proper apartment as it sounds like some apartments are simply two adjoining rooms. The apartments have spacious balconies either looking out to the ocean or mountains. It also has a pool and gym!
As expected for a budget family accommodation in Cairns, the Mantra Esplanade is a bit older and there are some things that are a little faded or scratched. These are things we can accept as long as the room is clean.
Location-wise, it is extremely close to the CBD. This would have meant much less walking than we had staying at the Rydges Esplanade. Not only is it just 2 minutes to the waterfront, but a mere 5 minutes to the Reef Terminal where you can make day trips out to the Great Barrier Reef. That is a great perk for family-friendly accommodation in Cairns!
Bay Village Tropical Retreat & Apartments
If you are looking for budget family accommodation in Cairns, then take a look at the Bay Village Tropical Retreat. They are located a bit further from the center than all the above options. However, still within walking distance to Muddy’s Playground and Café. It’s an old-style motel with a pool, but they have renovated it to have family rooms with enough space for mum, dad, and the kids. Some are also self-contained, which is a bonus!
The Pullman Cairns International
A member of the Accor Group, you might want to stay at this 5-star hotel if you are using points. At 16 floors, it is one of the tallest buildings in the Cairns CBD. It has great views of either the harbor or the mountains around Cairns. When traveling with kids ask for interconnecting rooms.
Pullman Cairns International should not be confused with the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, also known as the Pullman Reef Hotel. It also has large interconnecting rooms, with balconies and views of the water. The Pullman Reef Hotel is also well located and provides easy access to the central attractions of Cairns. Including the Casino which is on the property!
Cairns Family Accommodation Outside Cairns Centre
Cairns Colonial Club
We considered the Cairns Colonial Club Resort for our Cairns family vacation. It is set amongst lush tropical gardens in a suburb close to the Cairns Botanical Gardens and not far from the airport. This large hotel has 3 lagoon-style pools (which get rave reviews from families) and also a man-made beach!
In total there are 5 different room categories. We were looking at a Studio Room that has a kitchenette. These rooms come in a range of configurations, and a definite bonus is that children 12 years and under stay free when using the existing bedding!
Other reviews suggested asking for an upgraded room or a top-floor room that has balconies and better light than the lower ones.
Don’t forget that you do need a hire car if you are going to stay at the Cairns Colonial Club, but this is an excellent value-for-money option for families on a budget! Check out the budget-friendly Cairns Colonial Club here.
Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut
A Cairns holiday park that gets amazing reviews is the Ingenia Holidays Cairns Coconut Park. Like many Australian caravan parks, they offer a range of accommodation options. They have sites for caravans, luxury three-bedroom condos, fully self-contained villas with two bathrooms, and tropical cabins.
In general, the villas sound fairly typical: basic but clean, and very practical! The reason families love the Cairns Coconuts is the fantastic range of free activities, including a heated splash water park, an under-sixes indoor playground, an interactive playground mini-golf course, two heated (and cooled) resort pools, monster jumping pillows, tennis court, and much, much more. Oh, and if you are trying to get away from the kids then there is an adults-only therapeutic hot spa, too!
People describe it as easily the best park they have ever visited and say it has excellent value for money. You do need a car though, as it is a bit out of town. For more information and rates on Igenia Holidays Cairns Coconut.
Cairns Sunland Leisure Park
In doing my research for our Cairns family holiday I was highly attracted to the prices at the Cairns Sunland Leisure Park Hotel. We could have saved most of our accommodation budget if we stayed here it was so cheap! However, upon reading the reviews I decided against it. If you are looking to save money take a look at it and see whether you are game!
Marlin Cove Resort
The Marlin Cove Resort is an affordable Cairns family accommodation option, providing great value compared to many other nearby hotel options. This Cairns family resort is within walking distance to Trinity Beach, though they also have their own lagoon pool as well as a lap pool for those looking to do exercise. Other facilities include a games room with table tennis, tennis court, and sauna.
They have spacious 2 bedroom apartments with well-equipped kitchens plus a washing machine and dryer! Having the ability to wash clothes is always a bonus if traveling with kids!
Bellevue At Trinity Hotel
For someone looking for a more luxurious option at Trinity Beach then they might consider the Bellevue At Trinity Hotel. Situated at the northern end of Trinity Beach, Bellevue’s Cairns holiday apartments are all luxuriously furnished with everything that you need for a comfortable stay.
Every apartment is fully self-contained, with full kitchens with dishwashers, oven, microwaves, etc., and laundries. The ocean view apartments have magnificent views of the Coral Sea, and the garden view apartments overlook their tropical gardens and the mountains beyond.
With its own pool as well as easy access to the beach and walking distance to cafés, the Bellevue at Trinity Beach hotel is a great option for family accommodation in Cairns.
Cairns Family Accommodations At Palm Cove
The Villas Palm Cove Hotel
Palm Cove is well known for its high-quality accommodation and The Villas Palm Cove is no exception. They have a lush tropical complex comprising one- and two-story completely self-contained Villas which look down over a beautiful pool. The Villas Palm Cove really does provide people with a modern, elegant stay!
Peppers Beach Club & Spa Palm Cove
As part of the Peppers brand, the Peppers Beach Club & Spa is a well-loved luxury-style accommodation option in Palm Cove. As expected, the grounds are gorgeous with lush green gardens, a serenity pool, a rainforest rock pool, and a lagoon pool with a swim-up bar and sandy beaches. With three pool options, there is something for everyone!
This gorgeous Cairns resort is perfect for a family getaway. The rooms are spacious, with a large balcony and full kitchen. There are even a washing machine and dryer!
Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort & Spa
One of the first things that people comment on with the Pullman Palm Cove Resort is its distance from Main Street. It may not be right smack dab in the middle of the action, but it isn’t light-years away either – it’s maybe a 5 or 10-minute walk. In fact, a short walk back to your hotel after a meal in town can be a good thing!
The Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort & Spa offers a lot of space, both in terms of room size and the hotel grounds. There are three pools, one of which is heated. With friendly and polite staff, this Cairns family resort offers an amazing atmosphere!
The Final Verdict: Accommodation In Cairns For Families
We loved visiting Cairns with our kids. It really must be one of the top destinations for families in Australia! One of the things that makes it easier for holidaying with kids is all the great Cairns family accommodation options. When it comes to options for hotels and resorts, Cairns and the surrounding area have a lot to offer. While luxury options abound, rest assured you can also always find a lot of great deals.
We hope you found our survey of all the best kid friendly accommodation in Cairns helpful, and that you enjoy your next holiday in Cairns with kids!
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