Exploring Cairns and The Great Barrier Reef

Green Island Aerial View

Wow…I can’t believe that I actually typed ‘Great Barrier Reef’ in a title to MY blog post! Talk about blessings! It has been a bucketlist item of mine to explore the Great Barrier Reef. If you’re new here or to my social pages then you might not know that we just came back from an EPIC 4 week trip through Australia. Of course I wanted to check out the reef but there’s a ton of other fun things to do in Cairns too…

If you haven’t checked out my blog post on How To Spend 3 Days in Sydney, Australia, check it out and let me know what you think and if you’ve been there before! 

Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is not just one reef but comprised of over 3,000 individual reefs! Woah! Not sure if that was surprising to everyone else but it was for me. We spent 3 full days in Cairns, easily could see all of it in 2 but we did have my two year old so I wanted to take things a little slow and also make time to do some stuff just for him.

The Great Barrier Reef

This is a must so I wanted to do it basically on our first full day in Cairns. There are A LOT of tour options so my recommendation is to decide (in advance) how you want to see the reef and what other activities are you interested in at the same time. Some people want to see the reef via scuba which is the best way to really get out there and really immerse yourself in The Great Barrier Reef (personal opinion). I would recommend booking a tour like THIS so you can really get in the reef. 

There is also snorkeling as an option. I would say this is a great way to explore the inner reef areas that are off the shore from the islands within The Great Barrier Reef.

We opted for the Green Island Day Trip from Cairns. It was a great option for us as a family because the beaches are very shallow so it was perfect for my two year old as well as for my husband and I to swap off and snorkel. The island also had a wild animal exhibit with the largest crocodile in Australia, I think? There’s also a restaurant and plenty of amenities that families may need with their changing needs. You can opt for the Glass Bottom Boat Tour which is a great option if you want to get out to the outer reef with kids or elderly groups. This is a great way to actually see the marine life in the reef from the safety of a boat. This is also a great option for those who haven’t snorkeled or scuba’d in the past and may be nervous if a fish swims up alongside of you.

*The Great Barrier Reef is home to so many marine species. Humans are the biggest threat and everything is more scared of you than you are of it. With that said, be aware of tide/ocean/storm conditions before you go. Remember that there are animals in the ocean that can harm you so be aware and wear protective gear (jellyfish suit) so you have the BEST time. 

Kuranda Koala Park + the Outdoors

Have you ever wanted to hold a Koala? I mean who doesn’t! They look so cuddly and huggable! Or maybe you want to see a Kangaroo up close and feed them? Then take a short 45 min. drive outside of Cairns to Kuranda Village and check out their Koala Park. 

There are other wildlife parks nearby and next door such as birds, etc and you can easily add on before or after. Or you can easily spend the entire day exploring Kurana Village, the markets, wildlife parks, and surrounding area. We opted only for the Koala Park since we had plans to stop by other wildlife parks in Brisbane and Melbourne area(s) but if you’re short on time then check out some of the other animals within the area.

Toddler + Family 

A new section I’m going to start adding to all of my travel posts will be the ‘Toddler + Family’ section where I’ll share areas that are specific to families with (small) kids. A lot of my followers joined me before I became a mom and per my analytics, most of my followers (like 90%) are non-parents! So I want to cater to my audience but I also want to maintain my authenticity which is why I want to share the FULL travel experience including specifics to my son. 


The esplanade is a term I saw all over Australia, not typical in the states. Its similar to what we consider a boardwalk. The stretch of the beach area that is built-up and can go for several blocks. The esplanade in Cairns was different from the others we had seen. The area had a beach and was definitely built up with restaurants and shops but it was like a huge swimming pool for the public. This area was a life saver for us! It was under construction until our second to last day which was a bummer but now we have a place to go back to on our next trip! 

I thought the esplanade was only for kids but we went on Friday evening and I was quite SHOCKED at how many young adults were there…with no children. It was actually a very well packed locals hang out and it makes sense. The weather is HOT and HUMID during the month of February, its literally the peak of the summer months, so people just need to escape the heat. 

Muddy’s Playground

We didn’t have a chance to check this area out but it was on my to do list. Fortunately for us there were a TON of playgrounds along the coast so there wasn’t a need for us to go to this specific playground. However I did read about it and we drove past it and it definitely looks worth the stop if you want to run some good energy out and are nearby. Its close to the main area of the esplanade so easily doable when you check it out. 

Green Island 

I mentioned it above in the Great Barrier Reef section but if you are going with a toddler or small child then I highly recommend checking out the Green Island Tour. It was a perfect day trip for my family and I to get out and explore the reef safely with our two year old while still being able to get some adult adventures in. If you’re interested, I highly recommend doing this tour, very professional and clean!

<3 happy traveling 

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