The Great Barrier Reef offers the holiday of a lifetime for all members of the family, but especially the kids!

It’s a  family-friendly region which has a wide range of activities that will both excite and educate people of all ages. There are water, land and rainforest options that can be relatively relaxing or strenuous depending on your level of enthusiasm. The kids will be excited to check out the mysteries of the ancient Paronella Park near Innisfail, ride horses along the Cape Tribulation Beach, lunch with lorikeets in Port Douglas, do whale watching near Hervey Bay or go snorkelling in the shallows of one of the many islands. There are dozens of family-friendly tours to choose. In all regions, you can find various options including half-day, full-day and multi-day options. The kids can try snorkelling, scuba diving (age permitting), sailing, glass-bottom boats, semi-submersible vessels and even helicopter or seaplane tours. Tours can be focused on pure relaxation or can combine educational elements, which can be great options for kids.

To make memories for a lifetime as part of a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, planning a family trip is often a significant moment in everyone’s life. To celebrate this special occasion here are some suggestions of how each region of the Great Barrier Reef, from Cairns to the Whitsundays, to the Southern Region, may be suited to your family trip.


Cairns Region

Cairns is a great place to base your family, given its fantastic transportation links and abundance of activities on the reef and the mainland. The city’s amenities, including the Esplanade and Lagoon, are right near the Reef Terminal and make for easy and convenient tropical entertainment for when you are not visiting the reef. Here families can play, swim, eat and relax using the free public playgrounds, BBQ facilities and swimming lagoon. It is also relatively close to other city centre attractions like the Wildlife Dome and near the Kuranda Scenic Rail station.

A range of accommodation options in the city are reasonably priced and cater to families. Many are also within walking distance of the Reef Fleet Terminal, and many operators include a pick-up and drop-off service. Cairns’ proximity to the reef means you don’t have to travel too far or for too long to reach the reef. Perfect if you need only a half-day option, although full-day and multi-day options are available, also.

The inner reef locations like Green Island or Fitzroy Island are a quick ferry ride from Cairns. They are great destinations for young children to splash in the shallow waters, play happily and safely on the family-friendly island beaches, or use the resort facilities, including swimming pools and restaurants.

They also offer a wide range of entertaining activities for families, including rainforest walks, a submarine experience for all ages, underwater walking on the seafloor for children over 12 years, and crocodiles at Marineland Melanesia.

Outer reef locations are also family suitable and offer protected waters, multi-level pontoons with waterslides, glass-bottom boat tours, underwater observatories and other activities for children and their parents. Trips such as Quicksilver Cruise’s Squid Squad can include educational elements, which can be great options for kids.


Whitsundays Region

Families looking to visit the Whitsundays can choose to base themselves on the mainland at Airlie Beach or out on one of the islands. Airlie Beach is an excellent hub for the family with a full range of accommodation options. There is also a man-made lagoon with gardens, beach area and children’s pool for family fun and relaxation. The tropical urban scene of cafes, markets and local town charm give families a low-key and stress-free stay.

Hamilton Island, with its airport, and Daydream Island are two of the most popular family destinations in the Whitsundays. Hotel and resort facilities meet the needs of families with a range of different accommodation options, restaurants, swimming pools and activities to keep them safe and entertained on the island.

Tours and boat trips head out from the islands to reef platforms, other islands and destinations such as the glorious world-famous Whitehaven Beach. Tour options like Daydream Island’s Living Reef program include educational elements, which can be great for kids. Other family-friendly islands include Hayman Island, the northernmost of the Whitsunday Group.

There are also scenic flight options by helicopter or seaplane over the area, offering unique views of sights such as the stunning and famous Heart Reef, naturally shaped as a heart.


Southern Region

The Southern Region is less action-packed but offers options for quieter, relaxed nature-focused escapes for families, particularly those looking for a weekend or short-stay trips from Brisbane. Main islands Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave can also be less crowded, ensuring less stress when the kids are around.

Staying on the mainland in a coastal town like Bundaberg or Town of 1770, families can take a day trip to uninhabited Lady Musgrave to relax and explore, or be one of 40 guests permitted to camp on the island. The remote Lady Elliot Island is only reached by chartered plane from Hervey Bay, Bundaberg or Brisbane. It offers snorkelling and diving off the beach, and eco-resort accommodation free of television and phones. Both provide a chance to see turtles nesting and hatching from November to March.

Great Keppel Island is well-loved by locals and is a great getaway off the coast from Yeppoon. Accommodation is low-key cabins, camping or private homes and itineraries focus on RnR in natural surroundings. Families may also choose to stay in Yeppoon and take a day trip to the island. Pumpkin Island is off the coast from Yeppoon and is a small, quiet island that can host up to 36 guests at a time. Cosy cottage and bungalow accommodation and all food and drinks need to be self-catered.