Last Updated 01/09/2021.
Cairns, Australia, is one of the stepping off points for snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, but is there a beach in Cairns? No, actually, there’s not. There is a pretty esplanade walkway and a narrow strip of sand but mostly Cairns has a busy estuary and salt water crocodiles, big ones. We also have stinger season in this part of the world, jellyfish visit our waters from around November to May, making unprotected swimming a fairly bad choice.
So, on a hot, tropical day what to do to cool off? If you really want a beach you can drive a little way north of Cairns, there are plenty of beautiful beaches between central Cairns and Port Douglas, many with stinger nets, but the best options for getting wet, I think, are The Lagoon, Muddies and Sugar World.
We also have some fresh water swimming holes and waterfalls nearby. Information on these and other swimming spots in and around Cairns.
Is There a Beach in Cairns?
Well, technically I guess you could call this Cairns Beach but other than the annal Ironman event, nobody swims here.
Cairns beach is at the opening of a muddy estuary and busy harbour.
We also have crocodiles up here so you’re much safer using the Cairns Lagoon, below. It’s just behind the esplanade with views out to sea, it has sand or grass to sprawl on. You may as well be at the beach.
The Lagoon, Cairns Esplanade
This is fantastic, swimming in Cairns at it’s finest. A huge open air lagoon pool, right on The Cairns Esplanade, with glorious views out to sea. Best of all it’s free.
The Lagoon pool slopes off gently from the artificial sandy beaches, making it a safe place for children to play in the shade ( so maybe we could say that there is a beach in Cairns).
When you’re done with swimming in The Lagoon, knock up a quick lunch on one of the gas barbecues , they are also free.
Changing rooms and showers are free too. You do have to pay for a locker. Sorry about that.
The pool is usually open from around dawn every day except Wednesdays, when it opens at noon, there are lifeguards to keep an eye on everybody.
Muddies, Cairns Esplanade
Muddies on The Cairns Esplanade, is a little north of The Lagoon. It’s a huge sprawling playground area complete with fountains to splash around in. It’s for kids, but I don’t think any grown ups would get into trouble if they really wanted to get soaked in the water jets. So long as they had children with them. Muddies is free.
There is a cafe on site as well as more free gas barbecues.
Is There a Water Park in Cairns? Yes, Sugar World
Sugar World is, admittedly, a small water park and it is a fair way out of Cairns, but a water park on a hot day is always welcome and most days are hot up here in the tropics.
Unfortunately this isn’t free, but the price reflects the size of the park, it’s not expensive.
Sugar World is only open on weekends outside of school holidays, which is a shame for homeschoolers.
We enjoyed a great family day out at Sugar World recently, there are only really three big rides but we all had a ball, the children had never seen one of the big water parks, so this place blew them away.
There is plenty to do here for small children, shallow pools and smaller water slides. You’ll have to check if Sugar World is open currently, it’s been a long time since we visited.
For more information on Cairns, Port Douglas, Northern Beaches, Daintree and the Tablelands, head back to our main Australia index page. We’re locals, we know this part of the world well.