As a local Travel Consultant there is nothing more satisfying than taking some of my friends and family members on excursions around Cairns. When I am at work I talk to guests, Australian and international travelers, about tours and activities in Tropical North Queensland so getting to experience them is really rewarding.
Visiting Kuranda is only part of what makes the day great... getting there on the Kuranda Train or by the Skyrail Gondola is what makes the difference.
A few weeks back we had interstate visitors and we decided to visit & revisit Kuranda - "the village in the rainforest" .
Because we are locals we had our own vehicle so we chose the self-drive option to Kuranda, it is important to note than even if you choose the self-drive option you will still have to get a transfer from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway terminal to the Freshwater Kuranda Train Station as they are located approximately 8 kilometres away from each other. Don't worry we will cover this as you read on.
If you are on holidays and don't want to worry about driving around, gettting there on time or parking your vehicle there are some Kuranda day tour options with return transfers from your accommodation in Cairns or on the Northern Beaches such as Palm Cove. You can even enjoy the same Kuranda day tour out of Port Douglas!
This is how our day out in Kuranda unfolded...
We parked our car at the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway terminal in Smithfield where our transfer driver was waiting for us outside the entrance of the actual terminal.
The transfer bus was comfortable & modern and our driver was funny and very informative; he clearly explained how the day was organised and gave each of us a boarding pass (see sample below) with all the important information: times, where to go, map of Kuranda and even some discount vouchers for the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld Kuranda and Kuranda Koala Gardens.
The transfer to the Freshwater Heritage Kuranda Train Station was necessary as the train was the first leg of our trip to Kuranda; parking your car at the Skyrail terminal allows you to get back to your vehicle in the afternoon at your own pace - take your time and go throught the Skyrail souvenir shop!
The Freshwater Station is a quaint historical station with a lot to look at! It feels like you are stepping back in time with a lot of photos and other memorabilia to look at including the worker's cottage, dating back to the 1800's!
The Kuranda train will arrive from Cairns city for your 8:55am departure (if you are staying in Cairns you catch the earlier train departing Cairns station at 8:30am)... then starts your train journey to Kuranda.
This is a beautiful scenic journey, travelling in the old historic carriages of the train, along the meandering rail way tracks through 15 tunnels, Stoney Creek Gorge, winding around sheer cliff faces, passing Red Bluff, beautiful views to Green Island and stopping at Barron Falls!
We learnt a lot along the way with informative commentaries about the history and hard work of the thousands of pioneers that developed this miraculous route!
There are a lot of tour options to consider when choosing the right one for you and your family. We estimated 3 hours in Kuranda was the perfect amount of time for us to enjoy the interesting markets, lolly making shop, butterfly sanctuary and delicious French crepes for lunch at Petit Cafe!
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is really something special. Make sure you wear bright clothing and butterflies will come landing on you. Please note 20 to 30 minutes is all the time you need.
Our wonderful day out didn't stop there... we made our way to the Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway terminal (located near the Kuranda Train Station, you can't miss it when you arrive in Kuranda) for the last, but not least, leg of our trip.
We arrived a few minutes early so we could browse the souvenir shop - more souvenir shopping - before boarding the Skyrail. The trip down takes approximately 1.5 hours with two stops along the way: Barron Falls and Red Peak Stations. The Barron Falls stop has a Rainforest Interpretation Centre and boardwalk as well as a lookout and historical displays. Red Peak Station also has a Rainforest boardwalk and lookouts as well as display signage along the way.
The Skyrail ride was pretty exciting... gliding over the rainforest canopy is really something special. We also spotted a croc sunbaking on the banks of the Barron River, and couldn't believe the spectacular views toward the Coral Sea as we emmerged from the Rainforest.
You may also want to consider an upgrade to Gold Class on the Kuranda Scenic Train (selected departures only) or Diamond View on the Skyrail.
I can only highly recommend this awesome day out to anyone visiting the Cains region and will definitely do it again next time we have visitors.
Related article: Kuranda Day Trip... All You Need To Know
Author: Melanie Ward - Destination Specialists