Kuranda Tours... All You Need To Know

Sophie Tabouel on June 2nd, 2024

A day trip to Kuranda is a must when visiting Cairns Tropical North Queensland as it is one of the most popular day excursions in this region and most travellers are well aware of the ‘Kuranda Train’, ‘Skyrail Cableway’ and ‘Kuranda Village’.

However, as a Tour Specialist Consultant I have had a lot of enquiries from confused people about the various fares, departure times, inclusions and ‘Free Time’ in Kuranda Village.

If this is your first time in Cairns you may be unfamiliar with where the Kuranda Train stations and the Skyrail gondolas terminals are.  The logistics of getting to and from the Kuranda Train Station and Skyrail gondola terminals is what generally causes most confusion.

It may seem strange that it could be so complicated to choose the right Kuranda trip as there is only ONE Kuranda Train and One Skyrail Cableway but believe it or not… it is!

You can choose to travel to and from Kuranda village by the same mode of transport, however to enhance your experience to Kuranda we highly recommend travelling each direction on an alternative course, which will keep your day’s outing wondrous with more to see and experience in a day.

The Logistics 

In Kuranda the railway station is close to the Skyrail Terminal and within walking distance.
In Cairns however the two railway stations are not within walking distance from the Skyrail terminal.

  • Cairns Central Station to Smithfield Skyrail Terminal – 13.5km
  • Freshwater Kuranda Train Station to Smithfield Skyrail Terminal – 7.5km

This means that if you want to travel on both Skyrail Cableway and the Kuranda Scenic Train you will require a transfer somewhere throughout the day - this applies to Self-Drive options as well.

Because a transfer is required when combining the Kuranda Train and the Skryrail Cableway, you will find that they are quite commonly packaged together including return transfers from your accommodation in Cairns, on the Northern Beaches and Port Douglas.

Kuranda Tour Options

When choosing your Kuranda Tour option, we highly recommend combining the Kuranda Train and Skyrail for your Kuranda day trip! One of our most popular Kuranda Day Tours is the Ultimate Kuranda Tour including all the key attractions - including Rainforestation Nature Park, BBQ lunhc, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary & the Kuranda Train and Skyrail experience.

Tours to Kuranda village can be taken not only by the Kuranda Train and Skyrail Cableway, but also by Coach.  You can travel by coach to Kuranda and back or choose to do one leg of the trip by coach then the other one by Skyrail Cableway OR Kuranda train. 

 The main Kuranda Tour Options are: 

  1. Kuranda Scenic Train Up – Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Down with return transfers from your accommodation
  2. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Up - Kuranda Train Down with return transfers from your accommodation
  3. Coach Tours if you have experienced the Kuranda Train and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway before and would simply like to go back to the Kuranda Village you can do so by coach.

All Kuranda Day Tour options require bookings - Ensure to book your Kuranda Tour here!

Departures will vary depending on the operator but generally there will be only one departure from Cairns in the morning and one departure from Kuranda Village in the afternoon.

  • Coach Up / Coach Down
  • Kuranda Train Up / Coach Down
  • Coach Up / Skyrail Down

Kuranda Self Drive Option - with Skyrail & Kuranda Train

  1. Self Drive Options - when travelling to Kuranda and taking a self drive option. You can choose from the following:

Skyrail Up/Kuranda Train Down: drive to the Smithfield Skyrail Terminal and park your car in the free car park. As with most operqators you will then be greeted by a hostess at a designated meeting point (outside the front of the Skyrail Terminal).

Your hostess will provide you with your boarding passes and itinerary for the day.  Your itinerary includes your boarding times and pick up points for the day.

You will then board the Skyrail, spend your allocated free time in Kuranda before returning by Kuranda Train to the Freshwater Train Station where your transfer pick up will be waiting for you to take you back to your car at the Smithfield Skyrail Terminal.

Important note: when self driving and using a GPS navigation system, make sure you enter Smithfield Skyrail Terminal as your destination and not Kuranda Skyrail Terminal or you will get directions to drive to Kuranda itself…

Yes! It has happened; travellers have driven up all the way to Kuranda therefore missing out on the first leg of their jourrney.

Bookings are required.

Kuranda Train Up/Skyrail Down: drive to the Smithfield Skyrail Terminal and park your car in the free car park.

As with most operators you will then be greeted by a hostess at a designated meeting point (outside the front of the Skyrail Terminal) before being transferred to the Freshwater Train Station.

You will then travel to Kuranda by train, spend your allocated free time in Kuranda before returning on the Skyrail to the Smithfield Terminal where your car is parked.

OR...You could drive to Freshwater Train Station and park in the nearby Free Parking Zone.

Check in at the train station to take the Kuranda Train up to Kuranda, spend your allocated free time in Kuranda before returning by Skyrail to the Smithfield Terminal where you will meet your transfer to take you back to your car at Freshwater Station.

Bookings are required.

Drive up the Kuranda range in your own or hired vehicle and park in the village at the ‘All Day Free Car Park’.

This option gives you the flexibility to choose how much Free Time you have in Kuranda.

No bookings required however you miss out on two of the most breathtaking experience, the Kuranda Train and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

More about the Kuranda Train


There are only two trains departing in the morning and two trains returning in the afternoon.

  • From Cairns Station: 8.30am & 9.30am(*) - 2 hour journey
  • From Freshwater Station: 8.50am & 9.50am(*) – 1 hour journey
  • Afternoon trains from Kuranda: 2.00pm & 3.30pm(*)

(*)Please note: the Gold Class upgrade (optional extra) is only available on the second train up and last train down

Advantages of Gold Class: a dedicated hostess will serve beverages and local produce (included in your upgrade) along the way giving you the opportunity to skip lunch in the village and spend more time sightseeing.

Gold Class carriages are also more comfortable with more supportive chairs to sit in for the journey.

Kuranda Train Notes:

  • Commentary on the history of the railway line relating to its construction, purpose for being built and interesting facts.
  • Wheelchairs & Mobility Scooters: can be transported on each Kuranda Scenic Railway service in a designated carriage that can cater for their access.Note that there is no access for wheelchairs & mobility scooters to disembark at Barron Falls Viewing Station.Most transfer operators to and from the Freshwater Train and the Cairns Train Station advise that assistance is required to get on to the bus as there are a few steps to  mount.It is important to note that due to Health and Safety Regulations their drivers are not able to assist their passengers with this.However their fellow travelling companions or carers are able to do so.Only collapsible wheelchairs are allowed.

    However there is a tour company with a large coach equipped with a wheelchair ramp that lowers to allow easy wheelchair access.  In some cases they may use a 20 seater coaster which has a hydraulic lift.

    No extra costs, just 24 hour notice required as well as information on the dimensions and weight of the wheel chair to make sure it complies with the Skyrail size restrictions.

  • Prams & Strollers: collapsible prams and strollers can be stored under the seats of the Heritage Class carriages,however this is limited to providing a storage space for prams and strollers up to no more than 25cm in height once collapsed.In some cases larger prams and strollers may be allowed with the discretion of the on board staff and subject to space availability on the day.Due to Health and Safety Regulations, children are not permitted to travel on the Kuranda train in a pram or stroller.They must be seated on a seat or on the parent’s lap.

More about Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

There are regular departures throughout the day from the Smithfield Terminal going up to Kuranda and back down from Kuranda to the Smithfield Terminal.

  • Smithfield Departures: from 9.00am - last departure 3.45pm.
  • Kuranda Departures: from 9.15am – last departure at 3.45pm.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Notes:

  • If you choose to travel straight through either from the Skyrail Terminal to Kuranda or vice versa, be mindful that you are required to disembark at Red Peak Station to catch another gondola; just like changing lines at a train station.
  • Upgrades to Diamond View or Canopy Glider (open air basket) are available as optional extras.

  • The experience is quiet and peaceful without commentary the only sounds you will hear are from the birds amongst the rainforest below.
  • Information about the rainforest is provided by a ranger onsite at Red Peak Station or from the Interpretive Centre at Barron Gorge Station so it is well worth getting off and explore.
  • There are 13 diamond view gondolas compared to 101 standard gondolas.

    This means that if you travel in a diamond view gondola the wait for the next diamond view gondola will take a little longer if you get off at both Red Peak and Barron Gorge Station.They travel through the stations approx every 7 to 10minutes depending on cable speed and the number of gondolas on line.

  • During peak seasons such as school holidays the busiest time going up is 10.30am.  When cruise ships are in town skyrail gets quite busy around 11.00am going up.
  • Allow 1.5 hour’s total travel time on the cableway if stopping at both stations and 2 hours total time if travelling on a Diamond View gondola.
  • Going up by Skyrail cableway gives you the opportunity to learn about the rainforest and its Flora, Fauna, how it sits in the Eco System and its history from the onsite ranger at Red Peak Station and/or from the CSIRO Interactive information Centre at Barron Gorge Station before embarking on a self-guided walk on one of the trails through the rainforest surrounding the Kuranda Village.
  • In the summer months of December to March where there can be afternoon storms it is worth considering taking the Skyrail Cableway in the morning and then returning by Kuranda Train in the afternoon.This is because the Skyrail Cableway if hampered by strong winds or nearby thunderstorms can be forced to stop or be delayed by the operator for health and safety reasons.This may cause travel delays and disappointment especially if travelling on a tight itinerary.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Wheelchair Notes:

  • A ramp is available to assist with embarking and disembarking from the gondola cabins.
  • ​Both Red Peak Station and Barron Falls Station have ramp accessed boardwalks through the rainforest and at viewing decks.
  • Ramp access to the CSIRO Interpretation Centre at Barron Falls Station.
  • Wheel Chair accessible toilets are available at all stations. **Note: Wheel chairs must not exceed the width of 630mm and 950mm in length.
  • Wheelchairs must be capable of being tilted backwards on embarkation in to the gondola cabins by lifting the front wheels so that gently so that the chair can be pushed in to the gondola cabin.To load a wheelchair, the wheelchair will need to be tipped backwards raising the front wheels and then gently pushed into the gondola.
  • The combined weight of the wheelchair occupant and the wheelchair must be of a manageable weight to allow cableway operators to load the wheelchair.
  • Wheelchairs must have handles to ensure easy lifting into the gondola cabins.
  • Skyrail provides the complimentary use of wheelchairs during the Skyrail experience.
  • If you require a wheel chair once you arrive at the Skyrail terminal, please advise your tour consultant 24 hours in advance as it they are subject to availability.

    Read further information about Kuranda Day Tours for mobility impaired travellers.


How To Choose The Perfect Kuranda Tour

As Tour Consultants we would like to make sure you get the best Kuranda day trip for the best price and I believe it is very important to find the tour that suits your style of holiday, itinerary and comfort.  You may choose to book the lowest priced package without realising it may not be suitable for you and your travel companions.

Kuranda Day Tour Tips

  • To make sure you get the best out of your Kuranda day trip you should look at what is of interest to you and your travel companions in Kuranda so you can prioritise your time and calculate how much time you need there.
  • Work out what your ideal pick up time is as well as your return time to your accommodation.
  • Consider upgrading to Gold Class (on the Kuranda Train) and Diamond View (on the Skyrail), they are worth it.

What you need to know if you choose to upgrade to Gold Class on the Train and/or Diamond View on the Skyrail… note, the Gold Class is only available on the 9.30am/9.50am departures from Cairns/Freshwater and on the 3.30pm train departing from Kuranda.

If you want to upgrade to Diamond View be aware that there are limited numbers of Diamond View gondolas which means a longer wait for your next gondola at both Skyrail stations (Red Peak & Barron Gorge stations), so make sure you allow a bit of extra time when upgrading to Diamond View.

As Tour Consultants we are always happy to assist you in choosing the right Kuranda tour, contact us today.

Combo ‘All In A Day’ or ‘2 Day Packages’ including the Kuranda Experience

Other tour activities can be packaged up with your Kuranda experience. For example you could participate in an ‘other’ activity for the first part of the day (E.g. Hot Air Ballooning) then spend some free time in Kuranda Village before returning to your accommodation.

Some popular combo package tours are Hot Air Ballooning on the Atherton Tablelands or a two day combo with a Reef Trip - offering great value for money.  There really is a great variety of ways incorporating Kuranda in to your holiday itinerary!

So if you intend to book a combo including the Kuranda Scenic Train & Skyrail Cableway and are particular about your free time in Kuranda village or which direction you would like to travel on the Kuranda Train or Skyrail, make sure to check what the package offers to avoid disappointment - or best book with our local holiday specialists.

Things to do in Kuranda

Kuranda is a village located in the mountains behind Cairns approx 25 km away in a North West direction. Kuranda village itself has a wide variety of attractions such as: markets, shops, restaurants, and art galleries amongst other things.

There are also a number of wildlife parks such as Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Koala Gardens and Birdworld Kuranda, a local River Boat Cruise on the Barron River which wraps around the village through the rainforest, walking trails and the “not to be missed” Rainforestation Nature Park.

  • Markets & Shops: Kuranda village itself has a variety of attractions in particular 'The Original Rainforest Markets and Kuranda Heritage Markets' as well as a number of shops that sell locally designed clothes, hand crafted jewellery and ornaments, art galleries, indigenous art, leather goods, wood carvings, Opal & gemstones, as well as some of North Queensland’s local produce like honey, coffee, tropical fruit, chilli powders & pastes, and macadamia nuts and souvenirs. Kuranda Markets are open Wed - Sunday.
  • Barron Gorge: the Barron Gorge is one of the main drawcards for visiting Kuranda and is located approximately 3.5km from Kuranda village.  The gorge has a lookout located on the North side of the gorge which is accessible via one of the Skyrail stops. Directly on the opposite side from the Skyrail lookout on the South side of the gorge is where the Scenic Train stops for 10 minutes for viewing and photo opportunities.  The South side of the gorge is also accessible by car or hiking from the village.
  • Walking Trails: there is a number of walking trails through the rainforest surrounding the village as well as down by the Barron Riveron the outskirts of the village.
  • Rainforestation Nature Park is a very popular addition to a Kuranda day tour. It includes a Koala & Wildlife Park which also offers an Army Duck Rainforest Tour and features an indigenous Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience.

Rainforestation is located approximately 2.6km away from Kuranda Village on the other side of the Barron River.It is accessible by a regular shuttle bus that departs the village from outside the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. If you are self driving Rainforestation is located on the right handside before your reach the Kuranda village.

Read our Kuranda Blog pages for all the things to do and things to see in Kuranda 

Author: Jenni - Tour Consultant - 1300 761 612

Sophie Tabouel

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