Kuranda is a small town in Far North Queensland adjoining the Barron Gorge National Park. It's only around half an hour to drive from Cairns, and the scenic trip by train or SkyRail makes an extremely popular day trip. The village and markets are overflowing with visitors during the middle of each day.
- Drive from Cairns via the Captain Cook and Kennedy Highways. The trip takes approximately 40 minutes. You can access the most scenic points on the railway journey by car also, including the Barron Falls railway platform.
- Hop on the Scenic Railway for a (very) leisurely 1½-hour trip 329 meters up and 34 kilometers out from Cairns. Two services daily in each direction. One-way $50, return $76, reservations recommended. Child and family rates do apply. Services depart from Cairns Central Station, close to the centre of Cairns and stop at Freshwater station along the way. Freshwater is convenient if you are coming from Port Douglas and the north. This is a scenic and historic journey rather than a utilitarian means of transport, and is priced accordingly. The train carriages are not air-conditioned.
- Catch the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This is a gondola ride through the rainforest treetops, with a couple of stops on route to change cars. Great views of the rainforest canopy. As of November 2016, are: One-way is $50 adults and $25 children, return is $75 adults and $37.50 children. A one-way Skyrail, one-way Kuranda Railway package is $109.50 adults and $54.75 children, with transfers back Smithfield/Freshwater at additional cost. The base station is around 15 km north of Cairns, around half-way to Kuranda. Transfers from both Cairns, Cairns Beaches and Port Douglas are available. A 5% discount is available when you book online. The local buses service the Skyrail base station from Cairns every hour or so. There is a large, free carpark at the Skyrail base station.
- There are two bus companies that run scheduled bus services between Cairns and Kuranda. If you just want to get to Kuranda they will save you time and money over the scenic alternatives, taking only 40 minutes for the trip, and costing $6.70 per adult (as of November 2016). Trans North bus makes several trips daily, and the timetables are on their website.
Many people combine the Kuranda Scenic railway and the skyrail, travelling to Kuranda on one and returning on the other. From the scenery point of view, take the railway first in the morning and after that make the Skyrail trip - take your time to stop and look around in the Rainforestation on the way back to the coast. After arriving at the coast side (great views), you have the opportunity to visit the Tjapukai village to learn something about the Aboriginal culture. You can book both directions through either service, but if you are booking late, you may have to book separately as they allocate each other a limited number of seats.
Combining the two is more expensive, both in terms of time and money. They both offer significant discounts for taking their service both ways, and only small discounts for combining the two. In addition getting from the Skyrail base station back to Cairns station is another logistical hassle, or additional cost if you pay for the transfers.
If you want to do the round trip with the Skyrail and the train and don't feel like coordinating with local buses, there are a number of tour companies that package that journey for you, including tickets and transfers.
If you are travelling up to Kuranda with luggage, bear in mind that neither the Skyrail nor the railway cater for large amounts of luggage. The Skyrail will not carry any luggage at all, and the amount is strictly limited to what will fit in the luggage space in the passenger compartment on the train. There is no problem with prams and daypacks, but neither of these methods of transport may be suitable if you are doing more than a day trip to Kuranda.
Kuranda is a small village, although somewhat hilly. Walking about 1km will take you from one end of town to the other. Don't count on being able to walk quickly, as the streets tend to be packed with people.
A one-way courtesy bus between the Skyrail and scenic railway stations at the south end of town and the wildlife attractions at the north of town. The bus departs every twenty minutes, but most people walk the distance.
- 1 Birdworld, ☏ , email@example.com. Daily 9AM-4PM except Christmas Day. Heritage Markets, Rob Vievers Drive. Birdworld is a large mesh canopy, open to natural light in which you can wander among free flying birds armed with an identification sheet to pick them out. The birds are divided evenly between colourful parrots and drab quails and doves with the addition of some cassowaries fenced away from people wandering around the circuit. Entry is $14 for adults, $5 children and $29 for families with two adults and 2 children. A combined pass with the butterfly sanctuary and the Koala Gardens is $33 adults and $16 children. Adults $18, children $9.
- Kuranda Koala Gardens, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Heritage Markets, Rob Vievers Drive. The Koala Gardens is a small wildlife zoo housing Australian native animals. In addition to koalas there are kangaroos, crocodiles, snakes and lizards. Visitors can hold a koala and have their picture taken. Entry is $14 for adults, $7 for children. Photo holding a koala will be an extra $15. The kangaroos and wallabies are tame and friendly and you can grab a free handful or two of feed at the entrance to their lawn.
- 2 Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, 8 Rob Vievers Drive, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. Open 9:45AM to 4:30PM, with guided tours from 10:00 to 3:15PM.. The butterfly sanctuary is an aviary containing rainforest butterflies - Birdwings Ulysees and more, its great for kids. Wear bright colored clothing to get the butterflies to land on you.
- 3 Rainforestation Nature Park, Kennedy Highway, ☏ . This award-winning attraction is situated five minutes from Kuranda Village. Experience the tropical rainforest on both land and water aboard an amphibious World War II Army Duck. Learn about aboriginal culture with the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience, including a traditional dance performance and boomerang throwing, spear throwing and didgeridoo playing. See native Australian animals including kangaroos, koalas, crocodiles, wombats, dingoes and the cassowary.
- Honey House Kuranda, 7 Therwine Street, ☏ . 9AM-3:30PM. Established in 1959, Honey House Kuranda continues to offer tourists the chance to see live bees working hard to make honey and to sample over 20 North Qld premium raw honey varieties. There is also fresh honeycomb, medicinal honeys and beauty products all made with the highest quality honey. free.
- Skeleton Creek
- 4 Kuranda Scenic Railway. A nice historic scenic railway that basically covers it all that passes through waterfalls and high cliffs, and looks just like the movies.
Much of what there is to do in Kuranda, is part of getting in - that is the SkyRail or the Train.
- Barron Gorge walks. Amazing waterfall-carved gorge 3 km from town. The waterfall is a trickle in the dry season jumping to a torrent in the floods. The road makes a good bushwalk for those with time. Oddly missing from many guidebooks, or understated.
Kuranda is famous for its markets. They run everyday and have a wide range of crafts and locally made products. It's just a short walk from the Skyrail or the Kuranda Scenic Railway station to the village. The shops and markets open from 9AM and many close when the last train leaves at 3:30PM. The Original Rainforest Markets are located in Therwine Street behind the famous Honey House.(see listing above)
There is no shortage of cafe style places in Kuranda. Wander around and choose one that takes your fancy. Take-away food is also plentiful, in many different styles.
The markets have a range of stalls selling food, or even some eat-in style shacks with a view.
- Frogs Restaurant, 11 Coondoo Street (slap bang in the middle of the village), ☏ . 10AM-4PM. One of the original buildings in the village centre built 1923 Frogs has been operating since 1980. A great laid back spot with lots of atmosphere
Try the "Bottom Pub" just near Skyrail for a bit of local atmosphere - not bad
- 1 Kuranda Rainforest Retreat, 3 Greenhills Road (cnr of Kennedy Highway (National Route 1)).
- Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve is 10 min drive west of Kuranda. Here you can view lions, tigers, bears, hippos, baboons.