Rainforest journey up the Kuranda Range
The Kuranda Scenic Railway is unique experience for visitors to the Cairns region as they sit back and enjoy lush rainforest and stunning mountain views on the historic Kuranda Range travelling in refurbished carriages as the train winds up the mountain. Image supplied by Kuranda Scenic Railway.
Historic: The Kuranda Train Station is festooned with tropical plants and historic features. The train journeys to the mountain village twice a day and is the perfect introduction to unique Kuranda. Image supplied by Tourism Queensland.
Arts and crafts: Kuranda Village is home to a number of creative artists who create intricate works that make excellent souvenirs. Image Tourism Queensland.
Jungle jewel: The Kuranda Skyrail Cableway is an exciting way to see the rainforest up close as visitors glide among the trees crossing the Kuranda Range road and stopping for informative talks about the local rainforest. Image Tourism Queensland.
About a half hour drive west of Cairns city is the Atherton Tableland and at the top of the Kuranda Range on the Kennedy Highway is Kuranda.
Running from the Bellenden Ker Range in the south to the Great Dividing Range in the north, the Atherton Tablelands range from 600m to 1100m above sea level and are a cool getaway from the coastal plain around Cairns city.
Known as the village in the rainforest, Kuranda has a wealth of nature-based attractions, art, culture and shopping to enjoy.
Getting to Kuranda: Kennedy Highway
To the north of Cairns is the Kennedy Highway that runs up the Kuranda Range and begins in the suburb of Smithfield about 14km north of Cairns city. Commonly known as the ‘Kuranda Range’, the road is about 12km long and rises to a level of about 430m about sea level. It’s mainly two lanes with a number of overtaking bays and lookouts on the way up.
At the top of the range is the village of Kuranda, founded in 1888 after the area was discovered in 1876. The original Smithfield track remained the same until 1937 when a project to create the current road was begun in 1940.
There is now a state government plan to make major changes to the Kuranda Range road due to it’s increased use, not only for tourists but also increasingly as a commuter route as more people move to the Atherton Tableland to live.
Whether you choose a trip back through time on an historic train or the modern technology of a cable car gliding through the treetops, getting to Kuranda is an exciting experience.
Kuranda Scenic Railway is the original rail journey to the village. The historic Kuranda train travels over bridges and through tunnels hand-made by North Queensland’s pioneers more than 100 years ago. Traversing the World Heritage listed rainforest of the Barron Gorge National Park; it is one of the world’s great railway journeys.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes you on a 7.5km trip over the top of the World Heritage listed tropical rainforest. Gliding just metres above the rainforest canopy in comfortable six‑person gondola cabins, the Skyrail journey immerses you in an intimate rainforest experience where you’ll see, hear, smell and become part of the rainforest environment.
If you drive the winding 25km Kuranda Range road, don’t forget to stop at the lookout for magnificent views across Cairns to Green Island and drive through the village to the spectacular Barron Falls lookout.
Kuranda Shopping & activities
Once in Kuranda you can wander the picturesque village admiring the quaint buildings which have been restored and now house a variety of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops selling handcrafted goods, Aboriginal artefacts and art.
Take the time to visit some the nature-based Kuranda tourist attractions. With about 500 birds, Birdworld Kuranda is home to Australia’s largest collection of free flying birds which can be seen in their natural habitat.
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary’s 3666 cubic metre aviary is home to more than 1500 magnificent tropical butterflies, all local to the area, including the electric blue Ulysses butterfly and the largest butterfly in Australia, the Cairns or Australian Birdwing.
Cuddling a koala is the most popular thing to do at Kuranda Koala Gardens, but you can also see snakes, crocodiles, wallabies and wombats. Army duck rides, a koala wildlife park and Aboriginal dancers are just some of the highlights at Rainforestation Nature Park.
An historical attraction in Kuranda is The Honey House on Therwine St. First opened in the late 1960s, The Honey House showcases locally produced honeys that are completely pure with no heating, blending or filtering taking place.
For a relaxing experience, the Kuranda Riverboat Cruise is worth a look as it travels the calm waters of the upper Barron River. The guided tour points out and explains the local wildlife and vegetation. Access is via the Esplanade on the Barron River, which is a short walk below the Kuranda Railway and Skyrail stations.
Visitors can also enjoy the rainforest on one of the six new walking tracks around the village from easy trails that take you on a gentle walk to the river or a strenuous bushwalk to the Barron Falls.
The Kuranda World Heritage listed rainforest has 1200 species of flowering plants. Discover orchids, ginger plants, strangler figs, palms and a variety of climbing plants.
One of the more easily accessible National Parks in the Cairns region is the Barron Gorge National Park outside Kuranda. The Barron Gorge has a fantastic viewing platform of the Barron Falls during the rainy season and a complex boardwalk the wanders through the rainforest and down the side of the river.
There are plenty of Kuranda accommodation options available in Kuranda including B ‘n’ Bs, a caravan park with units and bungalows, a 1920s-style hotel, a motel, a resort, self-contained villas and a backpacker’s hostel. During the peak tourism season it is worth booking in advance however.