Travel Guides
The Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest are two of the main reasons people visit Cairns and with a friend in town for the weekend we decided to show them at least one. After a bit of a conference we decided we would visit the rainforest via the Kuranda Scenic Train and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Something that influenced our decision was that we went to take some photos of Surprise Creek, near Barron Gorge Power Station, just as the Kuranda Scenic train crossed the bridge high above us.

Please visit our Skyrail, Skyway & Cablecar Tours to select your suitable one.

 

 
 

You can join the train from either the Cairns Central Railway Station in the CBD attached to the Cairns Central Shopping Centre or the Freshwater Connection Railway Station. As the Freshwater station was closer to home we decided on that option. The station itself is worthy of more than just a passing through visit. As well as plaques covering some of the history of the area the building is a beautify maintained reminder of the glory days of rail travel, even the toilets warrant a visit as they are made from local Chillagoe marble.

As a bonus there was a Sugar Cane Harvester working the fields near the station, so we managed to tick off another North Queensland icon.

 

 

Another advantage of departing from the Freshwater connection is you can relax with a cuppa in the café if you arrive a little early. We upgraded to the ‘Gold Class’ ticket so we enjoyed our complementary mocktails (it was before 10am), prior to boarding. Soon enough the train arrived and we were on our way to Kuranda.
The carriages are beautifully restored and upgraded heritage carriages and as we were travelling in the gold class we had comfy lounge style seats although I must say the regular seats look pretty good too. There is commentary throughout the staff are always there to recommend which side of the train to be on for the best photo opportunities.

 

The total journey takes under 2 hours travelling through 15 tunnels and numerous bridges. The most notable bridge is the one over Stoney Creek Falls. Even in the dry season the falls are impressive and I have been there is the wet season also, when the waterfall cascades over the train. It is hard to believe that the rail line, tunnel and bridges were built, by hand, over 100 years ago.

Each time you round a bend or come out of a tunnel you get a different glimpse of Cairns and the ocean, in our case it was a wonderfully clear winter’s day so we could see Green Island and beyond towards the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Just before arriving at Kuranda you stop at the Barron Falls. The falls consist of a series of steep tiered falls where the river drops 125M into the valley below. Even in the dry season there is enough water flowing over the falls to make them spectacular. There were a few brave, maybe crazy, locals climbing down the falls to find that perfect secluded swimming spot! It is only a short train ride to Kuranda where the train station is an attraction in itself. Apart from the beautifully maintained buildings and switching points, the gardens and hanging plants are spectacular, worth photographing even if plants are not your thing!
 

Skyrail and Train Booking Guide

Not sure which Skyrail or Train option is best for you? check out our booking guide.

Booking Guides

From the Kuranda Train Station it is a short walk into Kuranda, although it can be a little steep, but you could always stop at the pub for a refreshing drink. There is plenty to see and do in Kuranda, you can take a river cruise, cuddle a koala or just stroll around town. Artist galleries, markets, cafes and restaurants are  dotted throughout the streets of Kuranda.

After lunch we headed back to the Skyrail terminal for the journey home. We had chosen the diamond gondolas which have a glass floor so you can watch the rainforest beneath you as well as around you. I really enjoyed it, however, one of my travelling companions gets a little bit of motion sickness so the glass floor was a little unsettling for him. The other advantage of the diamond gondolas in that you have a dedicated boarding line, so you avoid the queues, although no one seemed to be waiting that long.

 

 

 

The first Skyrail station on the way back is Barron Falls station which is on the other side of the river to the train station. We were lucky that the afternoon train was just leaving as we arrived so we got a great view of the train leaving the station on the other side of the river. Being on the other side of the river also gave a different perspective on the falls, and a better view down the valley.

The second stop is Red Peak station and it is very interesting to walk among the bases of the trees having just been looking down on them from the Skyrail. When standing at the base you do not get the perspective of just how tall some of the trees are as they shoot skyward to compete for sunlight.

 

 

 

My favourite part of the day was leaving Red Peak station where you come over the top of the McAlister range and head back down towards Cairns. As you start the descent Cairns and the Coral Sea appears out of the rainforest, it is a wonderful sight. In one direction you can see Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef, to the north the beaches, to the south is the city and behind and below you rainforest. For me, this is reason to travel up on the train and home on the Skyrail. The other fun thing is watching the cars below you as the Skyrail goes over the Kuranda Range.

 

 

 

 

Cairns Travel Guide

Want to know more about the Cairns area, including top tours, latest specials, travel information and plenty more things to do then read our extensive Cairns Guide.

Read the Guide

Back at the Smithfield Skyrail Station we had a short wait for our transfer back to Freshwater train station, just enough time for a little souvenir shopping and a nice cup of tea. It was a very relaxed day, we started around 9am and made it home before 5pm. There were also lots of other add-ons we could have included, Rainforestation, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, the Butterfly Sanctuary and more, but we decided to leave them for another day. We could have also left earlier or even done the journey in reverse. I have also done the same trip in the middle of the wet season when the rain brings out the colours of the rainforest and waterfalls come alive, so really there is no right time of the year to go, just go!