Kuranda is a picturesque mountain village approximately 25 kilometres from Cairns, in Australia’s Tropical North Queensland surrounded by World Heritage listed rainforest of the Barron Gorge National Park.
For most tourists coming to Cairns, a day trip to Kuranda is a must do and getting there is half the fun via the famous historic Kuranda Scenic Railway or the modern-day Kuranda Skyrail.
Once you have arrived in the Kuranda Village there is a variety of things to see and do including seeing Australia wildlife such as koalas, butterflies, birds, kangaroos and reptiles, learn about Aboriginal culture through dance and demonstrations, see the Barron River and meander through the Kuranda markets looking at local arts and crafts.
The majority of the Kuranda attractions can easily be accessed by foot – most attractions are side by side or only a few minutes’ walk away.
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Things to do in Kuranda
1. Kuranda Scenic Railway
When most people think of Kuranda, they think of the historical Kuranda Scenic Railway. This is a spectacular journey, as the Kuranda train winds its way through the dense world heritage listed rainforest offering passengers breathtaking views of steep ravines, waterfalls and the Barron Gorge.
The Kuranda railway was opened in 1891 and was built for the primary purpose of transporting supplies to the mine workers. Construction of the railway took 5 years, with many lives lost due to the harsh working conditions the men had to endure to build the railway from sea level to 328 metres up the Macalister Range.
The train journey takes just under 2 hours and goes through 15 tunnels, around 93 curves, across 37 bridges mounted many metres above ravines and waterfalls including the spectacular bridge at Stoney Creek Falls, past the breathtaking views of the Barron Falls and through lush dense tropical rainforest before arriving in Kuranda.
The train carriages themselves maintain the feeling of a bygone era with rustic carriages restored to look like the original ones with lovely polished wood work and leather booth style seats.
Along the journey commentary is played informing passengers of various details about how the railway was constructed, as well as pointing out various photo opportunities along the way.
There is one stop along the train journey at Barron Falls. The stop is for around 10 minutes giving passengers an opportunity to take in the fantastic sweeping views of the Barron falls and gorge.
This was the third time I have done this train journey and I have absolutely loved it every single time – honestly in my view you cannot come to Kuranda without experiencing the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
There are 2 departure times from Cairns and Freshwater Station in the morning and 2 departure times from Kuranda in the afternoon.
Ticket prices start at $50 per adult and $25 per child. There are a range of packaged options including entry into a variety of the attractions in Kuranda and a combined journey with the Kuranda Skyrail. Tickets can be purchased directly from Kuranda Scenic Railway.
2. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is another fantastic way to make the journey to or from Kuranda.
The Kuranda Skyrail is a 7.5-kilometre journey gliding across the world heritage listed Tropical Rainforest canopy with spectacular sweeping views of Cairns, the hinterland, the Barron Gorge National Park and the Coral Sea.
Along the way there are 2 stops where passengers can disembark the cable car to explore the rainforest.
The first stop is Red Peak Station which is 545 metres above sea level. Here there is a short walk through the rainforest where you get up closer with a range of gorgeous trees including the 400 year old Kauri Pine. Complementary guided walks are available throughout the day, however there were none leaving at the time we were there so we didn’t get to join.
The second station is the where you get to view the spectacular Barron Gorge and Falls from 3 different lookouts. Unfortunately, when we were there, the gorge did not have much water, but regardless it was still pretty impressive. I can only imagine what it looks like during the wet season. At Barron Falls Station there is also some historical displays as well as some interactive displays which are great for the kids.
The Skyrail was Myla’s favourite attraction in Kuranda and in fact our entire trip to Cairns. She was so excited about being so high in the sky, she was giggling with excitement the entire time.
The journey to or from Kuranda on the Skyrail takes around 90 minutes which allows time to explore the 2 stops along the way.
Ticket prices start at $51 per adult and$25.50 per child. There are a range of packaged options including entry into a variety of the attractions in Kuranda and a combined journey with the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Check the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway website for all the options.
3. Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit in the Southern Hemisphere. The sanctuary is home to over 2000 butterflies from a variety of species and is one of the top things to do in Kuranda.
The Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary is located in the heart of Kuranda and is about a 10-minute walk from the Kuranda train and Skyrail or you can take the free shuttle into the village and walk from there.
It’s quite an experience being able to get up so close to the gorgeous colourful little butterflies. We spent around 30 minutes looking around the butterfly sanctuary.
If you are visiting Rainforestation, there is a shuttle that runs regularly throughout the day between the 2 parks. You can purchase tickets for the shuttle at either park.
Entry is $19.50 for adults or $9.75 for kids. For discounted tickets by them in advance here via Klook or if you plan on visiting other parks such as Rainforestation, Birdworld and / or Kuranda Koala Gardens, it is best to purchase a combined ticket.
4. Rainforestation Nature Park
Rainforestation Nature Park is located in Far North Queensland, and is one of the top things to do in Kuranda. Home to the Army Duck Rainforest tours on land and water, the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience and the iconic Australian animals in the Koala & Wildlife Park.
There are 4 main activities at Rainforestation – Australian wildlife park, Aboriginal demonstrations, Aboriginal performance and the tour of the rainforest via the world war II army ducks. Each activity takes around 30 minutes to complete.
Myla particularly enjoyed the Aboriginal demonstrations which included watching spear throwing, how to play the didgeridoo, boomerang throwing and Aboriginal traditional dancing. She really liked the boomerang throwing.
For me, I really enjoyed the tour on the amphibious Army Ducks. Our guide shared a lot of information about the rainforest as well as the ducks themselves – it’s just amazing how they can go from land into the water.
You will need at least 2 hours to experience everything in the park.
Entry is $49 for adults or $24.50 for kids. For discounted tickets by them in advance here via Klook or if you plan on visiting other parks such as Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld and / or Kuranda Koala Gardens, it is best to purchase a combined ticket.
Located in the heart of Kuranda, at Birdworld you can see some of Australia’s most beautiful birds in their rainforest habitat – birds include cassowary, lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos and many more.
Entry is $18 for adults and $9 for kids.
Allow around 30 minutes to enjoy this attraction.
6. The Australian Venom Zoo
Located in the heart of Kuranda, at the Australian Venom Zoo you can see the world’s most venomous spiders, Australia’s top 5 most venomous snakes as well as a variety of scorpions, centipedes, reptiles and insects.
Guides provide tours with information about the various animals including information about the potency of their venom, their hunting instincts and natural defence mechanisms. You can also see live venom extractions and snake feeding.
Another great thing about this zoo is that they captive breed animal in order to extract their venom which is then sent to a variety of companies across the world for medical research.
Entry is $16 for adults and $11 for kids.
7. Kuranda River Cruises
A great way to explore the Barron River is onboard the Kuranda Riverboat tours. Tours last for 45 minutes and guides provide information about the Kuranda rainforest flora and fauna.
The Barron River is home to a variety of wildlife including crocodiles, turtles, snakes, water dragons, fish and birds.
The boat departs from the riverside landing just below the Kuranda Scenic Railway Station – there are signs directing you.
Tours cost $18 per adult and $9 per child with multiple tours departing each day.
In addition to the river cruises, 1 hour guided rainforest walks with refreshments are also available. Cost is $30 per adult and $15 per child.
8. Kuranda Koala Gardens
Located in the heart of Kuranda, at Kuranda Koala Gardens you can see a variety of Australian wildlife including koalas, crocodiles, kangaroos, wallabies, snakes, wombats and various reptiles.
Entry costs $19 for adults and $9.50 for kids.
Allow around 30 to 60 minutes to enjoy this attraction.
9. Kuranda Village
Once you have looked at all the various attractions, be sure to spend an hour or two wandering around the Kuranda Markets and various shops.
The Kuranda Markets include a range of Aboriginal artefacts, handmade leather goods, jewellery, gorgeous homewares, handmade children’s toys and funky clothes. I absolutely loved the jewellery and clothes in the little boutiques and Myla spent ages admiring the unique handmade kid’s toys.
In the village, there are also a variety of art galleries, cafes, ice cream parlours and lolly shops.
You will also find a variety of buskers and entertainers.
How to get to Kuranda / Getting Around Kuranda
The best way to get to Kuranda is via the Skyrail or the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The journey is spectacular and in my opinion, these are the best two attractions in Kuranda. Make sure you go up one way and down the other.
If you have a car in Cairns I would recommend driving yourself to the Skyrail in Smithfield, getting the cable car up to Kuranda and then taking the last train from Kuranda which leaves at 3.30 pm. From the Freshwater station, a bus will take you back to your car at Skyrail – this does cost extra and needs to be booked in advance.
If you don’t have a car there are transfer options available and the train goes right into Cairns.
In Kuranda itself, you can reach most attractions on foot. It is only a short walk from the Skyrail or Kuranda Scenic Railway station to the Kuranda Village – however the walk is a little steep so if you prefer there is a free shuttle from here into the village.
The only attraction which we visited which is not in the village was Rainforestation. To reach Rainforestation there is a shuttle from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. This is extra.
There is no doubt that a visit to Kuranda is a must for those coming to Cairns. However be aware that many of the attractions and activities in Kuranda are extremely expensive, and whilst we are only a family of 3, for larger families a day trip to Kuranda could really blow the budget. So my advice would be to choose your activities wisely and make use of the packaged ticket options that many of the attractions offer.
If you are not keen on spending money on the various attractions in Kuranda, in my view the journey there and back on the Skyrail and the Kuranda Scenic Railway alone is worth it – so if nothing else do this and just spend your time in Kuranda wandering around the village.
Special thanks to Skyrail, Kuranda Scenic Railway, Rainforestation and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary for hosting our visit.
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