From Cairns, Australia, my wife and I took a tour to Kuranda village and Rainforestation. There are three ways to go there. We can choose scenic railway (classic train that goes across mountain areas with beautiful view and multiple tunnels), or we can choose to take skyrail (gondola lift with spectacular view), or we can rent a car and drive there.
I choose scenic railway to go to Kuranda and skyrail for the journey back to Cairns.
The journey started early morning by a coach pick up from our hotel to Freshwater Railway Station. It’s a nice station with small area being set up as museum.
Travel time from Freshwater to Kuranda is around 90 minutes. Most of the time we can see trees, hills and valleys. There are some nice spots to take photos, including waterfalls and some turnover where we can take photos of the train itself.
The seats on the train is set up for 4 people each row, with pathway located on the left side. Kinda tight for my preference, but still bearable. They should have made the seats for 2 person on the left, put the pathway in the middle, then another 2 seats on the right. That would give more people access to the window so they can take photos.
Passenger seats are pre-allocated using carriage number and seat number in our tickets. My wife and I got seats with no access to window.
A train crew told us that photo enthusiasts can opt to stand between carriages to get better photos without the reflection from the glass window. Each connection between carriages can hold 2 persons. I tried that, but the journey was too bumpy and I didn’t feel comfortable in hunting some photos while risking my own safety. So I returned inside and found myself an empty seat next to a window.
Our train passed 15 tunnels along the journey. If you want to take photos of your group members inside the train, a good trick is to wait until the train is inside a tunnel. When the train is inside a tunnel, the train windows will show dark tunnel, so most camera can detect the scene better. When the train is outside a tunnel, bright light will enter from windows, resulting in photos with dark faces.
There was one brief stop to give passengers some chance to enjoy the beautiful Barron Fall. We were allowed to get off the train, but not to wonder around too far as the train will resume its journey soon.
Kuranda is a small village. The main street (Koondoo St) is located around 5-10 minutes walk from Kuranda Railway Station heading West. There are various kinds of shops there, including souvenir shops, jewelry shops, craft shops and art centers. We can also grab some lunch there.
Some stores on the North-West area are not as fancy as the ones on the main street, but they offer more-traditional feel of shopping (and unique merchandise too). If you like Japanese (or Vietnamese) food, you might want to grab a map there and find an area called “Original Kuranda Rainforest Markets”. It’s located at the intersection of Therwine St and Thooree St.
Heading West to Rob Veivers Drive, we can find Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and Australian Venom Zoo. At the intersection of Rob Veivers Dr and Therwine St we can find Birdworld Kuranda and Kuranda Koala Gardens.
From Kuranda, our next destination is Rainforestation Nature Park. We went there by bus, but you can choose to drive there.
The first area in Rainforestation is called Koala and Wilflife Park. It’s a small area where we can see koalas, kangaroos, dingos, crocodiles and other Australian animals. The kangaroos are roaming free and visitors can pet or feed them. They seemed to be very accustomed to humans and didn’t even move much when kids are playing with them.
The dingo I saw there was very funny. He kept moving around repeating the same route over and over again. The crocodiles are… rather scary, as they have a big crocodile named “Jack the ripper” there. The name came from his “history” of killing 12 female crocodiles.
My wife and I were lucky. We finished earlier from Kuranda and went to Rainforestation earlier than the rest of our group. So we got to see the animals by ourselves first, taking lots of photos without other visitors around, then we re-joined our group later on and saw the same animals again, but this time on guided tour.
The next adventure is roaming the rainforest on a vehicle called “army duck”. This thing is a modified version of military vehicle, can operate on land and water, but rather slow. Our tour guide Sarah was a nice and fun person. She made the journey interesting with her way of explaining about the special plants.
There are many unique plants there. But the ones caught my attention were called Stinging Tree and NQ Fan Palm. Stinging Tree is a plant with poisonous leaves that look very smooth, but will sting and hurt us a LOT if we touch them. To make it worse, the pain will stay for months. NQ Fan Palm is a very beautiful and photogenic palm.
Our journey back to Cairns was a Skyrail adventure. I’m afarid of heights, so riding a gondola lift / cable car was never my favorite. But this one particular journey was amazing and unforgettable. I was shaking from fear and from excitement seeing the breathtaking view from above.
Up to 6 persons can share one unit of gondola lift. But in my experience, they usually allow 2 or 3 people from the same group to have a unit for themselves. So there was no mixing/sharing between groups.
When people who are afraid of heights must be in a high location, other people usually told them “not to look down”. But it seemed pointless for us to take a gondola lift and NOT looking down, so I did look down. And as much as it was really scary, I did not regret seeing that spectacular view. So many trees, everywhere. In some locations we saw a river, sometimes we saw birds really close by.
The Skyrail has two stops. The first one is Barron Falls. We saw the waterfall earlier from scenic train, but this time we got to see it again from different lookout location. This stop to see Barron Falls is optional. Some people can opt not to get off their cable car and directly continue their journey. But because many of them choose to directly continue their ride without getting off, the ones who actually got off (including us) need to wait for around 20 minutes in a queue to get an empty unit to continue the journey.
In my case, we have to share our gondola unit with a Dutch couple until the next stop called Red Peak. For this stop, everyone must get off because they need to change gondola unit. This stop is a connecting point between two segments of Skyrail cabling systems. We can choose to take a short sightseeing walk near Red Peak station (around 10 minutes walk).
From Red Peak, we continued our Skyrail journey to the final station near Cairns. A coach already waited for us there to take us back to our hotels. A really long and tiring day, but the unforgettable experience is worth all the efforts.