On paper, this tour looks like the least exciting of the 3-day package I booked, but it might have been my favorite (I don’t know though, The Great Barrier Reef by helicopter is hard to beat). I had heard there wasn’t much to the Kuranda Village and that it had aged a bit, which is true to be fair, but the village itself isn’t why you should go. We’ve all heard that sappy phrase “it’s not about the destination, its about the journey” (or some BS along those lines). Well, in this case, that actually does ring true: I rode the Kuranda Scenic Railway up the mountain and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway back down and the journey is what made it worth the trip!
Kuranda Scenic Railway
The tour shuttle guy picked me up right from my hostel and brought me to Freshwater Station. The only downside was that he was early…about 45 minutes early, and there isn’t a whole lot to do at the train station. After grabbing a coffee from the cafe, exploring the station for picture opportunities, and going through the gift shop — twice — it was finally time to board the train.
I was a little disappointed to find that the seats were already preassigned. My first thought was, “Shit. What if I don’t get a window seat and can’t get pictures?” Once on the train, I was relieved to see I had ended up with a window seat (though not the best side)… until the woman across from me proceeded to take off her shoes and put her feet up beside me.
Thankfully, our train car wasn’t full, and at the first opportunity, I moved to get a better, less smelly, spot. My advice? If you’re able to, move to where you can get the best views, it’s not everyday you’re riding a 100-year-old train up a mountain in Queensland, Australia. The most optimal spot to be on the train is towards the middle/back and on the right — that’s the side with the best views.
The only exception is The Stoney Creek waterfall, it’s on the left side, but they warn you it’s coming up and give you plenty of time to get in the perfect photo position.
It’s about a 90-minute train ride up to Kuranda Village, but you hardly notice the time because the views are so amazing. Along the way, they have commentary on the history of the railway’s construction, which is actually pretty interesting (and that’s coming from someone who gets bored easily). The train makes a 10-minute stop at the Baron Gorge where you can get out and take in the views.
The Kuranda Village
Upon arriving in Kuranda at the cutest little train station, you are directed up the hill to the village/shopping area. It’s not that far of a walk, but they do have a little shuttle that will drive you. I’d say if you’re able to, just walk, it’s really not that far or worth the effort of the shuttle.
I had one thing on my mind upon arriving: get the classic Australian picture holding a Koala. It’s illegal in NSW (where Sydney is) so this was my chance! If that’s something you’d want to do as well, I’d suggest going there first as it gets really busy. At $40 for entrance and a koala photo, its a bit of a steep price for what its worth, but I HAD to get that koala pic.
The park itself is very small, but you do get the opportunity to hand feed kangaroos and wallabies which is pretty cool!
After securing my koala pic and getting a quick selfie with a roo, I went to browse the shops around the village. Honestly, it wasn’t anything too special. The shops that did have some nice things, were too expensive, so I was kinda SOL. I decided to grab some lunch at the Kuranda Rainforest View Restaurant (with a name like that, I basically had to eat there, right?).
It was decent at best. I ordered a kangaroo burger but it was way too overpowered with onions, and I spent the majority of my meal swatting away flies. If I had done my research, I would’ve seen that it ranked #28 out of 30 on Trip Advisor for Kuranda Village. I heard good things about Petit Cafe and Frogs, so maybe try one of those instead.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
After lunch, I browsed a few more shops till my “scheduled” sky rail time. I say “scheduled” because you can actually go whenever you want, it’s more about the timing of the shuttle that brings you back to Cairns. I don’t remember doing this when booking the tour, but apparently, I upgraded to the “Diamond View” cabin. It’s an extra $12 per person to upgrade, which isn’t bad and totally worth it — and not just for the extra views of the canopy below.
I was on the tour by myself and was seriously dreading the awkward small talk I was going to be forced to have with whatever people I was crammed into a cabin with. BUT I changed cars 4 times with the different stops down the mountain, and because I was “Diamond View,” I had a cabin to myself every single time! Not that many people had opted to upgrade so there was hardly anyone else riding in them.
There were two stops along the way down, one was optional, the other you had to switch over cabins to the second half of the rail. The first stop is at Barron Falls. This one is optional, but I highly recommend you stop off! There is an easy access walkway that leads you to 3 different lookout points of the Gorge and Falls.
At the second stop, Red Peak Station, you do have to get off and switch cabins for the second half of the Skyrail. This stop also has a short nature boardwalk that gives you the opportunity to explore the forest from ground level. They have guided tours if you’re interested, or you can walk around by yourself.
The second half of the Skyrail journey had the best views. You can see for miles where the rainforest meets the Coral Sea. It’s incredible. I put some Texas country music on (because I had the cabin to myself hehe) and just sat back and took in the views.
I arrived back at the bottom of the mountain with over 45 minutes till my shuttle was scheduled to come (they only come once an hour). There’s only a gift shop and a small cafe in the terminal, so not really much to do. I tried to see if they’d let my ride the Skyrail back up and down, but that was a no go. So I just sat around for awhile waiting for my shuttle to come. It would have been better if the shuttles came every 30 minutes instead. But all around, it was a great tour and definitely worth doing!
What sounds the most exciting to you? Comment below!