Getting to Kuranda is half the fun – the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Skyrail line both offer stunning views from Cairns and up to the forest-covered hills into town and the steep winding road through the rainforest makes for a great drive. It is for this reason that most of the tourist activity is highest at midday when the day trippers are perusing the markets and taking photos.
The small town of Kuranda is relaxed and friendly and it is worth an overnight if you have time to spare. Look out for heightened prices on the day tripper circuit, though. There are a few good wildlife sanctuaries in the area and a large Aboriginal community. The daily markets are the biggest draw card, with fresh produce and crafts on display every morning. Kuranda is not far from the Barron Gorge National Park with its gorgeous waterfalls, which are especially mighty in the wet season.
Whitecar Coaches (tel (07) 4091 1855) operate a regular service from Cairns to Atherton, stopping at Kuranda along the way.
If you’ve slept in and missed the train, you can always take the Skyrail cable car (tel (07) 4038 1555) – the world’s longest gondola cableway that runs to Kuranda above the rainforest for 7½km from Smithfield, north of Cairns. It is possible to get off at points along the way to explore the rainforest.
The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway operates 8.15am-5.15pm daily. As you would expect, this is an expensive transport option at $40 for a one-way, $58 return or $80 returning by train.
The train is the nicest way to travel from Cairns to Kuranda. The Kuranda Scenic Railway (tel (07) 4031 3636) operates the historic train and the ride is so popular that most people rate the train trip higher than Kuranda itself, although others find the endless commentary a little irritating. Trains leave Cairns at 8.30am and 9.30am, returning at 2pm and 3.30pm. The train isn’t cheap at $40 ($33 students) for a one-way ticket or $59 ($53 students) return.
6 Arara Street, Kuranda
Tel (07) 4093 7355
This large aviary is home to Australia’s largest collection of free flying birds representing almost 80 species.
Heritage Markets, Therwine Street, Kuranda
Tel (07) 4093 9188
Admission $15; $38 including admission to the Butterfly Sanctuary and Koala Gardens
Open 9am-4pm daily
Just like Birdworld, but with butterflies. There are regular guided tours that depart every 10-15 minutes.
8 Rob Vievers Drive, Kuranda
Tel (07) 4093 7575
Admission $16; $38 including admission to Birdworld and Koala Gardens
Open 10am-4pm daily
The Kuranda Koala Gardens are similar to Birdworld and the Butterfly Sanctuary, but with koalas.
Rob Vievers Drive, Kuranda
Tel (07) 4093 9953
Admission $15, an additional $13 if you want to hold a koala; $38 including admission to Birdworld and the Butterfly Sanctuary
Open 9am-4pm daily
The most popular attraction in Kuranda is the Kuranda Markets, which feature arts and crafts as well as clothing stalls.
Corner Therwine & Thooree Streets, Kuranda
Open 8.30am-3pm daily, but it’s best to visit Wed-Sun when the original markets are also open