Kuranda Day Trip From Cairns Using Scenic Railway & Skyrail

Last Updated on January 22, 2021 by haveclotheswilltravel

Day 2 of our trip to Cairns, Australia was amazing! Now, you might have never heard of the town of Kuranda until now. I certainly hadn’t until I booked our Cairns, Australia trip…but honestly, this day trip to Kuranda was just as much fun for me as snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef! And I was able to bring coffee with me, so it really started well. Haha.

This post will explain how to get from Cairns to Kuranda (and back), what to do when you’re in Kuranda, Australia, tours to avoid booking when planning your trip to Cairns, and accommodation suggestions at the end.

Getting to Kuranda from Cairns (and back)

Transportation options include:

  • Renting a car and driving (click here for current rates) 
  • Taking an Uber directly to Cairns and then back (roughly $50 each way)
  • Taking the Skyrail roundtrip (click here for current rates, station transfers not included)
  • Taking the Scenic Railway one way and then the Skyrail one way (click here for current rates with station transfers included)

It’s a roughly 30-minute drive from Cairns to Kuranda. 

What we did was take the Scenic Railway to Kuranda in the morning, and then took the Skyrail back that evening. I highly recommend doing this!

scenic railway kuranda

Getting to Kuranda from Cairns Using the Scenic Railway

We started our day with riding the Scenic Railway from Cairns to Kuranda from the Freshwater Station. The Scenic Railway has an old-time train that makes its way up the Macalister Range with breathtaking views of the rainforest and mountains. It’s a novel experience!

scenic railway kuranda

kuranda scenic railway inside the train
Inside the train.

We spent nearly an hour at the train station before we boarded our train. (Our package included transfers from our hotel .) So, that gave us plenty of time to also look at the little museum and gift shop at the station and get another coffee! (Yay!)

kuranda scenic railway

The journey itself takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes but is absolutely stunning. The windows are open, so you can even smell the rainforest as you make your way through the mountains.

kuranda scenic railway

The hour and 45 minutes flew by as we admired the views of the mountains, rainforest and even Barron Falls. And if you happened to not get the greatest picture of Barron Falls as the train goes by – don’t worry! There’s also a 10 minute stop at a lookout, so you can get the perfect photo.

Barron Falls
Barron Falls view from the train!

Trains don’t really make me all that excited – but my goodness, I really enjoyed this journey!

Here are a few more photos I snapped from the train as we made our way to Kuranda from Cairns.

Things to do in Kuranda 

The town of Kuranda is a quaint little place nestled in the mountains. It consists of a lot of gift shops, open markets, cute little restaurants and attractions that include:

  • Birdworld
  • The Butterfly Sanctuary
  • Koala Gardens (I would argue that this is the highlight of Kuranda! Keep scrolling to find out why!!)

We had about 4 hours to do what we pleased here before we had to get to Skyrail for our departure time. 

Kuranda

Kuranda Market
A little market in Kuranda.

Koala Gardens

Did you think I honestly wouldn’t take the chance to get close to koalas again? Haha. The second I got off the train in Kuranda I literally RAN to the Kuranda Koala Gardens! The reason I was so excited about visiting this particular koala sanctuary was because here it is possible to hold one of the little cuddly dudes! And that has been a life goal of mine for quite some time.

Koala Gardens Kuranda
When I get asked if I’m ever going to have kids…Haha.

He was so soft! And very calm. Holding him felt similar to holding a baby…a baby with fur and claws (and don’t worry, he wasn’t scratching me). And he didn’t smell bad at all. (I was asked a lot if he was smelly – so I figured I’d clear that up. Haha.)

koala gardens

koala gardens

The koala gardens also had a small area with kangaroos and wallabies you could hand feed. However, compared to Featherdale and the Rainforest Wildlife park we visited in my last post…these guys weren’t too keen to come up to humans. There was one kangaroo with a baby, though. I had never seen a joey in a pouch before! So, that was really cool!

kangaroo

Just a few more snaps from the Koala Gardens.

Getting Back to Cairns Using the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

After the koalas, we spent some time wandering through the shops and getting lunch and coffee before heading to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. These cable cars span 7.5 kilometers and will take you to Skyrail Smithfield (about a 15-minute drive from Cairns) and dangle you above the rainforest canopy for some spectacular panoramic views.

I know I had mentioned what utter crap a similar setup like this was in The Blue Mountains. However, the Skyrail experience here was AMAZING! Wow!

skyrail views

skyrail views

Also, if you’re not on a terribly strict travel budget, I do recommend upgrading to the “Diamond” class for $14 AUD. You get a glass floor bottom and more often than not, you’ll be the only one who bothered to pay the $14…so, you’ll get to breeze through lines and likely get a car to yourself (especially important if you’re traveling during the high tourist season in the winter months).

skyrail
I thought the glass floor was awesome!
skyrail
We had the ride to ourselves!

There were also a couple of stops along the way, and you had the option to get out and walk around the rainforest to take photos. I thought this whole experience was really cool!

And look at all these awesome views!

After we got off the Skyrail, a bus transported us from Smithfield back into Cairns to our hotel. I know I’ve said it a million times in this post – but this was such a cool day!

Now, if you read my previous Cairns post, you’ll know that I WON’T recommend you book the 3-day tour through Travstar I did. But you can still get the Kuranda experience without that tour. 

  • I would recommend booking this ticket, which includes hotel transfers and your Scenic Railway ticket + Skyrail ticket.

Where we stayed in Cairns

We had stayed at the Rydges Esplanade Resort. The pool and restaurant here are FANTASTIC! It’s also in a great location and close to the waterfront and within walking distance of the city centre. Our room was a bit dated, but it was clean and comfortable. I would recommend staying at this hotel.

  • Click here for current Rydges Esplanade Resort rates.
  • Click here to see all hotel rates in Cairns. 

If anyone has any questions about this day trip to Kuranda from Cairns,  please let me know in the comments at the end of this post!

  • Click here to see all of my posts from Australia.
  • Click here to see all of my posts from Cairns. 

*If you liked this post, it is now available as a self-guided walking tour via GPSmyCITY. Click here to download it.

Exploring Kuranda – A Must Do When Visiting Cairns
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Kuranda Day Trip From Cairns Using Scenic Railway & Skyrail

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18 Comments

  1. I’ve been to QLD a few times but never Cairns so I found this really interesting and I loved seeing all the photos. The view from that train looked amazing as well, it reminds me a little of a much better version of the Puffing Billy steam train we have in Melbourne.

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

  2. Hi Lindsey, I hope you had a great weekend. I love your Kuranda diary and photos of you with Koalas. They are such adorable animals. You know, one of our friends, who is originally from Tasmania and lives in Switzerland, plans to go to Australia next month. And he wants to travel to Cairns. I will send him your articles from Cairns so that he knows what to do and what not. Have a great Monday, Lindsey!
    Hugs,
    Miri

    http://currentlywearing.com

  3. I like trains and I am “in love” with this trip, such a great post, dear Lindsey! I loved the train itself, and the cafe at the station, and the waterfall, and and and – all! The market, that the train stops for people to have the best possible picture, the cable cars, the glass floor, the koala! Good that you said there was no bad smell and that the claws weren’t scratching – I thought that, as I saw it! And a joey in the pouch, how cool was that? Such a great trip, I am glad you enjoyed it, cause the bad one was really an ordeal! Hope you have a great weekend, dear Lindsey!
    DenisesPlanet.com

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