|Departing on the Skyrail Cableway from Cairns with the Coral Sea in the distance|
We walked from Tjapukai next door to the Caravonica Terminal to board the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. From there, it's a 7 kilometer ride over Barron Gorge National Park to Kuranda taking about 90 minutes. Don't worry! You (and your children's tiny bladders) aren't trapped in this steel and glass bubble the whole time. The cableway makes two stops on the way so that you can disembark and explore the lush rainforest. Only about 30 minutes is in the air while the remainder is spent walking among the flora and fauna of the area.
As we passed over the McAlister Range, the Coral Sea and the coastline disappeared behind us. It took us 10 minutes to reach Red Peak Station, and the family enjoyed the view of the vast forest below us. At Red Peak, we got off to take a stroll around the 175 meter boardwalk trail. The trees towering over us are so different than the ones in the Malaysian tropical rainforest. My son especially liked a fern that had attached itself halfway up a tree trunk and surrounded it like an upturned skirt. You may even come face-to-face with a cassowary if you're lucky or unlucky, depending on how you view a close encounter with this large, fierce bird. At the very least, you can examine the cassowary droppings on display at the station.
|Hint: Read this BEFORE you encounter a cassowary.|
After getting back on the Cableway, we once again found ourselves sailing far above the trees that eventually part to reveal dramatic Barron Gorge. This portion of the trip takes about 14 minutes. At Barron Falls Station, you can walk down to a few viewing platforms to enjoy gazing at the falls at your leisure. These powerful falls were harnessed to generate hydroelectric energy back in the 1930s. This stop has about 400 meters of easy trails as well as the Rainforest Interpretation Center. It's not big, but the interactive exhibits were informative and interesting. Then, it's back in the cablecar for the 10 minute journey to the final stop, Kuranda Terminal.
|Heading over the Barron River to Kuranda Terminal|
From the terminal, it was a short, uphill walk to Kuranda which calls itself the "Village in the Rainforest." There was so much to do up there! If we had a whole day, we may have enjoyed the walking trails, Koala Gardens, Birdworld, riverboat tours, Rainforestation Nature Park or the Butterfly Sanctuary. However, we only had a few hours until our train departed for our return to Cairns.
First off, we needed lunch as our tummies were growling. The main street of Kuranda has a wide selection of eateries, and we decided on the outside deck of the aptly named Kuranda Rainforest View Restaurant.
|We didn't get to the aviary, but we did see a wild cockatoo at lunch.|
Afterwards, we had about an hour to stroll up and down the street window shopping at all the arts and crafts galleries, jewelry stores, and little stores. It's no surprise what kind of place caught my kids' eyes. We had time for some sweets and treats before heading to the train.
|Kuranda Candy Kitchen|
The narrow-gauge Kuranda Scenic Railway departs Kuranda twice a day at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. We had reservations for the later time and definitely did not want to arrive to see the train pulling out of the station. It takes about 90 minutes to reach Freshwater Station where we got off or 2 hours to get all the way to Cairns. A range of class options are available with the fancier ones offering a dedicated hostess and refreshments. We settled for the budget Heritage Class which was just fine.
|Waiting for the All Aboard call|
The train makes a brief stop so that everyone can get off for a look at Barron Falls. I thought the view at this angle was quite stunning and much better than from the cableway station on the opposite side. A weir at the top of the falls intercepts some of the water and channels it to a hydroelectric power station, decreasing the volume of water that would have otherwise cascaded down the rocky slope.
|Barron Falls cascades down 260 meters to the bottom of Barron Gorge.|
As we listened to the clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails, a commentary on the speakers told us about the history of the railway and the area landmarks. We also received a souvenir guide with more information and a map. I will admit that the recently purchased candy also provided some amusement during the ride.
The main engine pays tribute to the Aboriginal dreamtime legend surrounding Barron Gorge and Barron River. The story tells us of Buda-dji, the Carpet Snake who carved out the river and its tributaries. This famous snake is depicted on the engine in traditional Aboriginal artwork.
|Buda-dji the Carpet Snake winds down the side of the engine.|
As we made our way down from the Tablelands, we had plenty of time to gaze out the windows that were open to let in air. We passed by smaller waterfalls, saw steep ravines and traversed trestle bridges. Near the end, I was quite excited to see a wallaby hop across the tracks. All my Aussie friends are amused that the rest of the world loves kangaroos and wallabies so much, but I thought seeing this animal topped off our outing nicely.
|Enjoying the passing landscape|
We had gone to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef, so spending an excellent day learning about Aboriginal culture and then riding both cablecars and train carriages was an unexpected bonus. I highly recommend it!
IF YOU GO:
- Package tours including Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, the Skyrail Cableway, and the Kuranda Scenic Railway are easy to find. You can do it early online at a discount or at one of the many tour operators with storefronts in the touristy part of Cairns or at your hotel once you get there. They are available both with our without transfers from your hotel.
- If you drive yourself, keep in mind that the Skyrail Caravonica Terminal in Cairns and the Kuranda Railway Station in Cairns are about 15 minutes away from each other by car. You will need a way to get back to where you parked your car if a transfer is not included in your ticket.
- You can also go the opposite way taking the Kuranda Railway up (2 morning departures) and the Skyrail Cableway back down. However, you may not have time to do everything at Tjapukai.
A Visit to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Why My Kids Love the Sydney Opera House
The Allure of Uluru (Ayers Rock)
It's the Great Penguin, Charlie Brown (Kangaroo Island)
This post is part of "Travel Photo Thursday" on Budget Travelers Sandbox, "Oh, The Places I've Been!" at The Tablescaper, and Sunday Traveler at Ice Cream and Permafrost. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.