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Kuranda Scenic Railway

Home > Cairns > Day Trips | Escape the City | Family | Places of Interest | Trains
by Rose (subscribe)
In the words of JR Tolkien "Not all those who wander are lost". My passion and loves are my family, travel and writing. I'm fortunate to be able to combine all three for an extraordinary life adventure....
Published March 4th 2018

As we board the Kuranda Scenic Railway's historic and beautifully restored carriages built in the early 1900s, I feel like I have stepped back in time.

A rush of anticipation and a sense of adventure washes over me as my mind fills with fond childhood memories of special family train outings.

Train journeys are the ultimate way to travel for a truly memorable experience. It provides you with the time and the opportunity to savour and soak in the ambience of your surrounds - endless scenic panoramic views, regardless of where your destination lies.

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns
Childhood memories in the making

Amazing train journeys around the world have been characterised by an appealing aura of mystery, romance and adventure. Across cultures, landscapes and time, train journey's have depicted travel experiences like no other, a chance to escape the urban cities and to venture forth into a wild and untamed countryside.

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns
World class scenic train journey here in Cairns

To rival any scenic train journey experience, is Cairns very own, enticing 37 km journey through World Heritage Rainforest. A train journey which winds its way upwards through 15 tunnels, 37 towering bridges and a climb of 327m above sea level to the popular and iconic village of Kuranda.

Charming stations

The Cairns train station is located in the centre of the city, and you can choose to board the Kuranda Scenic Railway at either the Cairns or the Freshwater stations. The Freshwater station offers a vintage style restaurant where you can enjoy a coffee, snack or full breakfast before you begin the exciting journey ahead.

With our tickets in hand, we entered the train's timber heritage carriage, and easily located our comfortable and roomy seats. The polished timber, charming and ornate detailed ceiling designs are reminiscent of a bygone era, which has been lovingly restored. As a family, we occupied our own section of seats meaning that both our sons had the sought after window seats.

The historic Kuranda Scenic Railway provides a unique 1.5 hour experience suitable for the whole family. Sit back, relax and enjoy the Cairns to Kuranda journey through lush fresh rainforest and eye-catching waterfalls.

The open windows provide a cool and refreshing breeze bringing the rainforest smells and sights into the carriage so that we can feel connected to the landscape that passes by.

From our starting point in Cairns City, the Kuranda Scenic Railway saunters past iconic Queenslander homes, fields of sugar canes amongst a rainforest backdrop.

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns
Passing by fields of sugar cane

There are toilets on board and filtered water stations are strategically placed in the carriages for refills and thirsty travellers. You can bring takeaway drinks and snacks for consumption on the train, whether these are packed from home or bought at the train station terminals.

There is commentary on board the Kuranda Scenic Railway throughout the trip. You can also download the free commentary app (available for iOS and Android) in a range of languages including English, German, Japanese and Mandarin.

The journey is an opportunity to learn more about the history of the region and of the engineering feat and physical labour which enabled this amazing construction of the narrow gauge railway to become a reality.

In today's modern world of machinery and comforts, it can be difficult to imagine the scale and magnitude of work that was involved in one of the most ambitious railway projects ever undertaken in the region.

As the train meanders through the historic town of Redlynch and begins the journey through the first of the 15 tunnels (with the longest at 490 metres), it is an opportunity to appreciate the many risks and challenges faced by those who hand carved these magnificent tunnels while working along the cliff face.

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns
Image by Port Douglas Tourism Centre

As the train travels across the prominent 80m towering bridge, we come within metres of the stunning Stoney Creek Falls.

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns
Stoney Creek Falls

Beyond the Falls are the spectacular views of the magnificent panaromic views of the Coral sea out to the horizon.

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns
Picturesque view of the Coral Sea

Soon after, we pass the charming homes which are nicely nestled into the rainforest suburbs of Lake Placid and Kamerunga.

The Barron Gorge National Park is home to rugged mountains, ravines, the amazing Barron Falls and a diverse range of plant and animal species. It was listed as a World Heritage site in 1988. It is here at the Barron Falls station lookout where the Kuranda Scenic Railway comes to a gentle halt and we can disembark for a ten minute stop to admire the spectacular views.

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns, Barron Falls
Spectacular Barron Falls

Regardless of the time of year, Barron Falls won't disappoint. Whether in full wet season or during the dry, the Falls are a stunning attraction standing at an impressive 329m above sea level and which have a magical quality about them even from afar.

After 1.5 hours of intently taking in all the journey has to offer, we arrive at the beautiful Heritage-listed Kuranda station surrounded by lush greenery and tropical gardens.

Kuranda scenic railway, Kuranda train station
Destination: Kuranda

It is a destination worthy of a special and unique journey!

We disembarked ready to explore and discover the village rainforest that is Kuranda. The township offers a variety of options and places to visit during your day outing.

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns
Helpful and friendly staff on board and at the Cairns and Kuranda stations

We chose to wander along the River Esplanade and head to the Prehistoric Museum filled with very cool gems, rocks and fossils and located in the atmospheric rainforest market zone. The markets are a great place to grab a snack, find a cool outfit or simply stretch out for a massage!

Kuranda scenic railway, cairns, Kuranda, Prehistoric museum
Fossils, gems and rocks to view

We then strolled through the main street, stopping into shops and galleries. We also visited the Butterfly Sanctuary in the afternoon, learning more about the life cycle of these beautiful and inspiring creatures.

Up close at the Butterfly Sanctuary

Whatever you chose, there is always plenty to see and do in Kuranda. If you want to whittle away a few leisurely hours simply relaxing in this feel-good town, then simply find yourself a nice spot to settle in for the day!

Kuranda scenic railway, Kuranda
Hanging out with nature at Kuranda

Before long, it was time to head back to the lovely Kuranda station, only a few minutes walk away to enjoy our return journey home.

Kuranda scenic railway, Kuranda
Beautiful indigenous artistry on the locomotive

Awaiting us was the colourful locomotive beautifully adorned in the artistry of Aboriginal local artist, George Riley who portrays the legend of the Buda-Dji. The Carpet Snake is said to have carved out the Barron Gorge which is a sure highlight of the Kuranda Scenic Railway's exciting journey.
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Why? Experience one of the most unique rail journeys in Australia. Discovering the living colour and natural beauty of a world heritage listed rainforest that's millions of years old.
When: The Kuranda Scenic Railway operates daily all year, except Christmas Day. Schedules may occasionally vary due to climatic or track maintenance demands. 8:30am and 9:30am departures from Cairns Railway Station. 9:55am and 10:55am departures from Fr
Phone: Inside Australia call; 1800 KSRAIL(577 245) or 61 7 4036 9333 outside Australia
Where: Cairns City to Kuranda
Cost: Prices vary. Heritage, Gold and Royale Class options available. Family tickets or individual child or adult fares available. Please see website and/or contact KSR directly for further information and for bookings.
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