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....
'It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters the most' (Ernest Hemingway)
As my family and I stood waiting to board the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, I thought about this quote.
For our day visit to Kuranda, a village in the rainforest and 27 kms north of Cairns, we could have easily arrived by car travelling along the Kennedy Hwy via the scenic Kuranda range road. This would've made perfect sense, especially given my feelings of 'discomfort' at heights.
So why was I standing here, getting ready to board a gondola that was going to take my family and I gliding high above the rainforest canopy?
Simple. Instead of being seated in the driver/passenger seat of our car, catching a glimpse of the surrounding rainforest through bits of dirt-flecked glass, smoky fumes and with distracted children, we were going to travel high above the rainforest canopy with hearts in our mouths, as we marveled at the 360-degree uninterrupted views that we could all share together as a family.
Our rainforest experience would begin from the moment we set foot in the gondola. We could travel as slowly or as quickly as we liked, stopping to explore along the way. Ultimately, we were keen to equally experience the journey of getting there as arriving at the destination itself.
Skyrail is situated in the World Heritage listed Barron Gorge National Park, 15 minutes north of Cairns city. Even today the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway remains the most environmentally sensitive cableway project in the world with multiple awards and recognition for its sustainable conservation efforts.
The gondolas depart from the Smithfield terminal from 9:00am and run continuously throughout the day to Kuranda terminal and back, with the last departure at 3:45pm.
As we excitedly hopped on board our own gondola and headed up and away, we ascended to one of the tallest towers at 40.5 m as we headed for Red Peak station. This truly provided a scenic panoramic view of Cairns, the hinterland and out over the Coral Sea.
There are two stations along the journey; Red Peak and Barron Falls, where you can choose to stop and disembark at either or both if you wish. It is completely up to you whether you choose to stop or continue the direct trip to Kuranda. Of course, as we were on a journey of discovery, we decided to stop at both stations on our way to Kuranda.
There are free basic trip pamphlet guides available in 11 languages, which describe the various characteristics of the rainforest and some of the typical flora which is found in these areas as you travel along the approximately 1 hr and 30 min journey (including the 20-30 min stop at both stations).
Our first stop was Red Peak station and as the name suggests, it is also one of the highest points along the 7.5 km cable and stands at a cool 545 metres.
There are ranger-guided tours which run continuously every half hour or so and take approximately 20 mins, so there is usually only a short wait time before the next one begins. You are also free to wander around the area and boardwalk on your own if you wish. The ranger-guided tour provides some information and background to this amazing diverse and ancient rainforest.
There was a brief wait to get back onto the cableway to continue our journey through more lush, world heritage diverse rainforest passing just metres over the rainforest canopy. My children were able to spot Golden Lawyer cane or 'Wait a while', as well as Strangler figs and Basket ferns, familiarising themselves with the amazing beauty and nature's wonderland that was all around us.
Our second stop, Barron Falls, took us on a walk to 3 stunning lookout points over the Falls. We could only imagine what these impressive falls would look like at the height of the wet season when such thundering rainfall would gush and cover such a large area.
We also enjoyed the CSIRO interactive centre located at the Barron Falls station area, learning more about the various animals and plants which live in this natural World Heritage protected habitat. Toilets are available on site.
Learning more about the rainforest flora and fauna
The Kuranda terminal is superbly located. There is a shuttle bus to take you into town and to some of the main attractions, otherwise, it is a short and enjoyable walk into town along the main street. An easy and pleasant stroll with our young children.
There are also endless shopping opportunities, a 1.5km river esplanade and a range of cafes and eateries including the home of Kuranda's specialty homemade boiled candy and yummy baked cookies.
We chose an easy afternoon, wandering along the main street and visiting the Kuranda rainforest markets which have a vibrant, colourful and relaxed vibe. It features creative bold murals and a rustic tropical feel with market holders interwoven amongst the natural surrounds. Here you'll find cool locally designed and made fashion, handcrafted jewellery, indigenous artists, a funky hairdresser, artistic baked bread and everything in between. Enjoy a feel-good massage, a new style or the best homemade falafels and lemonade you have ever tasted. For more information, click here.
Your time in Kuranda could include anything from a couple of hours to a full day depending on how much time you have and what you choose to do. Regardless of how long you choose to stay, your journey there and back will have meant you've not only enjoyed a visit to a lovely rainforest village but you will have experienced a unique and special journey through and above the rainforest itself.
Begin or end your journey with a refreshing drink, great coffee or a delicious snack at the Skyrail Canopy cafe located at Smithfield terminal.
Plan your journey to Kuranda however you wish. Choose your own adventure! Stop at one, both or neither of the 2 stations on the way to Kuranda or on the return journey home. The day is yours to jump on and off as you like with gondolas running continuously throughout the day.
For something a little different, there is also the option of choosing a combination journey where one way is completed by Skyrail Cableway and the other on the Kuranda Scenic Railway train (additional costs apply).
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway also offers the Skyrail 'Diamond view' gondolas with a clear glass bottom for the opportunity to see the rainforest beneath your feet or for thrill seekers the Skyrail 'Canopy Glider'. See website or contact customer service for more information.
Advance bookings for any of these journey's are recommended.
It is possible to carry daypacks and folded strollers onto gondolas.
Staff are on hand at the various terminals and stations to assist passengers on and off the gondolas. At times the Cableway may stop or slow down to assist passengers on or off as needed. Boarding is a nice and easy process even with young kids in tow.
* The Skyrail Rainforest foundation raises funds to support important research and educational projects in the area- to find out more click here.
Cost:One way options available or Return skyrail experience; Adult: $77.00, Child (4-14yo): $38.50 Family (2xA, 2x Ch): $192.50. One way Skyrail and One way Kuranda Scenic Railway experience; Adult: $101 Child: $50.50 Family: $252.50