Amid the different ways to get to Kuranda, the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway are among the most interesting. Like most visitors, I’ve incorporated both options for my trip to Kuranda. Such a combination would allow me to enjoy the best that both the railway and cableway can offer. A combination ticket featuring both attractions can be purchased online (see the links below). Alternatively, you can purchase them from most of the travel agents’ stands dotted around Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas.
Cairns Railway Station
It wasn’t difficult for me to locate the Cairns Railway Station as it is located next to the city’s largest shopping centre, Cairns Central. The railway operates daily all year, except Christmas Day, with two departure at 8.30am and 9.30am respectively. Nevertheless, if you are intending to use the railway, it’s a good idea to check their website as schedules may occasionally vary due to climatic or track maintenance demands.
I chose the 9.30am departure and it was fairly quiet at the station. I understand that most people, especially those traveling in a tour groups, prefer to embark the railway at the next station: Freshwater Station. If you intend to do likewise, do consider reaching the Freshwater Station much earlier. At the station, you can enjoy a short tour of the railway museum and pioneer cottage. For those departing from Cairns Central, like myself, there won’t be enough time to disembark and explore the museum.
There are two classes of travel on the railway: the Heritage Class and the Gold Class. I prefer the Heritage Class as I’ll be traveling in the refurbished, original red-wooden heritage carriages. These authentic timber carriages (some of which are up to 90 years old) exude the old world charm of a by-gone era.
The first stage of the journey as we departed the station brought us through the suburbs. Residents and children enjoyed waving at us (and us at them) as we passed them by. As the train chugged further along the track in the cool morning air, we were welcomed by the wide open fields of the sugar cane plantations.
After the open fields, the railway slowly snaked its way up the Macalister Range.
Construction of the railway started in 1882. When completed in 1891, it was considered a monumental engineering feat. Hundreds of men were employed to build the 15 hand-made tunnels and 37 bridges. In addition, three million cubic metres of earth had to be excavated during construction of the railway.
Rising from sea level to 328m, the journey to Kuranda took approximately 1 hour 45 minutes (with a brief stop at the Barron Falls lookout).
Barron Falls Lookout
Just before we approached the stunning Barron Gorge, the train travelled passed the Robb’s Monument. This impressive monolith is named after the contractor John Robb and serves as a memorial to the railway workers, many of whom were Italian or Irish.
There were several spectacular waterfalls along the way and the train will stop at one lookout for us to enjoy the sweeping view of the Barron Falls. We had a few minutes to take photos and enjoy the view before the train attendants invited us back on to the train.
Kuranda Railway Station
From Barron Falls, the train made its way to Kuranda Station. Kuranda Station is a beautiful building blended with its tropical gardens. For souvenir hunters, the Kuranda Railway Tea Rooms at the station offer a great range of souvenirs and refreshments.
That’s all folks – a short write-up of my journey on the Kuranda Scenic Raily. Next up: my return journey to Cairns on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.