A wet day on the Cairns Skyrail & Kuranda Scenic Railway


Cairns is well known for being at the centre of Tropical North Queensland, and while tourist numbers have dropped dramatically in the area it is the perfect place to spend some time with an array of activities and locations to explore. A must do on any visit to Cairns is to experience the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail which gives 360 degree views of untouched tropical rainforest.


The best way to experience both of these activities is to book a one way trip on both, one for the trip up, and one for the trip back as the Skyrail and Scenic Railway both meet at the tourist town of Kuranda. The Kuranda Scenic Railway is controlled by Queensland Railways and the main starting point begins from the historic Freshwater Station just outside of Cairns. Cairns also has its own station near the Cairns Central Shopping Centre, so if you lack the transportation to get to Freshwater and are staying in the Cairns CBD itself this would be the better option.

Before heading on the train itself the weather wasn’t looking too kind, the mountains we were about to head up were covered in stream, a mixture of rain and humidity gave the rainforest this effect, the trip back along the Skyrail wasn’t looking too promising with obstructed views.

As the train makes its way slowly up the hill towards Kuranda, a recording plays in the background pointing out features along the way. When the train arrives at Horse Shoe Bend this signifies the start of the assent up the mountain, the bend is a 180 degree bend in the track linking the Freshwater Valley to Kuranda. Along the way the train will travel through 15 tunnels giving travellers an appreciation of how much work went into creating the railway line.

The train winds its way closer to the summit of the mountain, near the top is Barron Gorge Hydro Power Station, just after passing this point on the train comes to its first scheduled stop at Barron Falls. The impressive size of the falls gives you a great appreciation of what it will look like at full force during the wet season. As we were there as the wet season was just starting the water level was pretty low as you can see from the image.

After the short stop at Barron Falls the train continues along to Kuranda which is only just around the corner from Barron Falls, so the remaining trip does not take long at all. As the train arrives at the station you will notice the beginning of the Skyrail which travels right over the top of Kuranda Train Station, however if you purchase a return ticket on the Skyrail you will have time to explore the small tourist town. Keep in mind also if you have a huge fear of heights and are not willing to make the trip back on the Skyrail you can also return on the train going down the same way coming up.

After looking around the township of Kuranda it was time for the return trip on the Skyrail, thankfully by this time the weather had cleared up, the mountain was hardly visible and it was raining quite heavily while on the train. Along the route there are two stops where short walks can be taken usually in a well designed loop, even taking your time while off the Skyrail no more than 20 minutes will be spent at these stops.

Kuranda Terminal is where the journey begins also where Kuranda Train Station is located; the gondola travels for 1.7km before arriving at Barron Falls Station. Sitting in the gondola for the first time can be a little intimidating as it shoots up the cableway and then dangles over the top of Barron Gorge. This first stop is located on the opposite side of Barron Gorge from where the train takes a break for visitors to view the spectacular Barron Falls. Here you will find a boardwalk which takes you out to a lookout for a closer look at the falls from a new angle before experiencing them from the air.

Continuing the journey from Barron Falls Station the gondola travels a further 3.1km over the lush rainforest before approaching Red Peak Station. Unlike Barron Falls Station where you have the option to stay in the gondola and continue the journey, at Red Peak Station even if you wish to skip this stop you need to transfer gondolas as the Skyrail is split into two at this point. Located here is a 175 metre boardwalk allowing visitors to experience the rainforest they have just seen from the air on the ground.

Once back on the Skyrail and departing Red Peak Station, the final 2.7km of the journey is all downhill from here with Red Peak being the highest point of the trip. On the way down their are spectacular views to take in of the working suburbs below, the ocean and Great Barrier Reef in the distance. The view of the buildings below isn’t exactly spectacular in itself as the main focal point is the local Bunnings Warehouse, however the view is not to be missed and provides a great appreciation of the area.

The trip concludes at the Caravonica Terminal at the bottom of the mountian where a large centre for souvenir hunters is located as well as a bus terminal for those who had hotel transfers to the site and for those who started the tip on the railway. Included in the price of the trip is a transfer from Caravonica Terminal to Freshwater Station where our hire car was waiting.

Instantly when thinking of Cairns and Tropical North Queensland the dominate tourist attraction and experience has to be experiencing the Great Barrier Reef. While visiting the Reef is the number one thing to experience when in North Queensland, the Skyrail and Kuranda Scenic Railway is a must do for any visit to Cairns and was truly a highlight of the visit.

TIP: Book your tickets through your states motoring club for a discount (RACV, NRMA, RACQ, RAA, RACT, RAC)

Kuranda Scenic Rail website

Skyrail website

Skyrail on Twitter @SkyrailCairns

Just your average guy doing his 9 - 5 job as a Senior Payroll Officer by day, writing about his travel adventures and hopefully giving you inspiration and ideas for your next travel adventure here at loneXplorer...


  1. We had a great day in Cairns on the skyrail. Really worth visiting and seeing the hinterland – very different side to Cairns.

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