Exploring Kuranda & the Cairns Skyrail, Far North Queensland

Far North Queensland / Travel Blog

Spanning an incredible 7.5 kilometres, the Cairns Skyrail is a unique way to experience the rainforest as you float majestically high above the canopies of the prehistoric World Heritage listed rainforest below.


Taking one of the 114 gondolas from Cairns to Kuranda or vice versa, visitors will reach heights of 545 metres above sea level and with the highest tower souring 40.5 metres you gain some impressive 360 degree views of the surrounding area.


The journey on the Cairns Skyrail begins in Smithfield just outside of Cairns city, right at the foothills of the mountainous terrain that the Skyrail will scale on the journey towards Kuranda. Alternatively the journey along the Skyrail can also start from Kuranda and make its way back down towards Cairns, or combine the journey with the Kuranda Scenic Railway which I will go into more detail about later.

Scaling the summit of the mountain from Smithfield, travellers are rewarded with impressive views of the entire Cairns region looking out to the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef all the while frequently spotting Cairns Airport, Double Island off the coast of Palm Cove and the Cairns CBD.

This is where the vegetation below makes its most dramatic change from the dryer land taken over by civilisation used for farming sugarcane, to the more moist and luscious lands that contain the world renowned rainforest that people from all over the world flock here to see.

Continuing up further you arrive at the first stop along the Skyrail, Red Peak Station with this being a mandatory stop along the journey as the gondolas on this section of the Skyrail head back down to Smithfield and you are required to change cabins.

VIDEO: Part 2 Skyrail & Peppers Beach Club & Spa Palm Cove
*watch the full series of videos below…


Red Peak Station is the highest point along the Cairns Skyrail soaring to a height of 545 metres and is home to the 400 year old Kauri Pine tree that soars high above the boardwalk. Whilst here at Red Peak Station you can also join one of the guided tours to take you around the boardwalk, learning all about the history of the rainforest and appreciate how old this area is and giving perspective to its World Heritage listing.

After exploring the rainforest from below it’s then time again to board the Skyrail and soar above the canopies once more. The next portion of the trip is the longest part, descending down the mountain and heading into more lush regions of the rainforest.

The rainforest is more protected in this area as the mountain shields it against any oncoming winds from the ocean, and looking down you’ll see an array of flora from Basket Ferns clinging onto the trunks of other trees, to the Banks Banana tree with its large rain catching leaves and finally many other pine trees, palms and ferns.

Continuing along and you find the first glimpses of the fascinating Barron Gorge and the even more impressive Barron Falls will start to come into view. Descending into Barron Falls Station it’s time to jump out of the cabin once again for another walk around to experience the rainforest, the gorge and the various lookouts.


Barron Falls Station is a prime viewing area for the Barron Falls. By following the snaking boardwalk around the rainforest to the first of three lookouts, you will either experience the might of the falls, or will have to use imagination as to how powerful they can be. Most of the year the falls can be reduced to merrily a trickle due to the damming of Barron River for the hydro electricity plant at the summit of the falls. However during the wet season it is an almighty sight to witness as the wet season rains takeover and gush over the sides with a thunderous roar.

At the second and third lookouts there is an even closer perspective of the falls and along the way learn some history, as a display depicts how the area was explored back in the day when trains and railways dominated. Once you finish checking out the gorge and the falls it’s time to continue on the cable car for the final journey into Kuranda. One of the highlights along the trip is crossing the mighty Barron River and looking straight down. From here the views are amazing and it shows just how important this river is to the region as one of the lifelines of the rainforest, but also as a supplier of electricity and irrigation to the thousands of people that live mostly further down the river and beyond.

At this end of the Skyrail the rainforest is also being rehabilitated to bring it back to its former glory. The works here are being undertaken by both Skyrail and the Kuranda Scenic Railway.


Arriving into Kuranda there are plenty of things to see and do in this small tourist village, from the many shops and cafes that line the street to the many attractions, there is something for everyone here. There is also the opportunity to visit the Kuranda markets as well as checking out some of the local indigenous art, or if you are an animal lover there are many attractions here for you too.

Birdworld – Here at Birdworld you can visit some cheeky tropical birds that roam around the aviaries and allow visitors to get up close close and personal. Birdworld is also home to a bird you don’t want to get too close to and that’s the deadliest bird in the world, the Cassowary.

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary – Home to over 2000 butterfly species, visitors can wonder around the aviaries of the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and learn the many facts about both butterflies and moths, whilst also discovering how to attract more butterflies to your home by planting the correct plants.

Kuranda Koala Gardens – Get up and close to one of Australia’s furriest creatures at the Kuranda Koala Gardens where you can even hold a koala. The gardens not only house koalas but also many other Australian native animals from kangaroos, wombats and wallabies.

Australian Venom Zoo – If you’re into your creepy crawlies (unlike me) then why not check out the Australian Venom Zoo showcasing some of Australia’s deadliest animals and educating the public about how venom helps pharmaceutical organisations make medications that save thousands of lives.


Diamond View Gondola

Skyrail offers a whole other perspective when travelling along by upgrading your ticket to the Diamond View which enables you to trying look down upon the rainforest below through a glass floor inside the cabin. These specially configured gondolas depart approximately every seven minutes and also allow those who have upgraded to skip the queue. It is an additional $15.00 to upgrade and only applies to travelling one way.

This is a good way to skip the queue on busy peak periods and to take in the 360 degree views one way, and the rainforest canopy when travelling in the other direction.

Canopy Glider

For those wanting to take their Skyrail experience to a whole new level you can also board the Canopy Glider. This open air glider gives you uninterrupted 360 degree views and not only that but you’ll be accompanied by a guide to show you around and point out the main features along the way. There are only a limited number of departures so you need to book in advance, the first leaves Smithfield at 9:15am and the second departure for the day leaves Kuranda at 1:45pm.

The upgrade fee is $100.00 which is quite steep, however I’m sure if you saved up every little cent it would be well worth the experience and something not many other people visiting will be able to do.


Another great way to experience the Skyrail is to combine the journey with the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This is the way I have explored the area in the past and this trip was the first time I have completed a return journey on the Skyrail. The Kuranda Scenic Railway begins its journey from Cairns with another stop at the small town of Freshwater. From here the journey snakes its way through the mountainous terrain through a number of tunnels and passes some impressive waterfalls along the way, one of which is on an impressive bend in the track enabling travellers to photograph the train passing the falls.

The train also stops at Barron Falls Station allowing everyone to jump out of the train and check out the falls from one of the best perspectives you can get when viewing Barron Falls. The train then continues on to Kuranda where the Skyrail terminal meets the train station. From here you can spend some time in Kuranda and then make your way back via the Skyrail. Once you arrive in Smithfield at the end of the Skyrail you’ll be transferred by bus back to the station you joined the railway from, completing the loop.

You can check out one of my first posts on loneXplorer here about my experience on the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail back in 2010.

For more information on catching the Skyrail and for an up to date price listing head over to the website here where you can book your adventure and decide how you want to experience what is one of the top tourist attractions in the Cairns region.

VIDEO: Part 1 Kuranda and Granite Gorge

VIDEO: Part 2 Skyrail & Peppers Beach Club & Spa Palm Cove

VIDEO: Part 3 Mossman Gorge, Great Barrier Reef & Cairns Airport Mangroves

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A guide book isn’t cheating! Before you leave on your next adventure ensure you plan to get the most out of your trip and check out the range of guide books from Lonely Planet. The comprehensive guide books on Australia from Lonely Planet will give you an insight on what to expect on your travels to this amazing country.

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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...

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