Tropical North Queensland is one of the most popular destinations to visit for families. Not only is the weather perfect all year round for enjoying the great outdoors, but visitors have many choices in the ways can spend their time.
Palm Cove, located north of Cairns, is one of our favourite holiday destinations, and I am regularly asked about recommendations on what to do with kids around this area.
If you are staying in either of these destinations in Tropical North Queensland than one of the highlights and what I feel would be the best day trip from Cairns with kids is visiting the village of Kuranda. Nestled amongst World Heritage rainforest, 1000 feet above Cairns not only will you come to love the charm and activities that are available in this town, but the journey to reach Kuranda makes the trip extra memorable.
This post contains affiliate links – updated in August 2019
THE BEST DAY TRIP FROM CAIRNS
THE AMAZING JOURNEY – HOW TO GET TO KURANDA
Exploring the colourful village of Kuranda is a perfect day trip from Palm Cove or Cairns. Yes, you can drive and still experience the beauty of the rainforest, stopping along the way at the lookout to admire the views closer. However, for a unique travel experience, we chose to travel via the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway; two of the most popular attractions in tropical north Queensland.
KURANDA SCENIC RAILWAY TRAIN
The famous Kuranda railway winds its way through the ancient rainforest which is home to an incredible array of flora and fauna. As the train meanders along the 34 km track, you will pass waterfalls, travel through 15 handmade tunnels, and cross 37 bridges, including the famous Stoney Creek bridge. Rising from sea level to 328 metres, you will stop along the journey for photo opportunities at Barron Falls lookout. Barron Falls is a magnificent spectacle during the (wet) season, December through to March. Don’t be dismayed if you travel outside this time, as you will still appreciate the natural scenery and popular tourist destination. After reading many reviews, we opted to travel on the train from Cairns to Kuranda.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway has two fare options for travellers with both offering audio commentary of the railway history and surroundings.
Within Heritage class, you will be comfortable in charming vintage carriages refurbished for comfort. The large windows give you a perfect view of the beautiful outdoor surroundings.
KSR Gold Class offers the same journey will added luxuries from morning or afternoon tea, individual lounge-style chairs, optional exclusive tours, and welcome drinks.
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What goes up must come down, and the best way to make your descent back to Cairns is on the Kuranda Skyrail. A world-first in environmental tourism you’ll soar for more than seven kilometres high above the World Heritage-listed rainforest canopy in an enclosed gondola. There are options to disembark at two rainforest mid-stations; Red Peak Station deep within the forest and also Barron Falls. At either station, you can immerse yourself in more of the ancient rainforest by wandering the boardwalks and stopping at the lookouts. One of the most magical sights along the journey is descending to the Skyrail Smithfield terminal, where you will witness picturesque views overlooking Cairns and the Coral Sea. Ending the day with these views and marvelling at the ancient ecosystem in all its glory is one of the reasons I suggest returning via the Skyrail.
Skyrail Smithfield Terminal is a 15-minute drive from Cairns and 50-minutes from Palm Cove. If you have a vehicle, driving is easy, and there is ample parking. Alternatively, there are many tour options which include coach transfers.
CAIRNS DAY TOURS BOOKING TIPS
The Kuranda skyrail and train only operate at certain times during the day, and due to the popularity of the attraction, I would suggest planning your day and booking the journeys in advance to avoid missing out.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN KURANDA
Kuranda is somewhere you can connect with nature, appreciate the natural surroundings, discover interesting attractions and enjoy the many wildlife experiences available.
KURANDA VILLAGE MARKETS
If you are searching for a trinket to take home from your trip to the village in the rainforest, you may want to visit the world-famous Kuranda markets. Set in two different areas of Kuranda the markets are open daily specialising in handmade arts and crafts, locally designed and produced fashions, hand-crafted jewellery, art, gems stones, wood and leather workers.
Sample local coffee, tropical fruits, homemade ice-creams, coconuts, macadamia nuts, and stop at one of Kuranda’s restaurants or cafes where you’ll enjoy tropical dining in a relaxed atmosphere.
Take a walk through the village of Kuranda along the art trail, a stroll through the cool temperate rainforest of Jumrun Creek Conservation Park, gain a birds-eye view on the spectacular rainforest canopy walk or hike to Barron Falls lookout. There are many opportunities for every age and fitness level to explore ancient rainforests.
Birdworld is the best place to see some of Australia’s native and also exotic birds. With over 60 species of birds from around the world, Birdworld is home to the largest single collection of free-flying birds in Australia. You will join the birds in an environment that mimics their natural habitats and watch as the amazing animals soar overhead. Birdworld’s design and aviary creates an interactive experience to get up close to the birds.
Open daily from 9.00 am – 4.00 pm
Kuranda’s newest wildlife attraction presents the opportunity to see iconic Australian animals. There are up-close encounters with freshwater crocodiles and other reptiles. For those who like the cute and cuddly, you will encounter wombats, wallabies, and of course koalas.
Open daily from 9.00 am – 4.00 pm
AUSTRALIAN BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY KURANDA
Home to over 1500 tropical butterflies the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly aviary and exhibit in Australia. The aviary was created to duplicate a natural rainforest environment, with lush tropical plants, a running stream and waterfall. Butterflies are extremely delicate and have a very short life span, which is why all of the butterflies you will see have been bred in the breeding laboratory which you can see on the 30-minute guided tour during the day (upon request). Not only is the sanctuary educational for children, but they are bound to love spotting all the various butterflies that are flying around the aviary.
Open daily from 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
MONEY SAVING TIP
If you plan on visiting the three wildlife encounters in Kuranda (Birdworld, Koala Gardens and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary), you can purchase a KURANDA TOUR WILDLIFE EXPERIENCE PASS which offers a discount to visit all attractions.
WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING ON VISITING IN KURANDA?
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