Kuranda is the name of the small village perched at the top of the Barron Gorge National Park, but the name is generally associated with the entire experience of commuting to and from the Kuranda area via one of three means of transportation: the thrilling Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway (operating since 1891), and the scenic Kuranda Range Road. Tour companies have packages where you can ride the train up and the Skyrail down, but this is more expensive than a complete roundtrip on either the train or Skyrail. We chose to ride the Skyrail each way to enjoy what is promoted as the "world's most beautiful rainforest experience".
The award-winning Skyrail Rainforest Cableway (open daily from 8AM to 5PM), which opened in 1995, begins at the Caravonica Terminal near Smithfield, a town about 9 miles northwest of Cairns. You can buy your ticket ahead of time, but we had no problem in purchasing at the terminal. Along the 4.7-mile route of the cableway, there are 36 towers supporting the 114 gondola cabins that glide continuously throughout the day. These towers were placed with the utilization of helicopters to minimize the disturbance of the rainforest. Each pod-like gondola can seat six persons, has glass windows that slide open slightly, and is well maintained for a smooth ride over the treetops.
Red Peak Station is the highest point on the cableway at 1788 feet. The boardwalk here is located along the forest floor in the middle of the thick rainforest. Rangers can give brief guided tours at this first intermediate stop, or you can enjoy the lush scenery and informative signs at your own pace.
Next up is the Barron Falls Station, which has nice lookouts of the picturesque Barron River, Gorge and Falls. There is a Rainforest Interpretative Centre, with colorful and educational displays and computers that are popular with the kids.
After the Skyrail crosses over the Barron River, you land at the Kuranda Terminal. The Kuranda Railway Station is not far from this last Skyrail terminal. There is a free shuttle between the Kuranda Terminal and the village, but the distance covered is so short that walking is an easier option. Once you are in the village of Kuranda, there are a multitude of excursions. This list includes a bird aviary, butterfly sanctuary, and rainforest nature park. The various markets sell all sorts of local handcrafted goods. There are even bizarre souvenirs like coin pouches made from kangaroo scrotum or cane toad carcasses (I am not kidding!). Shops selling slightly simpler souvenirs are connected to the top (Kuranda) and bottom (Caravonica) terminals of Skyrail.