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Getting to Kuranda from Cairns (and return)

kuranda welcome signKuranda is known as the “village in the rainforest” located about 30 kilometers northwest of Cairns. The scenic little village is home to a number of great tourist attractions like a koala park and a butterfly sanctuary, those of which, combined with cute cafes and local markets, can easily keep you occupied throughout a morning or afternoon. As unique as Kuranda is, the real fun, in my opinion, would be the journey there or back on either the Skyrail or the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Independent travel by self-driving is also a spectacular and scenic experience.

>> Kuranda is a great day trip option from Cairns.

Getting from Cairns to Kuranda via Skyrail

skyrail to KurandaSkyrail provides a sky-view of the beautiful World Heritage rainforest leading to Kuranda. Each gondola on the 7.5 kilometers cableway seats up to 6 people and offers panoramic tree-top views, sweeping across lush foliage and the Barron River. The ride is estimated to take 1.5 hours when incorporating two 20 minute stop-offs at Barron Falls Station and the Red Peak Station (where you can get a free guided tour from one of Skyrail’s Rangers).

When heading towards Kuranda, the ride actually begins at the Caravonica Terminal just 15 minutes north of Cairns. If you are not self-driving on your holiday you will be happy to know that Skyrail offers coach transfers from many Cairns and Port Douglas areas. A one-way ticket, at time of writing this, is valued at $44.00 for adults and $22.00 for children, but family passes at $110.00 are also available.

Getting from Cairns to Kuranda via Kuranda Scenic Railway

kuranda scenic railwayThe other popular option for getting to (and back from) Kuranda when in Cairns is to ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a ride that twists and turns up rainforest-covered hills. While sitting on the train, visitors will be presented with breath-taking overviews of the surrounding valley and even get the chance to stop for a panoramic view of Barron Gorge Falls. This journey is also a glimpse into the past as the railway was originally constructed back in the 1880s as a way for the semi-stuck tin miners to have more reliable access to the coast.

The journey to Kuranda on the Kuranda Scenic Railway starts at Freshwater Station and runs for about 1 hour and 35 minutes. If you are not self-driving your holiday, there are transfer options available with certain tour packages. At the time of writing this, a standard one-way adult ticket is valued at $47.00 and a child ticket is set at $24.00, but family passes of $118.00 are also available.


Combined Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Passes and Tours
Planning ahead and coming to the conclusion that you’d like to try the Skyrail one way and the Scenic Railway the other can pay off as there are combined passes with hotel transfers. The real value comes from purchasing your tickets in conjunction with tourist park entries and other tours like the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park, Rainforestation and the Kuranda Wildlife Experience. Down Under Tours takes these passes one step further by incorporating lunch and transfers into the itinerary.

Getting from Cairns to Kuranda via Self-driving

The free-spirited traveler might find needing to keep to a schedule when catching the Kuranda Scenic Railway train or the Skyrail a bit of a buzz-kill. For those it is helpful to know that self-driving from Cairns to Kuranda is still a scenic adventure waiting to be had. I personally did the drive last year and found the winding rainforest roads leading out of Cairns a bit of an adventure, especially since I had just picked up the car and was driving on the wrong side of the road here Down Under.

The drive will take you about 40 to 45 minutes depending on traffic and where in Cairns you are departing from. You will head north on Captain Cook Highway before taking a left on the Kennedy Highway until you arrive at Kuranda (signs will alert you along the way).

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>> Following this route past Kuranda will take you to the Atherton Tablelands.

Getting to Kuranda from Cairns via Bus

Packing in a full day at Kuranda is generally not helped by the length of both the Skyrail and Kuranda Scenic Railway. These options are also not great for individuals particularly afraid of heights. Luckily, there are two standard bus companies that offer quick and affordable transfers from Cairns to Kuranda (and return): Trans North Bus and Coach and Johns Kuranda Bus. Timetables do vary daily, so it is best to consult the official sites for more details. The shuttle bus options are perfect for individuals needing to save money or who have already made the trip by rail or Skyrail in the past.

Getting to Cairns Before Getting to Kuranda

There are several ways to make the journey from Cairns to Kuranda, but you have to get to Cairns first! Have a quick search below for cheap flights to Cairns so you can start planning for an upcoming getaway to the beautiful Tropical North Queensland.

Quick search for flights to Cairns (CNS) from Sydney (SYD), Brisbane (BNE), Melbourne (MEL) and Adelaide (ADL):


Once the flight is book, you can look further into cheap hotels in Cairns or maybe even some Cairns party hostels if that is more your travel type. Be sure to check out the top 10 things to do in Cairns and the day trips from Cairns lists to get yourself more familiar with the types of activities that might be in store beyond a trip to Kuranda!


Photo credit: 1 – Brooke Schoenman; 2 – Skyrail Rainforest Cableway; 3 – Kuranda Scenic Railway.
*I was lucky enough to experience the Skyrail and the Kuranda Scenic Railway courtesy of Tourism Queensland.