Kuranda, also known as ‘the village in the rainforest’ is on the edge of the Atherton Tableland, 25 kilometres west of Cairns as the boomerang flies. These days it welcomes thousands of tourists every week who come to explore rich tropical forests abundant with wildlife and footpaths leading through the village. Things were not always that way though.
Kuranda was a lonely, isolated spot until somebody decided to build a railway line to it from Cairns from 1886 to 1891. They had to dig 15 tunnels with picks and shovels, and build 37 bridges across ravines on the 328-metre climb up the mountainside. In the process, the men moved three million cubic metres of earth. To give you an idea of scale, 1 cubic metre of water is good for 110 toilet flushes. Quite mind boggling what we got up to before computers!
The railway they laboured over is still in use for occasional freight services, as well as the departure point for the Savannahlander passenger train service from Cairns to Forsayth some 420 kilometres apart. However, our interest today is in the Cairns-Kuranda Scenic Railway retro trip. This takes just short of two hours either way for as little as $40 per adult.
If the idea intrigues you, we will happily calculate the cost for your party and confirm your reservation. If you think the trestles look familiar, you could be right, and you could be trundling over them soon under the highest possible safety standards!Trains depart daily from Cairns at 8:30 and 9:30 am, stopping to collect passengers at Freshwater Station 20 minutes into the journey.
A Real Treat of a Trip
The authentic timber carriages transport us in style as the thundering diesel loco gathers speed for the climb ahead. As we travel to the sound of the occasional clicketty-clack, we forget about the traffic rules and driving. Magnificent vistas of dense tropical rainforests, steep ravines and achingly lovely waterfalls unfold before our eyes.
At Barron Falls, the train stops for a while to take in the crisp mountain air, admire the spectacular view across and stroll past the train to inspect its meticulous condition. The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a true gem of an experience, and like so much other natural beauty is right here, on the doorstep to the holiday of a lifetime at Wanggulay, Cairns.
The two hours pass in a remarkably short time, and soon we gather up our belongings to alight on the platform. Kuranda Station is a heritage gem, but we will have to hurry if we want to take in everything, including a butterfly sanctuary, the koala gardens, and perhaps cruise on a riverboat over lunch.
The last train leaves for Cairns at 3:30 pm, unless you decide to return on the Skyrail. What a way to finish off the day!