We’ll get straight to the point — the Kuranda Scenic Railway is pretty freaking amazing. Especially if you love waterfalls and old world charm. This was the first time, in fact, that we ever experienced a railway that passes directly beside and under a waterfall at all. That, above all else, was enough to win our hearts, but the Kuranda train offers so much more than just that. So here’s the top highlights — our Kuranda Scenic Railway review.
- Scenic 2 hour journey through rainforest, mountains, and ravines
- Travel through 15 hand carved tunnels and over a giant, photogenic bridge
- Pass by 2 waterfalls for amazing, close up views
- Travel in gold class luxury with lounge style seats, a dedicated hostess, light refreshments, wine, and beer
- Chance to explore Kuranda, a village in the rainforest
Kuranda Scenic Railway – The Train
The Kuranda Scenic Railway originally developed out of a tin mining need in 1882 for a transportation route from the Atherton Tablelands to the coast. Construction began by hand in 1886, the Cairns-Kuranda Railway line opened in 1891, and today the route exists as a top tourist attraction in Queensland. The carriages currently in use are authentic, refurbished, and nearly a hundred years old.
Kuranda Scenic Railway – The Journey
The journey takes you on a two-hour ride from Cairns to Kuranda, rising from sea level to 328m while passing through and over hand carved tunnels, bridges, waterfalls, mountains, and finally into the beautiful Barron Gorge. It’s one of the most unique rail experiences in Australia and one of the best ways to experience a World Heritage listed rainforest that’s millions of years old.
Freshwater Station – A Journey Begins
When you purchase your rail ticket, you’ll have the option of boarding the train from one of two embarkation stations – Cairns Station or Freshwater Station. Super important: Both stations have the same end destination — Kuranda’s rainforest village — but only Freshwater station offers the option to travel on a Gold Class ticket. So if you’d like to be pampered in style, you’ll need to board at Freshwater. Besides being the only place to purchase a luxury class ticket, it also houses a railway museum that you can check out to learn more about the history of your journey before its departure.
Gold Class Carriage
A standard ticket comes in Heritage Class — you’ll travel in authentic, refurbished timber carriages with bench-style seating. Some of these cabins are as old as 90 years, and the old-world charm they carry with them only enhances the timeless atmosphere that permeates the train. You’ll surely feel as if you’ve traveled back into the past. Purchasing a Gold Class ticket upgrades your experience to lounge-style seating with dedicated host service. You’ll receive your choice of wine, lager, coffee, cheeses, muffins, and fruit, as well as a souvenir gift bag.
Stoney Creek Bridge and Falls
Painstakingly constructed by hand, the railway — and particularly the Stoney Creek Bridge — proved to be a huge engineering feat, even for today’s standards. But mostly it’s just a gosh darn freaking amazing view. The bridge passes right by a waterfall carved into the side of a mountain and over a steep ravine hundreds of meters in the air. When you see promotional photos for the Kuranda Scenic Railway, this is where they’re shot. The beauty of the Stoney Creek Falls takes your breath away and is our favorite part of the entire train trip.
Barron Falls Lookout
The Aboriginal people are connected to the land, and their beliefs are interwoven into your rail journey, an integral part of the sights that you pass along the way. Local legend tells the tale of a carpet snake, Buda-dji, who carved out the Barron River all the way from the coast to the Tablelands. Near the end of your journey, you’ll experience the power of this river as you pass through Barron Gorge and right by Barron Falls for an up close and personal view. The train will actually stop here for ten minutes, so you’ll have more time to plan out and photograph these falls than you did zooming by Stoney Creek Falls.
Kuranda Station – Gateway to the Village in the Rainforest
At the end of the line, you arrive at Kuranda Station. Hop over to the neighboring village in the rainforest to watch an Aboriginal cultural performace or see the Kuranda Koala Gardens, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, fossils, rare gemstones, art galleries, and more.
When to Go
For the best views of the waterfalls, you’ll want to ride the Kuranda Scenic Railway during wet season which runs from December to March. The falls will be far more pronounced and voluminous during that time.
Where to Stay
While visiting Cairns, we stayed at Silky Oaks Lodge — a luxury treehouse hotel. You can check out Dragon’s adventures in a treehouse here (coming soon).
Related: treehouse article (coming soon).
Getting Home — Take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
You can choose to take the Kuranda Scenic Railway for your return trip back to Cairns, but we opted to hop on the Cairns Skyrail Rainforest Cableway in order to get twice the experience in one vacation. It lies adjacent to the rail stations, so you’ll still make it back to the same parking lot (and your car) if you decide to switch from one to the other. Our favorite part was the glass-bottom floor that allowed us to see straight down through the trees as we soared above the rainforest canopy. You can check out our review of the trip here:
For more travel inspiration, check out some of our other Australia adventures here:
- 20 Photos of the Most Amazingly Beautiful Places in Australia
- Top 10 Things to Do in Cairns Australia
- 12 Best Beaches and Swimming Holes in Cairns
- The Sydney Opera House is Not White – 10 Sydney Secrets known only by Locals ( plus a One Day Travel Itinerary )
- Quirky Hotels in Australia – 10 Unique Stays in a Castle, Treehouse, Prison, Underground City, and More
- Daintree River Cruises – Bruce Belcher’s Crocodile Cruise through Australian Rainforest
Or view all our Australia Travel Articles here.
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We owe a huge thanks to Allison Smith from Flights to Fancy for inviting Adventure Dragon to Cairns and teaching him the ways of the rainforest. All photos of Dragon in this Kuranda Scenic Railway review are courtesy of her amazing photography skills. You can read about her own experience aboard the Kuranda train here.
Please do not copy or reproduce any of the photos or content on this page without permission. It makes dragons sad. And nobody likes a sad dragon. Except for maybe sad people. Away with you, you poopy pirate.