Cairns Tickets

Kuranda Scenic Railway | Construction, History, & More

Kuranda Scenic Railway is a spectacular railway journey that takes passengers through the rainforests of Cairns, Australia. Established in 1891, this historic railway offers breathtaking panoramas of waterfalls, deep ravines, and lush tropical greenery. Perfect for adventure seekers and nature lovers, this train ride is a must-explore attraction for nature enthusiasts. Not only can you enjoy amazing views, but also learn about the railway’s engineering feats and its history, the diverse flora and fauna of the Kuranda Rainforests, and also interact with the residents of the local villages. 

Read further to learn more about what you can uncover on this beautiful scenic journey.

Kuranda Scenic Railway | Quick Facts

Kuranda Scenic Railway
  • Official name: Kuranda Scenic Railway
  • Journey start: Cairns Railway Station
  • Journey end: Kuranda Railway Station
  • Year of opening: 1891
  • Function: Scenic railway journey through tropical rainforests in Cairns
  • Track length: 37 km (23 miles)
  • Operation: Twice every day

What is Kuranda Scenic Railway?

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Established in 1891, the Kuranda Scenic Railway is a historic train that runs from Cairns to Kuranda, offering travellers stunning views of the tropical rainforest and breathtaking waterfalls along its way. Built over 100 years ago, the railway has since become an iconic tourist attraction. 

The journey takes about two hours, during which you'll witness popular sites like Barron Falls, Stone Creek Falls, Robb’s Monument, and much more. The train also passes through 15 hand-carved tunnels and over 37 bridges, including the famous curved bridge that offers a panoramic view of the beautiful landscape. 

The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a marvellous engineering feat even after 127 years since its construction. The track begins climbing at Redlynch at 5.5 m above sea level and reaches up to 327.1 m at the summit of Myola. The railway opened to the public on 25th June 1891 and has been serving customers ever since.

Why Visit Kuranda Scenic Railway?

Kuranda Scenic Railway
  • Historic railway journey: Embark on a ride through the stunning Cairns rainforest aboard a railway built in 1891 showcasing engineering marvels and rich history.
  • Breathtaking views: Marvel at the awe-inspiring panoramas of waterfalls, deep ravines, and dense tropical greenery throughout the journey.
  • Explore Kuranda Village: Discover the bustling rainforest village of Kuranda, featuring markets, cafes, and wildlife parks, once you reach your destination.
  • Tropical flora & fauna: Witness the vibrant array of plants and animals native to the lush rainforest and feel close to nature like never before.
  • Ravishing Barron Falls: Be captivated by the beauty of Barron Falls, an impressive waterfall that drops about 125 metres.
  • Spectacular Skyrail journey: Get a different perspective of the lush greenery with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, providing a bird's-eye view of the canopy.
  • Fits any itinerary: With two train departures in the morning and two return options in the afternoon, the Kuranda Scenic Railway easily fits into any traveller's schedule.

Plan Your Visit To Kuranda Scenic Railway

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Kuranda Scenic Railway operates daily, with trains departing from Cairns Railway Station at 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM, and return trains from Kuranda at 2:00 PM and 3:30 PM. 

  • What is the best time to visit Kuranda Scenic Railway?

The best time to visit would be during the monsoon months or close to March when the weather is just starting to warm up.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

The journey starts at the Cairns Railway Station and passes through the picturesque Cairns rainforest before reaching its destination in Kuranda Village.

First Station: Cairns Railway Station, located in Cairns Shopping Centre, 142 Bunda St, Cairns City QLD 4870, Australia. Find on Maps

Last Station: Kuranda Railway Station, Coondoo St, Kuranda QLD 4881, Australia. Find on Maps

Kuranda Scenic Railway
  • There is a luggage storage facility at the Cairns Sharehouse near the Cairns railway station where you can store large bags that you may be unable to carry on the train. 
  • A free shuttle is available between Kuranda Railway Station and the Skyrail, allowing you to pick either option during your return. 
  • Discover the Kuranda market near the Kuranda Railway Station for gifts and souvenirs from your journey.
Kuranda Scenic Railway
  • There are elevated platforms and ramps to easily board the train. 
  • The Heritage Class carriages are wheelchair accessible, but advanced notice is required when booking tickets. 
  • Accessible restroom facilities are available at Cairns Railway Station, Kuranda Railway Station, and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway stations.
  • Free carer tickets are available with valid identification. 
  • Inform the railway service beforehand if you want to bring a service animal along.

Things to do/see at the Kuranda Scenic Railway

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Heritage Class Carriage Experience

Cherish the charm of historical train travel while enjoying the scenic views of the rainforest. The Heritage Class carriages offer traditional cedar wood interiors, along with large windows to see the stunning landscapes.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Scenic Stop at Barron Falls

The train makes a brief stop at the fascinating Barron Falls where you can disembark to admire the breathtaking views and the surrounding forest. Capture photos from the viewing platform and browse the historical displays.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Visit Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary

Located in Kuranda Village, the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly aviary in Australia, featuring about 1500 magnificent free-flying butterflies. The lab breeds almost 30,000 caterpillars each year, with butterflies being released into the sanctuary every day.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Explore the Rainforest Markets

Upon arriving at Kuranda Village, dive into the dynamic atmosphere of the local markets where you can find an array of souvenirs, handmade crafts, and artworks. Enjoy local food and sample the region's flavours at various food stalls in the area.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Visit Birdworld Kuranda

Home to almost 60 different species of birds, Birdworld Kuranda is another popular attraction in the area. Interact with friendly, free-flying birds, and watch colourful parrots, parakeets, flamingos, and other native bird species of Australia.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Stroll Along Kuranda Riverboat Ride

Take a relaxing boat ride on the tranquil Barron River, exploring the wonderful natural setting of Kuranda Village. The picturesque riverboat ride offers an excellent opportunity to discover the region's aboriginal history, culture, and wildlife.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Combine your scenic rail journey with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway for a unique aerial perspective of the tropical rainforest. This unforgettable experience allows you to glide over and through the rainforest canopy, taking in stunning views and learning about the forest's ecosystem through informative commentary.

History of Kuranda Scenic Railway

  • In 1882, a rural town in Queensland called Herberton was on the verge of famine. The marshy road that moved inward from Port Douglas was a difficult path to travel, especially during the wet season. 
  • Christie Palmerston was commissioned to find suitable rail routes along the Barron Valley, Mossman River, and Mulgrave Valley. A surveyor named Monk ran investigations on these suggested routes and chose the Barron Valley route in March 1884. 
  • Sir Samuel Griffith, the Premier of Queensland, turned the sod and the construction for this railway officially began on 10th May 1886. 
  • The construction of the entire line was completed in contracts of its 3 separate parts. Section 1 (13.2 km) and Section 3 (37.4 km) were relatively easy to construct. 
  • The ascent of Section 2 (24.5 km) of the rail proved to be the biggest feat because of dangerous steeps, dense jungles and defending aboriginals. John Robb headed the tender for the construction of this section. 
  • The three sections of the rail were connected at Myola on 13th May 1891. On 15th June 1891, the railway line began functioning for the first time to transport cargo. 
  • Only 10 days later, on 23rd May 1891, the railway line was opened for passenger travel as well. 
  • Trade eventually died down and Port Douglas was reduced to a quaint retreat. However, the stunning views along the route maintained the railway’s popularity, allowing it to become one of the most sought-after destinations in Cairns.

Who Built the Kuranda Scenic Railway?

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Several minds came together over a period of many years to construct this brilliant engineering marvel. When the construction of the line was divided into 3 sections, the construction of the first section was first taken over by P. C. Smith. Taken over by illness, he had to relinquish his contract in Nov 1886, which was then taken over by McBride and Co., but they too dropped the project in Jan 1887. The first section was then finally completed by the Queensland Government. 

The construction of section two was headed by John Robb and a tender was approved for more than A$580,000. Many lives were lost during the dangerous construction of this railway. To commemorate the endless efforts of all the workers involved and also pay tribute to those who were lost, Robb established a rock formation along the route called Robb’s Monument.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kuranda Scenic Railway

How long should I spend at Kuranda Scenic Railway?

The train journey itself takes about 2 hours each way, but it's recommended to allocate at least 4-5 hours for the entire experience, including exploring the Kuranda Village.

Is it worth visiting Kuranda Scenic Railway?

Absolutely! The Kuranda Scenic Railway offers stunning rainforest views, rich history, and a unique experience that is perfect for travellers of all ages and interests.

What is the main purpose of Kuranda Scenic Railway?

The Kuranda Scenic Railway was originally built to connect Port Douglas to the inland to transport goods. Today, it offers a picturesque and historic journey through the region's beautiful landscapes.

What's the best time to visit Kuranda Scenic Railway?

The best time to visit is during the monsoon season, providing pleasant temperatures and stunning views of the falls which have much higher volumes of water flowing compared to the other seasons.

Can I board the train with a stroller or wheelchair?

Yes, the Heritage Class carriages are wheelchair accessible. Do notify your requirements when booking your tickets. Strollers can be folded and stored onboard the train as well.

Where can I book Kuranda Scenic Railway tickets?
Are there any discounts available for ticket prices?

You can always get great deals and offers when booking your Kuranda Scenic Railway tickets online.

Can I combine the train journey with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway?

Yes, package deals combining the Kuranda Scenic Railway with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway are available, offering an incredible round-trip experience at a discounted rate. You can book these tickets online.

Can I bring my own food and drinks onboard the train?

Yes, you are allowed to bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages onboard the train. However, make sure to keep the train and the environment clean by disposing of the waste responsibly.