Popular tourist destination in the Cairns hinterland dubbed the "Village in the Rainforest".
Kuranda is, by any conventional definition, a tourist destination ... and it has been for well over a century. In the beginning visitors took the Kuranda Scenic Railway, marvelled at the Barron Falls, had afternoon tea at the Kuranda Hotel, and returned to Cairns. By the 1970s the town had been overrun by alternative lifestyle people who set up gift shops, the inevitable arts and craft shops, endless eateries from pie shops to coffee lounges and restaurants, and a market - a kind of place where candles, jewellery, leather goods, T-shirts, tropical fruits and woodwork were sold.
Today it is all that ... and much more. Over the past thirty years it has developed a wide range of tourist attractions - two major markets, lots of shops for tourists, a Butterfly Sanctuary, a Birdworld, an Australian zoo named Koala Gardens and the old train trip has been added to with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway which runs for 7.5 km over dense rainforest. It is a compelling and enjoyable tourist destination.
Kuranda is located 1,710 km north of Brisbane and 27 km north west of Cairns.^ TOP
Origin of Name
It is believed that in the local Aboriginal language, the Djabuganjdji, the word for the stream lily (Helmholtzia acorifolia) was something approaching "kuranda".^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
Located at 8 Rob Veivers Drive, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary has been an attraction at Kuranda for decades. It is reputedly the largest butterfly aviary in the country with a population of over 1,500 tropical butterflies. It is open from 9.45 am - 4.00 pm. Tel: (07) 4093 7575 or check out https://australianbutterflies.com.
Located in the Kuranda Heritage Markets on Rob Veivers Drive, this rainforest habitat of waterfalls, ponds, tropical plants has been operating since 1980. It replicates the habitat of 60 species including Amazonian macaws, the endangered cassowary, rainbow lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos and many more. It is open seven days from 9.00 am - 4.00 pm. Tel: (07) 4093 9188 and check http://www.birdworldkuranda.com.
Located in the Kuranda Heritage Markets on Rob Veivers Drive, the Koala Gardens are really an Australian mini-zoo with freshwater crocodiles, kangaroos, wallabies, a snake house, wombats, lizards, monitors and an opportunity to be photographed with a koala. A pure tourist trap for international travellers. It is open from 9.00 am - 4.00 pm, tel: (07) 4093 9953, http://www.koalagardens.com.
Kuranda Heritage Markets
Now here is the real commercial heart of Kuranda - a market which has operated for more than 20 years; which incorporates the Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld and the Koala Gardens; which includes a range of local arts and crafts; offers a diversity of food and drinks; and includes locally made goods which use crocodile and kangaroo leather. Tel: (07) 4093 8060 or check out http://kurandamarkets.com. It is open from 9.30 am - 3.30 am every day.
Original Kuranda Rainforest Markets - 1978
The first markets at Kuranda started in 1978 and are now known as the Village in the Rainforest. They are located at 13 Therwine Street and feature everything from massage to mini-golf with the usual array of food, clothing, jewellery, craft and curios. They are open from 9.30 am - 3.00 pm, tel: (07) 4093 9440 or check out https://www.kurandaoriginalrainforestmarket.com.au.
Kuranda's Rainforest Walks
The map of Kuranda illustrates a network of walks around the village. They comprise four easy walks in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
1. The Village Walk (500m) showcases the main street and finishes at the site of the original Kuranda markets.
2. Jumrum Creek Conservation Park (1.4km) is a walk through the rainforest surrounding Kuranda village.
3. The Jungle Walk (900m) passes through rainforest which is in the process of regenerating.
4. The River and Esplanade Walk (1.5km) is a pleasant riverside stroll down a tree-shaded esplanade.
The walks are linked. They are a pleasant break away from the bustle of the markets and the centre of the town. A useful map can be downloaded at http://www.kuranda.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/brochure2016.pdf.
Other Attractions in the Area
Kuranda Scenic Railway
Since it was built in the late 19th century, the Kuranda Scenic Railway has been a wonder of railway technology and a hugely important part of Cairns and Kuranda's tourism industry. It is arguably the most scenically beautiful railway line in Australia with one section actually running across the face of the Stony Creek Falls and other sections winding around the hillside and through no fewer than 15 tunnels. At various points there are views back across the Coral Sea. It was built by John Robb between 1886 and 1891 and is recognised as a masterpiece of railway engineering. In 1915 the Railway Station at Kuranda was completed. It has since become something of a tourist attraction with its extraordinary floral displays. Ticket information from (07) 4036 9333. Check out http://www.ksr.com.au for details.
During the wet season, particularly in the early months of the year, the Barron Falls are an amazing site. Described by National Parks as "Rising from the rainforests of Mount Hypipamee National Park, the river winds 60 km across the Atherton Tableland through one of Australia's highest rainforest belts. The river then enters the deeply-incised Barron Gorge, which forms a rugged, twisting trough between the Macalister and Lamb ranges. The river falls 250 m onto the narrow coastal lowlands and flows to the Coral Sea, just north of the Cairns Airport. During the wetter months, floodwaters regularly create a spectacular sight at Barron Falls."
Barron Falls Railway Station, Walk and Lookout
One of the best rainforest experiences (and it is free) is the delightful walk from the Car Park above the Barron Falls Railway Station, along a series of elevated boardwalks, and down to the Barron Falls station. The rainforest is dense, the signage is consistently interesting and the Barron Falls Lookout (accessible by both rail and road) offers a superb view of the falls. The lookout is a short, 1.2 km return, walk from the car park and provides views over the falls. The falls can be accessed by driving 2.8 km on Barron Falls Road - follow it south from Kuranda township. For more information, and information about walks around the falls, check out https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/barron-gorge/about.html.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
With a base located at Smithfield to the north of Cairns, the Skyrail is one of the technological and scenic wonders of Australia. It stretches 7.5 km across the rainforest canopy and, when it was constructed, it was the world's longest gondola cableway. Passengers begin their journey at Caravonica Lakes (15 minutes north of Cairns) or Kuranda. There are two stops. The Red Peak Station and the Barron Falls Station. The Red Peak Station is located in the middle of the rainforest and allows travellers to explore the forest floor on a series of boardwalks. The Barron Falls Station has a Rainforest Interpretative Centre which was developed in conjunction with the CSIRO. A short walk through the trees takes visitors to the edge of the Barron Gorge for spectacular views of the Gorge and the Falls. For more information and bookings check out https://www.skyrail.com.au.
Kuranda Riverboat Tours
Located on the Barron River just below the Kuranda Railway Station, the Riverboat Tours last 45 minutes, cruise up and down the Barron River and explore the rainforest on either side of the river. They depart five times a day. Tel: 0412 159 212 or check out http://www.kurandariverboat.com.au. The river is home to freshwater crocodiles, turtles, snakes, water dragons and there are over 100 species of tropical birds in the rainforest canopy.
Rainforest Nature Park
Located on the Kennedy Highway only five minutes from Kuranda, this is an opportunity to experience the rainforest in the area while travelling on an Army duck. The tour passes through a tropical orchard; offers a traditional dance and cultural performance by the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience; and takes a Dreamtime Walk which includes boomerang throwing, spear-throwing and playing the didgeridoo. The park has native Australian species including koalas, crocodiles, wombats, dingoes, snakes, lizards, and the cassowary. Tel: (07) 4085 5008 or check out http://www.rainforest.com.au for prices. The Park is open from 9.00 am - 4.00 pm daily.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to people from the Djabuganjdji Bama Aboriginal language group. The Djabugay people have native title over Barron Gorge.
* The settlement of Cairns in 1876 led to farmers moving into the hinterland.
* By 1882 timber cutters had moved into the area and were exploiting the red cedar, maple and kauri pine which grew in the rainforests.
* In 1884 a route for a railway from Cairns to Herberton through Kuranda was approved.
* By 1885 there were farmers working the land in and around Kuranda.
* In 1886 construction started on the Kuranda Railway.
* In 1888 the town of Kuranda was surveyed by Thomas Behan.
* The railway reached the town in 1891.
* A primary school opened in the town in 1892.
* By 1903 regular tourist parties were visiting Barron Falls.
* The Kuranda Railway Station was completed in 1915. It was known as "The Honeymoon station".
* By the 1930s the local attractions included the Fairyland tea garden.
* In 1935 the Barron Falls hydro-electricity station was completed.
* The road to Kuranda (the Kennedy Highway) was completed in 1938.
* In 1940 the Barron Falls National Park was officially declared.
* A second power station on the Barron Falls was completed in 1963.
* By the 1970s the town was attracting alternative lifestyle residents.
* In 1978 the Honey House Markets were opened with 15 stalls.
* The town's amphitheatre was completed in 1980.
* In 1987 the Tjapukai Dance Theatre opened.
* In 1995 the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway was opened.
* By 2011 the town had a population of nearly 3,000.^ TOP
Kuranda Visitor Information Centre, Centenary Park, Kuranda, tel: (07) 4093 9311. Open 10.00 am - 4.00 pm seven days a week.^ TOP
There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.kuranda.org. An excellent brochure on the town can be downloaded at http://www.kuranda.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/brochure2016.pdf.^ TOP