A day in Kuranda, Cairns

Nestled within mountain ranges and along lush green canopy, Kuranda is a beautiful and quirky Cairns village in the far north's rainforest, accessible by scenic cable car and draped in rich Indigenous culture. It's wealth of native animals, including the endemic Kuranda tree frog (Litoria myola), and expansive tropical habitat transform Kuranda into a place where birds, koalas and butterflies can be quietly and closely observed along its jungle walks and within its wildlife reserves. There's platypus and crocodile and green tree snakes to see, but only for the most respectful of visitors. The winding hillsides are home to gaudy parrots, fig trees and illuminous Ulysses butterflies. And whilst set upon a backdrop of tragic Indigenous history, Kuranda now homes a population of 3000 locals who preserve its cultural roots, making this remote village one of Far North Queensland's most special and memorable hideaways. 


Whilst on assignment in Cairns, Australia, I took some time away to visit the Skyrail, taking their sweeping cable cars along the skyway to Kuranda, where I visited the locals and immersed myself in the complex Indigenous culture. With views of expansive canopy, mountain range and an endless ocean landscape, the cable car trip was a stunning forty-five minute ride from nearby Cairns city to the remote Indigenous village. I disembarked two or three times along the way to take botanic tours and photograph the diverse variety of trees and leaves around the scenic walkways. Some said they'd spotted lizards and koalas, and others collected pictures of colourful spiders and an array of coastal birds. 

Kuranda, a mountain village in Cairns, winds along forested hillside tracks that were carved out by it's early settlers. The village has a rich history and has been home to the Djbugay ("dja-bu-guy") people for tens of thousands of years. A massacre of Indigenous groups is thought to have taken place at Skeleton Creek several hundred years ago, and conflict arose between its Indigenous population and the Gadja (white man) when a railway was proposed after the hinterland was opened for mining gold and tin in the early 1880s. But despite it's dark history, Kuranda is proudly draped in its Indigenous arts and culture. And it's passersby surely agree; after the village established it's first 'rainforest markets' back in the late 1970s (where local craftspeople sold their works to attract new visitors to the area), the Kuranda markets now command thousands of people every day.


Whilst the 'village in the rainforest' is kept alive by it's booming tourism, it also presents a strong emphasis on preserving its natural habitats and wildlife (such as Kuranda's Koala Park and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary). Budding ornithologists are met with bustling bird song, a joyous reward for eager bird watchers. If you look closely, harmless freshwater crocodiles might sun their bellies on the river banks, observed from above on the Skyrail. Platypus inhabit Kuranda, with the village one called Ngunbay, or, "the place of platypus." 

The Cairns-to-Kuranda-railway is a heritage listed site and journeys visitors from Redlynch to Crooked Creek Bridge and well over the stunning Barron Falls. A picturesque waterfall flows over the rock face of the Stoney Creek and Surprise Creek bridge. Being situated in the tropics, Kuranda's weather experiences only mild variations in temperature and only consists one of dry season and one wet season. The village's orographic influences mean Kuranda can be humid.


A far north hideaway with something for everyone, Kuranda is an essential visit for those looking for scenic trails, quiet observations, culture, arts, crafts and wildlife and conservation. 

A humble thank you to the Scenic Skyrail in Cairns for hosting me for this visit. You can view their cable car details on their website, www.skyrail.com.au, and book trips for up to six (or eight) cable car travellers at a time.