This Cairns must do attraction runs from Smithfield Terminal, on the outskirts of Cairns to the little town of Kuranda on the edge of the Atherton Tablelands. For 7.5 km (4 mi) Skyrail takes you on a journey above one of the most pristine rainforests in the world. As the gondola ascends on your Cairns Rainforest tour you alternate between soaring above the forest canopy and pulling back to skim the tops of the trees. Boardwalks and forest trails at two intermediate stations give you a chance to explore the heart of the forest.
| As you leave the terminal look back for magnificent views of the coastal plain and out to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.|
|Skimming the tree tops.|
Red Peak Station - 2.7 km and 10 minutes from Smithfield Terminal
Stop at Red Peak Station, 545 m above sea level, and take a ranger guided tour to learn about the forest and the constant struggle for survival by its inhabitants; both plants and animals. If you are lucky you might see a Cassowary, one of the world's most dangerous birds, or perhaps a goanna clinging to a tree trunk above you. Don't forget to stop occasionally to admire the forest giants; the towering Kauri Pines. They grow up to 60 metres high, pushing through the forest canopy to bask in the sunlight above.
|Kauri Pines are the tallest trees in the forest and can reach heights of 60 metres.|
|Boardwalk through the forest at Red Peak Station.|
Barron Falls Station - 3.1 km and 12-14 minutes from Red Peak Station
As you leave Red Peak Station, Skyrail dips down almost touching the tops of the trees before arriving at Barron Falls Station where a short walk along the path takes you to lookouts over the beautiful Barron Falls.
|Barron Falls Station|
|Barron Falls in August.|
Leave time at Barron Falls Station to take the Djabugay Aboriginal Tour and be immersed in the way of life of the forest's original inhabitants. You will see an indigenous Bayu shelter and learn the difference between returning and non-returning boomerangs, and the separate roles each played in hunting animals. You will also learn the different uses for forest plants - which are edible, which are deadly and which can be used for traditional medicines or making weapons and utensils. As you listen to the stories of your Djabugay guide you cannot help but appreciate how unique and precious Australia's aboriginal heritage is.
|A traditional shelter.|
|On the Djabugay Tour you will learn about traditional food and medicines. The trouble is I can't remember whether these are edible or deadly!|
|We paused here to learn about Aboriginal life.|
|This goanna heard us coming and scampered up the nearest tree.|
Kuranda - 1.7 kms and 7-8 minutes from Barron Falls Station
Just before arriving at Kuranda, Skyrail crosses the Barron River. The river's tranquil appearance belies its more frightening inhabitants; snakes and freshwater crocodiles.
Pause for lunch in the village and visit Kuranda's heritage markets. If you have time, wander through Birdworld with its brightly coloured free flight birds - beware your loose jewellery unless you don't mind it being snatched by an inquisitive parrot - or see the butterflies at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary or cuddle a koala at the Kuranda Koala Gardens.
|There is plenty to see and do at Kuranda Village.|
Diamond View Cabins and the Canopy Glider
Diamond View Gondolas have a glass floor giving you a bird's eye view straight down into the forest. When David and I rode Skyrail we were in a Diamond View Gondola for part of our journey. They cost a bit more but they are worth the upgrade. Between Red Peak and Barron Falls station the gondolas travel just above the forest canopy. We felt like we could almost reach out and touch the tops of the trees. Then as we came into Kuranda our gondola stopped for a few breath-taking minutes directly above the Barron River - we learnt later that a wheel-chair bound traveller was being assisted off. Looking straight down into the water 50 metres or so below us was an unforgettable experience.
|Looking down on the forest through the floor of a Diamond View Gondola|
The Canopy Glider is an open air platform with safety rails. Passengers in the Canopy Glider are accompanied by a Skyrail Ranger. Being frightened of heights, David would pay extra not to take the glider but if you are seeking a thrill-ride then this is for you. Book the glider in advance; there are only two rides each day.
|Imagine riding above the forest in this!|
One-way or return: Combining Skyrail with the Kuranda Scenic Railway
You can combine a one-way Skyrail journey with a return via the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Skyrail's Kuranda Terminal is adjacent to Kuranda Station and at the Cairns end there are transfers between Skyrail's Smithfield Terminal and the Kuranda Scenic Railway's Freshwater Station.
David and I travelled on the Kuranda Scenic Railway many years ago, before Skyrail existed. It was a wonderful day out. However this time we decided to enjoy the full Skyrail experience by taking the gondolas both ways.
Where is Skyrail and how do you get there?
- Skyrail is 15 minutes drive north of Cairns and 50 minutes south of Port Douglas.
- The terminal at the Cairns end, called the Smithfield Terminal, is in the suburb of Smithfield.
- There is plenty of free parking at the terminal.
- Skyrail operates a coach transfer service from hotels in Cairns and Port Douglas.
- You can join Skyrail at either end. The Kuranda Terminal is a short, downhill walk from Kuranda Village. There are maps and signs in the village pointing the way.
One-way or return: combining Skyrail with the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
- You can buy a combination ticket which goes one-way on Skyrail and the other on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
- The Kuranda Scenic Railway departs from Freshwater Station in Cairns, a short drive from Skyrail's Smithfield Terminal.
What are the operating hours and how much does it cost?
- Skyrail is open from 9.00 am to 5.15 pm every day except Christmas Day. The last cabin down from Kuranda leaves at 3.45 pm. (See Tips and Tricks below - for timing your return ride)
- Skyrail costs $50/adult, $25/child and $125/family one way ($75/$37.50/$187.50 return). If you book online you will receive a 5% discount. A child is defined as being between 4 and 14 years inclusive while a family is defined as 2 adults and 2 children of the same family.
- Click here for a full list of prices and packages.
- Extra charges apply for the Djabugay Aboriginal Tour, Diamond View Gondolas and the Canopy Glider. The Ranger Guided Boardwalk Tours are included in the entry price.
Tips, tricks and things to know
- Wear sensible shoes, particularly if you intend to take the Djabugay Aboriginal Tour.
- When you reach Red Peak station you will change gondolas. At Barron Falls station you can stay aboard and ride straight through if you wish.
- Leave yourself at least half an hour to look around at the intermediate stations, more if you want to do the Ranger Guided Boardwalk Tour or the Djabugay Aboriginal Tour. Although the last gondola down from Kuranda leaves at 3.45 pm, the last gondola from Red Peak leaves much later at about 4.50 pm.
- Far North Queensland is in the Tropics. It has a 'wet' season and a 'dry' season. The wet season runs from as early as November to as late as the end of March. It is hot and humid with very high rainfall. If you visit in the wet season be prepared for periods of heavy, tropical rain.
- Australia's winter months, between June and August, are the most popular times to visit Far North Queensland.
Would we recommend Skyrail?
- Yes - absolutely!
David and I received complimentary tickets to Skyrail including the Djabugay Aboriginal Tour. We also received complimentary entry to Birdworld, The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and the Kuranda Koala Gardens.
This post is linked to Travel Photo Mondays.
This post is linked to Travel Photo Mondays.