Why a day trip to Kuranda isn’t “just for older people”

During my first stint in Cairns I worked for a backpacker travel agency. I was told that only old people went to Kuranda and not to waste my time selling it (translation: you won’t earn the company any money selling it).

So when I returned to Cairns and started a new job at, thankfully, a place that gives out honest and truthful advice the first thing my boss did was send me up the mountain.

Like, literally, I worked for two days then had a day doing the tour. That’s how popular this trip is. It was non negotiable, I was getting on that train.

Knowing literally nothing about the day I was about to have, when I got my itinerary my eyes nearly boggled out of my head. “Fuck me, this train takes TWO HOURS to get up there” I texted my friend, “and I’m the only person under 60 on here.”

Thankfully I was booked in the Gold Class carriage and so my frustration at a long train journey abated as I accepted my complimentary welcome cocktail (no booze, sure I guess it was 9.30 in the morning) and breakfast snacks.


But the train wound it’s way out from Cairns and began it’s ascent through the Barron Gorge towards Kuranda I found my eyes glued to the windows. Those views were gorgeous! I cursed the fact that my camera had died a few weeks before and tried to take pictures with my $50 ‘backpacker phone’.

As the day wore on I found myself shaking off my initial preconceptions and really enjoying the experience. The village was cute, I found a place selling excellent German Sausages and despite the clouds my return journey on the skyrail had me rapt. I was glad that I’d been obligated to try out the trip because otherwise there’s no way I would have expected to have fun!

I see a hesitation in other people my age too, a turn up of the nose when I put a brochure down in front of them with the train on the front. And it’s a shame, because taking the train and skyrail with time exploring a cute little hippy village in the middle is a seriously great day.

So here are 12 reasons why you shouldn’t just think Kuranda is for old people:


You get a sleep in

Come on now, you can admit that you want a sleep in. The pickup times for other rainforest tours, however brilliant they are, will definitely make you cry when it’s 4am and you’re still doing tequila shots in Gilligans with your new friend Sven. Although you can get an early start if you’re feeling fresh, having to make an 11am bus will be a lot easier especially if your day is sandwiched between early starts for reef trips.


Going Gold Class

Yeah because no one under 30 would enjoy travelling in a VIP carriage with their own waitress serving wine and beer, a huge window seat and a cheese platter. Oh, wait… Upgrading to Gold Class might cost an extra $55 but it’s worth every penny when you consider what’s included! If nothing else you can totally pretend that you’re in an Agatha Christie novel and the person across from you is about to commit murder. Or is that just me?


Seeing the waterfalls from the train

Everyone has seen the iconic image of the train curling around the tracks framed by a waterfall behind and, yes, that is one of the best bits. There is something a bit magic about being on an old train, looking back out of the window and watching the carriages curl around a torrent of water regardless of your age.


The skyrail is bloody brilliant

Nothing can quite prepare you for the feeling of soaring over the great dividing range. As the gondola reaches the crest and rises over you are left with 360 degree views of seemingly endless mountains painted different shades of equally vibrant green. The peace is surprising too, with nothing but the whirr of the gondola and noise from creatures in the trees below. On my last trip it was so clear that from the top I could see sand cays out on the reef. Gorgeous.


Eeek – the Canopy glider!

Add some adrenaline to your day and upgrade to the canopy glider. It’s basically one step down from bungee jumping, only with a rainforest guide to talk you through the plants and animals you can see clearly because, well, there’s no walls. For a slightly less scary ride with a difference there is also the diamond view option with a glass floor gondola. It’s not as freaky as you might think.


Incredible Rainforest walks

An interest in the eco systems surrounding Cairns isn’t mutually exclusive with a birth year before the 80s! The variety of plants and animals so close to the city has to be seen to be believed, and with free guided ranger walks it’s easy to learn about the nature you’re experiencing. Exploring the boardwalk around the Red Peak station will show you a gobsmacking amount in a short space of time, plus the view from the lookout makes for the perfect holiday snap. Speaking of which…


It’s a very Instagram-able trip

Your entire day, from the journey up to the actual village of Kuranda itself, was pretty much made to get likes upon likes and great comments. From gondola selfies to cute wildlife you can guarantee to post something people will love. Don’t pretend like that’s not how you think, we all know there’s no point in doing anything unless you can boast about it on social media. Don’t forget to add #exploreTNQ for the chance to have your photo featured by Tourism Tropical North Queensland!


You can spend your lunch time Quad Biking

Hurtling through dense, virgin rainforest on a 500cc quad bike. Sound like fun? You can easily add it in to your day and see the rainforest from a whole new angle. I took the lunch time ride with Down and Dirty Quad bikes and it was great fun! Although you might want to take some spare clothes or embrace the all over brown polka dot look for the rest of the day…


Shopping in Kuranda is brilliant

If you’re looking for the perfect souvenir then the shops and markets in the village are the place to go. Sure there are some tacky spots, but it’s also a great place to pick up art and photographic prints, jewellery and locally made items. My favourite shop Abracadabra has a fantastic hippy vibe and there is a second hand book stall selling previously loved novels for cheap prices. There aren’t any chain stores so you’re guaranteed to find something completely unique to take home with you.


The Barron falls are epic

My last trip to see the falls had been after a significant amount of rain, and the power that the water produced was enough to shake the ground. Now we’re a month or so into the dry season and there remains but the smallest of trickles tumbling down the rock face. It is however still impressive. At 125 metres tall and 250 metres wide it can be hard to grip the scale of the falls but thankfully this week there were some idiots climbing over it. If you can spot the tiny figures it puts the scale into context, so thanks dickheads I hope you knew what you were doing (doubtful, you were shoeless).



^^^That’s just the top part in the above picture!

A compulsory wildlife experience

For those from overseas you’ll need to show evidence of your koala cuddle to qualify for your exit visa. Jokes (kinda…) but it’s surely on everyone’s list to get up, close and personal with Australia’s most iconic creature. There’s also the chance to hand feed skippy, cover yourself in butterflies or make friends with a macaw at any of the wildlife parks. Should you feel the need for something a bit darker there’s the Australian venom zoo but why oh why would you pay money to see spiders?!


A nice Historic pub

If all else fails there’s a bloody good pub right next to the skyrail and train stations. Everyone loves a good pub.


How’s that, are you convinced that Kuranda is fun for all ages?

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