After asking several locals what we shouldn’t miss while in Cairns, we were told every time to visit the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest. We didn’t know much about the rainforest in the area and were advised the best and easiest introduction to see Barron Gorge National Park was gliding above it with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
The 7.5 kms/4.7 miles of Skyrail was completed in 1995. To preserve the pristine conditions of the rainforest and to provide minimal disturbance to the ecosystem, helicopters were used to lift the majority of the 33 towers into place. The tallest tower stands at 40.4m/133ft, and the highest point stands at the Red Peak Station.
We made a plan to spend a good portion of a day investigating what Skyrail had to offer. Upon arrival, the employees were more than welcoming. Everyone was smiling and providing directions and tips for what to see and do. I know their job is to be nice, but the positive attitudes we encountered were exceptionally noteworthy.
Before your ride grab the Skyrail Trip Guide pamphlet located at any of the boarding entrances. It was packed with information about each tower, the different sections of the forest canopy, what species and individually significant trees are present, maps for the Red Station and Barron Falls sojourns, and details regarding their World Heritage listing. The insights heightened the Skyrail experience because we knew what we were looking at instead of just looking at a mass of trees.
We started our Skyrail journey at the Smithfield station located at the lowest point of the Skyrail. With 103 regular gondola cabins and 11, Diamond View (glass bottom) cabins the lines to board were relatively short and moved quickly. Our first stop was the Red Peak Station at 545 meters above sea level. We chose to walk the 175-meter boardwalk on our own to kill time before joining the free guided tour. Take the tour! We had no idea what we were looking at. The tour made it much more enjoyable, and the local Aboriginal guide was full of stories both historical and personal. Tour times were posted at the entrance of the boardwalk, which made it quite easy to plan your time. Be sure to look for the 400-year-old Kauri Pine tree.
Next and arguably most impressive, were the three different views at the Barron Falls station. Sadly, there was not a guided tour, but there were a few information boards at each of the overlooks. Along with beautiful up close views of Barron Falls waterfall, look for a glimpse of the Kuranda Scenic train. Depending on the time of day, you may be able to spot the train stopped on the other side of Barron Gorge. Also, make time to walk through the CISRO’s Interactive Rainforest Interpretation Centre before heading to your next Skyrail depot.
The town of Kuranda was our last exploration on our journey. The town was charming and full of perfect lunch restaurants, shops, and a few museum type activities. Give yourself at least an hour in Kuranda to have lunch and wander the streets. If you plan to visit, any of the animal attractions add on another hour or so. We found the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary to be enjoyable and very informative. For locally made and sourced goods head to the community market erected around the entrances to the Koala Gardens and Birdworld parks.
In hindsight, our regret was not riding the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Had we to do all over again we would ride the train from Cairns to Kuranda and take the Skyrail from Kuranda down to the Smithfield station. After seeing the forest from the top and getting a taste of lower forest from the Red Peak and Barron Falls stations, we wanted to see more from inside the woods. The train would have been a great way to see more from inside the forest.
Whichever direction you decide to ride the Skyrail, we highly recommend you don’t miss the ride down from Kuranda to the Smithfield station after lunchtime. The afternoon sun radiates behind your Skyrail cabin and lights up the greenery of the trees and the blues in the water. The views of the Great Barrier Reef and the shoreline in the afternoon were breathtaking.
Tips For Your Visit
- Bring water, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, and your fun attitude. Beverages and some snacks are available at each stop station.
- Check the Skyrail website to choose a Skyrail/Kuranda Scenic Railway adventure which fits you best.
- Be sure to note three different types of Skyrail cabins are available for transport- Regular, Diamond View, and Canopy Glider. If you are really set on taking canopy photos, you may want to consider the windowless Canopy Glider ride.
- Book your tickets and departure times online. Booking ahead is not required, but it helps cut down wait times at first arrival.
- Free wifi was available at all stations except Red Peak.
Skyrail Website: https://www.skyrail.com.au/
Prices: Check the Skyrail website for current prices and discounts.
How to Get There: We took the city bus from downtown Cairns. It took less than an hour and was so easy. Check out the TransLink website for details.
If you are driving to Skyrail, their website provides directions and tips. Also, ample parking is available on site.
3.5 out of 5 Travelationship High Fives. We enjoyed the Skyrail a lot. The staff was friendly and very helpful. We wished there was a guided tour available at the Barron Falls stop. The prices were on the high side. Be sure to check their website for current discounts and package deals. Type of traveler who may like Skyrail – Adventurer, nature lover, romantic, relaxation addict, history lover, bucket lister, families, couples, singles
* Thank you to Skyrail for our complimentary Skyrail experience including our visits to Kuranda Koala Gardens, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, and Birdworld Kuranda. As always, our opinions are ours – honest, not biased and as we experienced.