February 6th, 2024
7 minute read
Kuranda is one of the most captivating towns I’ve been to along Australia’s east coast. It's a picturesque mountain village located 25km northwest of Cairns and surrounded by the oldest living tropical rainforest in the world. The enchanting rainforest wonderland is teeming with friendly locals, native wildlife and indigenous culture. I recommend that anyone travelling along the east coast must visit Kuranda and discover its magic.
My friends and I spent a day in Kuranda and uncovered what activities to do that didn't break the bank. Thankfully, it wasn't difficult as this quirky town is filled with affordable (or free) activities that are worth checking out. I've listed the top things that I highly recommend you do if you're planning a visit to Kuranda!
Our first stop in Kuranda was Barron Falls in the Barron Gorge National Park (3km from the town's centre). It took us by surprise as we didn’t realise there was a waterfall actually in Kuranda! Therefore, with no idea what to expect, the falls blew our minds. The monstrous stream of water that flowed down the side of the mountain was breathtaking. We arrived before 8am (highly recommend) which meant we got to enjoy the serene views in utter peace.
Spend your time at Barron Falls soaking in the views, wandering between the various viewing platforms, and admiring the luscious green environment. The best part about visiting Barron Falls is that you don't have to spend a single dime!
These are a MUST if you’re visiting Kuranda. The markets are nestled in the middle of the rainforest which make for a shopping experience like no other. Each stall and shop is quirky and colourfully decorated, some with mosaic artwork covering their walls, others with prayer flags strung between their stall and the trees. Wind your way through the dense foliage and stop to admire the locally owned stalls consisting of handmade art, clothing, jewellery, snacks, tea and more.
Chat to the friendly locals and see what affordable knick-knacks you can buy to squeeze into your suitcase. Hidden throughout the rainforest are a variety of unique food stalls with cuisines from all over the world - and they aren’t too expensive. The markets truly are an enchanting experience that will leave you wanting to visit again (that’s how I feel anyway)!
For over 10,000 years, the land surrounding Kuranda has been home to the Djabugay Aboriginal people. The town has plenty of ways you can learn more about its authentic indigenous cultural history. There’s the interactive Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience which teaches and recognises the importance of preserving and sharing the culture. You can join a Dreamtime Walk which includes spear-throwing, didgeridoo and boomerang throwing.
Another way to appreciate the culture is by visiting the Doongal Aboriginal Art Gallery in Kuranda’s main street. The gallery specialises in locally curated Aboriginal rainforest art. You can wander through the gallery for free and admire the talented work of the artists. Chat to the friendly staff who know all about the artworks and their origins.
Kuranda Birdworld is the ultimate wildlife attraction. It’s $20 per entry, - which in my opinion is worth it! Birdworld is home to over 350 birds (60 different species from around the world) that fly freely throughout the park. Bring your camera along as there are great photo opportunities. Some of the birds like to greet you by landing on your shoulders (or head) so it’s recommended not to wear dangly jewellery or loose items as the birds will play tricks on you and try to steal them (I’ve seen it).
However, this immersive experience is worth the risk! Being up close and personal, surrounded by colourful feathers is one memorable experience. Say hello to the iconic resident, the endangered Southern Cassowary who inhabits the sanctuary too. Other birds you can meet include the cheeky lorikeets, parrots in all sorts of vibrant colours, galahs, cockatoos, Amazonian macaws and more. The birds are used to human contact so luckily they are all very tame and friendly!
Kuranda’s Koala Gardens are located next to Birdworld. It is $20 entry but if you choose to visit both Birdworld and the Koala Gardens you can get a deal for $35. Koalas are one of Australia’s biggest wildlife attractions and the opportunity to cuddle one doesn’t come by often. As they are mostly nocturnal animals, they are quite hard to find in the wild. The Gardens are the perfect place for you to fulfil that Aussie bucket list dream. It is an extra cost but imagine the reactions of your friends back home when they see photos of you cuddling these fluffy guys!
Not only do koalas live in the gardens, other popular Australian animals do too. Wallabies, wombats, snakes, quokkas, gliders and even freshwater crocodiles inhabit the park (I thought the crocs were statues as they were lying so still in the sun when I visited). To meet the needs of the wildlife, the sanctuary also has a nocturnal exhibit for the marsupials that thrive in the dark.
Aside from the markets, there are a few select stores throughout Kuranda’s main street. Shopping is a great way to pass the time - and a lovely way to discover more of what Kuranda has to offer. The village is very ‘artsy’ which means it’s home to many artists and craftworkers. Therefore, the shops reflect the work of the talented residents. From hand-crafted souvenirs to Indigenous artwork, there is something for everyone in Kuranda.
There’s the Kuranda Candy Kitchen that’s great for the sweet tooth’s among us, the Coral Coast Leather store filled with leathery goods and exotic skins, various clothing boutiques where you can window shop or peruse through the sale racks if you’re not willing to spend a lot of money, the Kuranda Arts Co-Op consisting of different forms of art, and more!
Kuranda’s Scenic Railway runs similarly to the Skyrail (see below) between Cairns and Kuranda, but instead of going above the rainforest, it travels through it. The cost of a return trip is $76 (not so cheap). However, if you just want to see what it’s like without paying the fee (like I did), visit the station in Kuranda. It’s located amongst lush greenery and is incredibly photogenic (very instagram aesthetically pleasing I might add). Wait for the train to arrive and note the old school style of carriages.
If you choose to travel to Kuranda via the train, the journey winds you through the Barron Gorge National Park where you can admire the dense rainforest from the comfort of a spacious carriage. Meander through the mountainous scenery and keep an eye out for hidden waterfalls. With underground tunnels and towering bridges over rivers, it really is an exciting train journey like no other.
So this may be a little more on the pricey end but it is totally worth it! The Skyrail is a cableway that runs above Barron Gorge National Park between Cairns and Kuranda. With 360 degree views, it is absolutely picturesque. The cableway has stops mid-way throughout the journey where you can hop off, delve deeper into the rainforest and check out waterfalls!
The cost of the Skyrail for one way is $60. However, I recommend you make the most of your money’s worth and purchase a return ticket for $88.50. Start in Cairns, cruise up to Kuranda and spend your day wandering through the beautiful village (doing all the cheap and free things I’ve mentioned in this list). Once you've exhausted yourself from a day of fun, jump on the Skyrail and head back to Cairns. What better form of transport is there?!