When you think of Cairns, one of the first images that pops into your mind is most likely related to the Great Barrier Reef and being near or on the ocean.
But Cairns has a lot more in common with the Sunshine Coast than you might think – it’s close to the beach with a lush and thriving hinterland providing a stunning backdrop to the city.
There is a wealth of experiences in the Atherton Tablelands, which rise up behind Cairns, and getting to one of the most popular destinations, Kuranda, is an adventure in itself.
Kuranda is a small leafy village at the top of the tablelands that has a thriving arts scene. While a leisurely stroll through town sampling the culinary delights will be enough to satisfy some, there are also many other experiences on offer, from witnessing the mighty Barron Falls to walking among butterflies or watching a demonstration of how to ‘milk’ a venomous spider.
During our latest trip to Cairns, we decided to make a real day of our Kuranda adventure and booked tickets on the world-famous Kuranda Scenic Railway. The kids were in awe as the majestic engine rolled into the station and the carriages maintain that real heritage feel as you nestle into the bench seats for the journey, which lasts just under two hours.
The winding track rises from sea level up to a whopping 328 metres high and passes through World Heritage-protected tropical rainforest, and chugs so close to some of the spectacular waterfalls that you can feel the spray through the windows.
While it’s not as interesting for the little ones, there is a running commentary that explains the significance of the railway, which was constructed between 1882 and 1891 when hundreds of men dug out the 15 tunnels and constructed the bridges with brute force and simple tools.
A short stopover at the towering Barron Gorge gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs and get some photos before embarking on the last short leg to Kuranda.
When you are in town, there is so much to do. For us, it was a relaxed walk up and down the street, checking out the many artisan offerings and buying a gift or two to take home. When the tummies started to rumble, there was plenty on offer from standard bakery fare to specialist eateries.
We decided to take the kids to The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and it was fantastic. Stepping into the large enclosed aviary was like teleporting to another world.
The abundance of flowers, shrubs and delicate winding waterways was simply stunning and it was easy to pass a couple of hours making our way slowly around and stopping to admire the delicate butterflies as they showcased the incredible colour combinations on their wings.
Those wearing brightly coloured clothing who stand still for an extended period of time might be lucky enough to attract a butterfly or two to land on their shirt – something my youngest was absolutely thrilled to achieve on several occasions during our visit.
With the day quickly passing, we made our way to the final stage of our adventure, the Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
While taking in the awe-inspiring view from the cabin as you descend is a treat in itself, there are also two stations in which you can get off and have a stroll through ancient rainforests or spend time in the interpretive centre to gain a greater understanding of the flora and fauna that live on the mountain.
This was a truly magical way to round out an incredible day of exploration in and around Kuranda.