A complete guide to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience in Cairns, Australia. Answers all of your questions to make the most of this iconic, must-do activity over the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics Rainforest.
Skyrail Cairns is a truly unforgettable experience sending you gliding above the canopy of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. This is one of the best ways to experience the incredibly rich and biodiverse rainforest surrounding Cairns and Kuranda and in my opinion, a must-do eco experience for anyone visiting Cairns.
In this detailed guide, I aim to answer all of your questions you might have about the Skyrail Cairns and include photos from my Rainforest Cableway experience. I’ve included tips on how to get the best price, what you should know about the upgrades and how to make the most of your Skyrail experience at Kuranda.
Featured in: The 10 Best Cairns Tours & Experiences
- Skyrail Cairns – About the Rainforest Cableway Experience
- Booking The Skyrail Rainforest CableWay Cairns
- Skyrail Cairns – What to Expect From the Experience
- More Travel and Adventure Inspiration for Cairns
Skyrail Cairns – About the Rainforest Cableway Experience
First thing’s first– Skyrail in Cairns is not just a ride, it’s a 90-minute rainforest experience and arguably one of the best things to do in Cairns!
This world-renowned gondola cableway spans 7.5 kilometres over World Heritage listed Wet Tropics Rainforest connecting Cairns (Smithfield) to Kuranda. It’s an amazing experience and one of the funnest ways to immerse yourself in the beauty of this unique ecosystem.
Below are a few quick things to note to help you plan for your journey:
- The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway departs from the Skyrail Smithfield Terminal, approximately 15 minutes north of Cairns.
- There are two stops along the way. Firstly at Red Peak and secondly at Barron Falls (total time 90-minutes including stops)
- The trip finishes at Kuranda, where there are plenty of things to see and do (details below). Alternatively, you can book a Skyrail experience from Kuranda and finish at Smithfield.
- It’s possible to book a self-guided combined activity which combines the very popular Kuranda Scenic Railway. This is another epic experience in itself, offering a convenient and exciting way to return to Cairns.
- If you’re not taking the Kuranda Scenic Railway back, you can either return to Smithfield via a return Skyrail ticket or organise transport. There is a road between Kuranda and Smithfield but logistically, this is a bit tricky.
- There is a dedicated Skyrail app that you can download for apple and android devices. This provides lots of features and and an audio guide to enhance the experience.
Book now & skip the line: Skyrail Trip Full-Day With Hotel Pickup
Booking The Skyrail Rainforest CableWay Cairns
When booking you have the option of booking either a one-way trip or a return trip between Smithfield and Kuranda.
If you book a one-way trip, you’ll need to organise your own transport to get back to Cairns. The return trip also follows the same gondola track as you took on the way up.
I’d say that the best bang-for-buck ticket available is a self-guided combined ticket which includes:
- Hotel pickup
- Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience
- The Kuranda Scenic Rail experience departing Kuranda and returning to Cairns.
This is arguably the most popular option as it it allows for a full day of exploring the rainforest region and it’s the most exciting and convenient way to return to Cairns.
READ ABOUT MY FAVOURITE EXPERIENCE IN CAIRNS: The Ultimate Great Barrier Reef Trip
Skyrail Cairns operating hours and opening days vary between seasons. The first trips depart at 8:45am from Smithfield and 9:45 from Kuranda.
The last one way departure from Smithfield terminal is at 1:30pm and 3:15pm from Kuranda Terminal.and finish at 4:45pm. I recommend booking the earliest trip to make the most out of your day-trip when exploring Kuranda.
It’s best to plan ahead and check opening days for your trip on the booking page. I’d also suggest booking in advance to secure a trip as the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is one of the most popular activities in Cairns.
The Skyrail Diamond View Upgrade
An additional booking upgrade for Cairns’ Skyrail is the Diamond View upgrade. This is the one that I took and I can highly recommend it. Not only will you be able to look out the glass windows but the entire floor is made from thick glass so you can look straight down onto the rainforest canopy!
If this is the first time reading my blog, then you might not know that I’ve documented hundreds of epic things to see and do in Cairns. After checking out Skyrail, why not explore some epic Cairns waterfalls or hiking trails, or check out these essential lists for where to stay and what to pack.
Skyrail Cairns – What to Expect From the Experience
Are you ready to embark? Well, let’s go– below is a good summary of what to expect based on my recent experience on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway from Cairns.
Boarding At Skyrail Smithfield Terminal
Since Smithfield is much closer to Cairns than Kuranda most people embark on their Skyrail trips from this terminal. You can either drive here yourself from Cairns or jump on board one of Skyrail dedicated public transport bus routes departing from several Cairns central locations.
If you book the combined Skyrail and Scenic Rail trip linked above, you’ll get accommodation transport included.
There is a very large car park beside the Smithfield Skyrail Terminal providing free parking for the day. There’s also a gift shop and bathrooms here.
First Stop: Red Peak
The entire process for us was really smooth. We had very little waiting time and almost immediately boarded the Skyrail with our timed tickets. The first trip is roughly 15 minutes as the gondola climbs over a field of kangaroos and increasingly denser rainforest terrain.
The first Skyrail station is known as Red Peak, a high hill overlooking Smithfield and the Coral Sea. Here, we disembarked to explore the Rainforest Discover Zone and the rainforest boardwalks.
At Red Peak, there is an optional 30-minute guided rainforest tour which I highly recommend. While we’ve spent a lot of time in the Cairns rainforest and hiking trails, we were still blown away with just how much we didn’t know! Our guide Mike was very knowledgeable and taught us a lot about rainforest ecosystems.
A highlight of the Red Peak stop is a giant Kauri Pine, which is said to be between 300-500 years old. It’s amazing to think that this single tree has sat on this hill since before the European settlement of Australia.
If you’ve downloaded the Skyrail Interpretive App, then Red Peak is a good place to use it. There are AR features which are pretty neat and really enhance the experience if you decide to skip the tour.
After the 30-minute Rainforest Discovery Tour, we reembarked on the Cairns Skyrail gondola to continue climbing up towards Barron Falls, another approximately 15-minute trip from Red Peak.
Alternative: Scenic Rail Ticket ($50)
Second Stop: Barron Falls
The glide over to the Barron Falls lookout area was my personal favourite on the entire Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Experience. As we got further into the rainforest towards Kuranda, it’s clear that the vegetation becomes denser and more wild. At one point, we were gliding just metres above the canopy and even spotted a turtle basking on a log by a small creek.
This was a clear benefit of choosing the Diamond View upgrade!
After about 15-minutes we arrived at the second stop; the Barron Falls lookout.
The Barron Falls lookout is a recently-upgraded viewpoint over Barron Falls, one of the most impressive waterfalls in Australia!
The Edge Lookout
This new viewing platform is known as The Edge Lookout, a glass platform extended over the Barron Gorge just beside the waterfall. I’d visited Barron Falls many times but I think it’s safe to say that this lookout is by far the best. The Cairns Skyrail is also the only way to get here, so you’re definitely getting a premium view!
Unlike the first stop at Red Peak, it’s possible to stay on the gondola and skip the Barron Falls for the return trip. However if you’re coming back on the Kuranda Scenic Rail, then definitely don’t skip this one!
We spent about 20 minutes snapping photos and admiring the view of Barron Falls. We got pretty lucky visiting the waterfall in the dry season, as it was unusually powerful!
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Final Stop: Kuranda
The final stretch towards Kuranda aboard the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway climbs another small hill before dropping down and crossing the Barron River.
From here, you can see far into the Tablelands and admire the far-reaching rainforest from one of the highest points on the cableway.
Finally, the Skyrail trip ends at the Kuranda Skyrail Terminal, where they take your photo (option to purchase).
Things to do in Kuranda
While the Skyrail one-way experience to Kuranda might be over, the day definitely doesn’t end here. There is so much to do in Kuranda and everyone should dedicate at least an hour to explore some of the highlights. For some tips to make the most of your trip, check out my guide to things to do in Kuranda.
Otherwise, below are some links to some of the bookable activities if you’re planning your trip in advance:
- The Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary
- Kuranda Rainforest Nature Park
- Kuranda Koala Gardens
- Rainforest ATV tours
- Rainforest Riverboat Tour (freshwater crocodile spotting)
- Two world-renowned markets; the Heritage Markets and Original Markets
Returning to Cairns
After enjoying all of the highlights and attractions in the quaint rainforest village of Kuranda, you’ll have a few options to wrap up the day and return to Cairns or Port Douglas. As I mentioned above, the best way is to combine the trip with the Kuranda Scenic Rail. You’ll find the station right next to the Cairns Skyrail Kuranda Terminal.
Otherwise, take a return trip to Smithfield on the Skyrail or a public transport bus.
Cairns Accommodation Guide – Where to Stay
Planning a trip to Cairns and wondering where to base yourself? Below I’ve listed some of the best options near Cairns Esplanade. I’ve also written a comprehensive accommodation guide to Cairns, so make sure to check that out too before you book!
Also, if you’re looking to stay in Port Douglas, I’ve got some tips on finding great accommodation deals there too.
LUXURY RESORT WITHOUT THE PRICE TAG – Rydges Resort
This hotel offers the best bang-for-buck. In terms of an epic stay for a decent price! The location is perfect, close to the esplanade and features include three swimming pools, two tennis courts, a jacuzzi, a fitness centre and even an award-winning restaurant.
Best 5-Star Luxury Without the Price Tag: Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
If luxury and location are what you’re after, you can’t beat the Pullman. It’s rated Cairns’ best hotel and features restaurants, a pool, live music gigs and even a casino! If nightlife is your thing, don’t go past this one.
Check price & availability at Pullman
Stay on the islands: Fitzroy Island Resort
If you’d rather sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands, look no further than the Fitzroy Island Resort. While you can get out here on a day trip, I highly recommend spending the night so you get more time to explore the reef, coral beaches and rainforest walking trails.
Check price & availability at Fitzroy Island resort
Best Budget Hostel With a Pool – Gilligan’s Backpackers
The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns is Gilligan’s Backpackers. That’s because this one has a swimming pool, AC, a complete kitchen and a great common area to meet other travellers.
Check price & availability at Gilligan’s
More Travel and Adventure Inspiration for Cairns
I hope that this detailed guide to the Cairns Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience was useful for helping you plan your activities and adventures in Cairns.
While you’re here, make sure to check out some of my many other blog posts for Cairns. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring Far North Queensland, photographing and documenting my adventures to inspire you! So, to get you started, below are a few good posts– I guarantee you’ll find something you didn’t know existed up here!
Otherwise, scroll down to check out some more photos that I captured on my recent Cairns Skyrail experience!
MY CAMERA AND PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT
- Mirrorless Camera: Canon R5
- Drone: DJI Mavic Pro 2
- 360 Action Camera: Insta360 One X2
- Landscape Lens: Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L
- All-Round Lens: Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L
- Telephoto Lens: Canon RF 100-500mm f/f/4.5-7.1 L
- Long Action Pole: Insta360 Invisible Pole (BulletTime)
- Landscape Lens Filter: Hoya Circular Polarizer
- Camera Backpack: F-Stop Tilopa
- Favorite Photography Accessory: Peak Design Capture Clip
For a list of all my recommended photography gear (including what I use and why) check out my guide to camera gear for travel.