Skip to Content
15 Best Things to Do in Kuranda For First-Timers

15 Best Things to Do in Kuranda For First-Timers

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Discover rainforest attractions, fun activities and vibrant markets in this guide to the best things to do in Kuranda.

Kuranda is a quaint rainforest village located approximately 30 minutes northwest of Cairns in Far North Queensland, Australia. It’s nestled within the tropical surrounds of the oldest surviving tropical rainforest on earth with a peaceful ambiance that I’ve never felt anywhere else in Australia.

As you might expect, there are loads of reasons to visit Kuranda, with natural attractions including the Skyrail, nature parks, the Scenic Rail and of course, checking out the mighty Barron Falls! I’ve visited Kuranda more times than I can count and in this guide, I’ll share my list of the best things to do for first-time visitors!

Kuranda signpost

Best Things to Do in Kuranda

If you're in a rush, I recommend all first-time visitors to Kuranda check out Barron Falls and browse through the Kuranda Markets! Below I'll detail many more fun ideas for your trip.

Tip: For a unique day trip from Cairns, I recommend taking the Skyrail cable car from Smithfield and returning via the Scenic Rail. Below are three surprisingly affordable bookable tours & activities you can book right now.

Skyrail rainforest cablecar in cairns

1. Skyrail & Scenic Rail Combo

Experience Kuranda on an epic day trip from Cairns via the famous Skyrail cableway and return via the historical Scenic Rail through the rainforest.

Army duck boat in kuranda

2. Kuranda Army Ducks Unique

Travel deep into the rainforest around Kuranda on World War II Army Ducks on this unique full-day trip. Travel on both land and water and spot unique wildlife with a professional guide.

Quokka eating on the grass

3. Friends of the Rainforest Budget

Save money & time with this combined entry ticket to both Kuranda Koala Gardens & Birdworld.

1. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Experience

The most exhilarating way to get to Kuranda from Cairns is to jump on board the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway in Smithfield (15 minutes from Cairns). While you can drive to Kuranda, if you're planning to visit on a day trip, this is by far the best way to do it.

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a 7.5-kilometre gondola stretching over the pristine rainforest canopy. I'd say that it's definitely more of an experience than a ride.

The best part is, you can book a combined ticket for a self-guided day trip to Kuranda (below), which includes:

  • Hotel pickup and transport to the Smithfield Skyrail Terminal
  • Skyrail ticket to Kuranda (with stops and free, optional Rainforest tour)
  • Time to explore the Kuranda attractions at your own leisure
  • Kuranda Scenic Rail ticket back to Cairns
  • Transport back to your hotel

Book: Combined Skyrail & Scenic Rail

Skyrail diamond view gondola, kuranda attractions and what to do
The skyrail cablecar is the best way to get to kuranda!

2. Kuranda Scenic Rail

Truthfully, the Kuranda Scenic Rail, also known as the Kuranda train, is easily one of the most popular things to do on a day trip to Kuranda.

The Scenic Rail offers a convenient (and epic) transport solution to and from Kuranda. However, it's also an experience, passing through the incredible Barron Gorge, offering opportunities to hop off and enjoy the pristine view at places that are difficult to reach by foot (like the Scenic Rail Waterfall).

Again, if you're spending a day trip in Kuranda, the most cost-effective and convenient way to book a Scenic Rail ticket is to combine it with the Skyrail.

I'd recommend taking the Skyrail first (earliest possible) and taking the Scenic Rail back to Cairns. This way you'll maximise the time you can spend exploring the village.

Kuranda scenic railway overlooking barron falls, cairns, things to do in kuranda

3. Barron Riverboat Tour from Kuranda

One of my favourite tours and attractions in Kuranda is the Barron Riverboat tour running from the jetty beside the Scenic Rail station. A fun fact is that the local operator really lucked out on a tour license decades ago and now is the only person allowed to run tours up the Barron River.

What I really love about this trip is that although he has a monopoly, he's still kept the price at just $25 for a 45-minute guided riverboat tour– what a legend!

These trips are truly awesome, with great opportunities to spot native wildlife including crocs, cassowaries, turtles, snakes, water dragons and freshwater rainforest fish.

Book: Barron River Boat Tour ($25)

Barron riverboat trip in kuranda, australia

4. Kuranda Markets (Heritage & Original)

The Kuranda markets are perhaps the most iconic attraction in the rainforest village. In fact, Kuranda Village is world famous for its markets and is featured in several documentaries and travel guides. If you're up for something free to do in Kuranda, make sure to head down to the stalls!

There are two main markets in Kuranda, the Original Rainforest Markets and the Kuranda Heritage Markets.

Kuranda markets

The Kuranda Original Markets had their humble beginnings back in 1978 when a group of local hippy artists set up stalls in the rainforest to sell to passengers aboard the Queensland rail. In many ways, the Original Markets are still much the same as back in the early days. Stalls sell unusual, handmade souvenirs and crafts, buskers fill the air with sounds of flutes and drums and local harvesters offer tastings of their organic produce.

The Heritage Markets offer more modern stalls, selling aboriginal art and artifacts, handmade leather goods, jewelry and delicious tropical fruit ice cream.

Kuranda markets, things to do

5. Barron Falls

Barron Falls is the natural highlight at Kuranda and the Barron Gorge National Park. This 125-metre tall waterfall is a really impressive sight and in my opinion, one of the most epic waterfalls in Cairns and the Tropical North!

There's a 2-hour return walking track from the Kuranda Visitor Centre and leading to a lookout over Barron Falls. However, if you decide to take the Skyrail and Scenic Rail, you'll get ample opportunity to witness its might at various viewpoints including "The Edge" Glass Floor" that is inaccessible on foot.

Things to do in kuranda, the edge lookout over barron falls
The Edge Lookout over Barron Falls (Skyrail stop)

6. Australian Butterfly Sanctuary at Kuranda

As you can see, there's a general theme for the paid attractions in Kuranda– they all cost just $22 per person! The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary breeds and releases several native rainforest butterflies and is open for visitors to explore. In fact, it's the largest open-air butterfly aviary in Australia!

This was a fun thing to do in Kuranda for me as I got to try out my new lens and practice some macro photography. As a result, we spent roughly an hour learning about and taking photos of the butterflies in the sanctuary which I thought was a great value-for-money experience.

Book: Australian Butterfly Sanctuary Entry

Butterfly at kuranda sactuary austrlaia
Largest Butterfly Flight Aviary in the Southern Hemisphere
Butterfly at kuranda sactuary austrlaia

7. Birdworld Kuranda

Another one of the $20 entry activities in Kuranda is the famous Birdworld. This natural rainforest atrium replicates the natural habitats and is a sanctuary to 60 native species, including a cassowary!

Book: Birdworld Entry Ticket

Cassowary birdworld kuranda 1

8. C-47 Skytrain Plane Wreck

You might be surprised to discover the remains of a C-47 Skytrain right next to the Heritage Market in Kuranda! This particular plane was built in the 1940s in the first era of Australian civil aviation.

No, the plane didn't crash here in Kuranda, but found its home here to rest as a display after a long and interesting history including its role in the 1984 flick Sky Pirates.

Visitors looking for attractions and free things to do in Kuranda, stop by the wrecked Skytrain and snap some shots!

Kuranda attractions; the 1940s skytrain plane wreck

9. The Ted Elliott Mineral Collection

Hidden among the several stalls and market vendors in Kuranda is a little-known free mineral collection exhibit known as The Ted Elliot Collection.

This collection contains over 4500 specimens of fossils, jewellery and minerals and is the largest in Australia! You'll find the collection pinned on Google Maps under the same name.

Tip: This is a free attraction!

Australian mineral collection in kuranda

10. Koala Gardens

Among the top wildlife attractions that you might want to visit in Kuranda is to visit the Koala Gardens. The Koala Gardens is another sanctuary housing Australian wildlife such as koalas, wallabies, wombats and freshwater crocodiles.

The Koala Gardens also has a nocturnal exhibit where visitors can get the opportunity to see some nocturnal rainforest marsupials including the endangered Greater Bilby and Mahogany Glider.

Book: Kuranda Koala Gardens Entry

Koala mum and baby in kuranda, australia

11. Kuranda Rainforestation Nature Park

Just a little bit out of the main village, visitors will find the Rainforestation Nature Park. This nature park features three unique experiences; an army duck rainforest tour, a Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience and a Koala & Wildlife Park.

The Rainforestation Nature Park is a very popular thing to do in Kuranda as it provides a very holistic coverage of all the things that make the rainforest village so special. The inclusion of a Pamagirri Dance Show & Dreamtime Walk is great as it incorporates aboriginal rainforest culture and teaches visitors the culture and way of life from the first custodians to the land in Kuranda.

Book: Kuranda Rainforest Nature Park

Kuranda rainforestation nature park

12. Rainforest ATV Experience (Quad Bikes)

The final paid attraction in Kuranda is the very popular rainforest ATV experience. This one-hour guided tour takes you on a ride through the vibrant rainforest to the top of Barron Falls.

The trip drives through private property, which has been preserved in its natural state and follows the footpaths of ancient loggers.

Book: Kuranda ATV Tour

Things to do in kuranda, the atv experience

13. Unwind With a Barron Riverside Walk

There are many short walking tracks and calming, secluded spots in the rainforest surrounding Kuranda. To unwind, head down past the Scenic Rail station and continue down to tracks following the Barron River.

Here, you'll find many great spots to sit down and enjoy the serenity. Also, keep an eye out on the edge of the river. There are often native freshwater turtles and crocodiles basking on the banks. We even spotted a cassowary on the other side of the river!

Barron river walk in kuranda

14. Check Out the Jumrun Creek Conservation Park

For longer hikes and rainforest walks, check out the Jumrun Creek Conservation Park. There are signs around Kuranda indicating the way, but you'll also find useful maps at the Visitor Centre.

Taking a boardwalk stroll through the Jumrun Creek Conservation Park is one of my favourite free things to do in Kuranda. This stretch of rainforest surroundings is absolutely pristine and offers great opportunities to spot wildlife in the forest and the creek.

Jumrun conservation park, kuranda hike

15. Kuranda Arts Coop

The Kuranda Arts Co-operative is central to the local art scene in the village and was founded by artists from the Kuranda area.

It showcases a wide array of artwork, including paintings, ceramics, glasswork, and textiles, all produced by regional artists. This venue allows travellers to interact with the artists, gain insight into their techniques, and purchase unique art pieces.

If you're up for supporting the local art community then this co-operative provides an excellent opportunity to do so and buy some meaningful souvenirs or gifts.

Kuranda art coop

Where to Stay in Kuranda

Staying overnight is a great way to explore this region in more depth and gives you more time to check out the waterfalls, trails, and markets.

Luckily, there are a few Kuranda accommodation options available. Below are my hand-picked favourites.

Outdoor swimming pool at kuranda ngorongoro lodge

1. Kuranda Ngorongoro Lodge Popular Pick

Located amongst the lush jungle with an outdoor swimming pool this is a great place to relax and listen to the surrounding sounds of the oldest rainforest in the world.

Farm accommodation at kur cow farm

2. KUR-Cow Farm Epic Experience

Located on a picturesque farm this is a great choice to stay if you're looking to escape the city. You'll have cows free roaming and the silence will have you craving more time here.

Honeybee house lounge and dining area

3. Honeybee House Group Choice

A great option for families or small groups. It is hidden amongst 5 acres of tropical rainforest with an outdoor BBQ and just a 10-minute drive to Kuranda.

How to Get to Kuranda

It takes roughly 30-40 minutes to drive to Kuranda from Cairns following National Route 1 (Captain Cook Highway) and the Kennedy Highway turnoff from Smithfield towards the Atherton Tablelands.

Distance from Cairns: 28 km (30-40 minutes)
Distance from Port Douglas: 70 km (1 hour 15 minutes)

As I mentioned at the start of this article, the way that I recommend all travellers to get to Kuranda is via a combined Scenic Rail and Skyrail ticket. This ticks off some great Kuranda attractions while also providing you with the most convenient way to get to and from the village.

Kuranda map

Keep in mind that Kennedy Highway climbs the MacAlister Range on the way up to Kuranda and is a little steep and winding in certain sections!

Related: The Great Barrier Reef Drive

Car in the rainforest near cairns

Car Rentals in Far North Queensland

Cairns is one of the most popular travel destinations in Australia and car rentals quickly book out! I recommend booking well in advance. I always use DiscoverCars as they compare the widest range of rentals across dealerships in the Far North.

Is Kuranda Worth Visiting?

The answer is definitely! As you can see from this blog, there are many fun things to do in Kuranda from scenic rail journeys to rainforest walks and amazing waterfalls.

In fact, I consider a trip to the rainforest village a must for anyone visiting Cairns and the Tropical North!

Kuranda station

The Kuranda Information Centre

For more information about Kuranda, its history and indigenous heritage, stop by the Information Centre. You'll find it centrally located adjacent to the markets.

The Information Centre is open on most days. Also, the staff are super helpful and will give you a hand-picking attractions, highlights and activities in Kuranda that are suited to your travel style and preferences.

Kuranda sign 1 1

More Cairns & FNQ Travel Blogs

That wraps up this comprehensive travel guide to the best things to do in Kuranda, Australia. I really hope it has inspired you to add this to your Cairns itinerary and provided you some useful tips on what to do in this beautiful slice of the Tropical North.

Before you head off, make sure you check out some of my other travel guides and blogs. I've spent a great deal of time documenting and photographing many awesome things to do in the region and I'm sure you'll find something new!

Kuranda river boat cruise
Skyrail terminal in kuranda
Things to do in kuranda
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.