An inspiring travel guide detailing 14 awesome things to do in Kuranda, Australia. Discover the best Kuranda attractions, activities and ideas for what to do during your visit to this beautiful Tropical North rainforest village.
Kuranda is a quaint rainforest village located approximately 25 minutes northwest of Cairns in Far North Queensland, Australia. It’s nestled within the tropical surrounds of the oldest surviving tropical rainforest on earth and is very much a part of the forest.
Visitors come to Kuranda to explore the beauty of the natural surrounds and to witness the uniquely peaceful ambience that I’ve personally never felt anywhere else in Australia. Due to its close proximity to Cairns, Kuranda has become quite a popular spot to visit. As you might expect, there are loads of things to do in Kuranda, with natural attractions including the Skyrail, nature parks, the scenic rail and of course, the mighty Barron Falls.
In this guide, I’ll aim to arm you with the knowledge you need to plan your itinerary for what to do in Kuranda. Whether you’re stopping by for a day trip or staying a few nights in a rainforest lodge, this Kuranda attraction list will get you started.
14 Awesome Things to do in Kuranda
Before we dive into this list of 14 Awesome Things to do in Kuranda, below I’ve included some quick links where you can directly book some of the highlight attractions and parks for a Kuranda day trip. These activities are surprisingly affordable and I always recommend booking online in advance to secure a spot.
- The Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary
- Kuranda Rainforest Nature Park
- Kuranda Koala Gardens
- Rainforest ATV tours
- Rainforest Riverboat Tour (freshwater crocodile spotting)
Don’t worry, if you’re looking for free things to do in Kuranda, I’ve got you covered with some options as well!
1. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Experience
By far, the most exhilarating way to get to Kuranda from Cairns is to jump onboard 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 pristine rainforest canopy. I’d say that it’s definitely more of an experience than a ride. In fact, I consider it one of the best things to do in Cairns!
For visitors without their own transport, your best option is to book a self-guided Kuranda day trip (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 best price online: Combined Skyrail & Scenic Rail Experience
Learn More About the Trip: Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Experience – Complete Guide
2. Kuranda Scenic Rail
Okay, I already mentioned this one above but truthfully, the Kuranda Scenic Rail, also know as the Kuranda train, is easily one of the most popular things to do on a day-trip to Kuranda.
The Scenic Rail is also another excellent experience which also offers a convenient (and epic) transport solution to and from Kuranda. The train chugs along the incredible Barron Gorge, offering opportunities to hop off and enjoy the pristine view at places you really can’t reach by car or on foot.
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 all of the things to do in Kuranda.
Book best price online: Combined Skyrail & Scenic Rail Ticket (combined self-guided day trip to Kuranda)
3. Barron RiverBoat Tour from Kuranda
One of my favourite tours and attractions in Kuranda is the Barron Riverboat tours 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 $20 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 ($20)
4. Explore the Kuranda Markets
The Kuranda markets are perhaps the most iconic attraction in the rainforest village. In fact, Kuranda 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 Heritage 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 artefacts, handmade leather goods, jewellery and delicious tropical fruit ice cream.
5. Witness the Might of 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 departing 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 inaccessible on foot.
Read More: Barron Falls – Complete Waterfall Guide
6. Australian Butterfly Sancturay at Kuranda
As you can see, there’s a general theme for the paid attractions in Kuranda– they all cost just $20 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 things 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 Ticket (only $20 online)
7. Birdworld at 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 (only $20 online)
8. Check Out The Remains of a wrecked Plane
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!
9. Free: 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 that is the largest in Australia! You’ll find the collection pinned on google maps under the same name.
10. Koala Gardens
Another wildlife-related activity that you might want to do in Kuranda is visit the Koala Gardens. The Koala Gardens is another animal sanctuary attraction in Kuranda housing several 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 Ticket ($20 online)
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 experience; 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.
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 1 hour ATV Tour
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!
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 surrounds is absolutely pristine and offer great opportunities to spot wildlife in the forest and in the reek.
RELATED POST: Cairns Hikes: Best Hikes in Cairns & The Tropical North
Kuranda Travel Guide: Tips and Things to Know
I hope that the above list has given you a good understanding of what to expect from Kuranda and what there is to do! Before you head off to the rainforest village, keep reading to get some more tips and find out some more important things to know about visiting.
Best Ways to Get to Kuranda
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.
However, if you’d rather drive here, then that’s also an option. It takes roughly 35 minutes to drive to Kuranda from Cairns, following National Route 1 (Captain Cook Highway) and the Kennedy Highway turnoff from Smithfield. 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.
If you don’t have your own car, then your best bet is to book one in advance in Cairns. Here’s a great list of resources to help you get the best deal:
- RentalCars.com – a rental car comparison site. Great way to compare rates and availability across companies.
- Car Next Door – sharing economy car rental app. I usually use this if I need to rent a car anywhere as it always ends up cheaper. Use my link for $15 off your first booking.
- Spaceships Vans – this one’s for the backpackers and budget travellers. One of the most affordable camper van options in Australia. I’ve had great experiences with them in New Zealand and Australia and always recommend them.
Kuranda Accommodation: Where to stay
With all of the awesome things. todo in Kuranda, it’s safe to say that one day often simply isn’t enough! Luckily, there are a few Kuranda accommodation options available. Below are my hand-picked favourites.
Is Kuranda Worth Visiting?
Apparently, this is a popular search term on Google! Is Kuranda worth visiting? The answer is definitely! As you can see from this article, there are so many awesome things to do in Kuranda. In fact, I consider a trip to the rainforest village a must for anyone visiting Cairns and the Tropical North!
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.
More Cairns & Tropical Far North Adventure Inspiration
That wraps up this comprehensive travel guide to the best things to do in Kuranda, Australia. i really hope it has inspired you and given 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!
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.