Kuranda

Once a gateway to the rich goldfields further inland, the cultural rainforest village of Kuranda is nestled high within the World Heritage listed rainforests of the Great Dividing Range. The local Djabuguy aboriginal people call the area Ngunbay – Place of Platypus; and just getting there is an experience you will cherish.

At an altitude of 380 metres above sea level and situated on top of the range 25km northwest from Cairns, this relaxed little township was founded in 1876. Kuranda is a cool mountain retreat surrounded by World Heritage Rainforest, which due to its elevation has temperatures several degrees cooler and less humid than on the coast.  Tourism came to the area in the early 1900s and Kuranda, with its famous untamed Barron Falls, was a big attraction for honeymooners.  In the 1960s the hippie generation found it a most desirable location, and the Kuranda Markets soon followed selling their arts and crafts and home-grown produce.

The township may be reached by road via the Kennedy Highway from Cairns, stopping on the way to enjoy the magnificent view of the Coral Sea from the Henry Ross Lookout.  Alternatively, the ascent may be made by way of the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway with its quaint old carriages, or by the environmentally friendly Skyrail skimming the rainforest canopy.  Many visitors make the choice to combine both of these experiences. Each trip takes in a multitude of sceneries, charting the transition from the rich earthy tones of the region's cane fields to the cool embrace of the rainforest clad mountains.

Working its way through lush green canopies, past deep gorges and beside rugged mountains, before reaching the breathtaking Barron Falls, the Kuranda Railway trip presents a range of unforgettable imagery throughout its 90 minute passage. This is a view that was originally captured more than a century ago by teams of railway pioneers, armed only with picks and shovels. Today, that 34km track still winds its way through 15 hand made tunnels up to Kuranda Station - a station which looks more like a beautiful botanical garden.

The increasingly adventurous ascension by riding the spectacular Skyrail, the longest gondola cableway in the world, takes visitors on a birds-eye ride spanning a total distance of 7.5 kilometres over the top of the rainforest, departing from Smithfield. Seated in a Skyrail gondola, people of all ages and abilities may experience a tropical rainforest at close quarters without impacting on the fragile environment, gliding silently just metres above the treetops of the World Heritage Barron Falls National Park.  

The rainforest setting of Kuranda, with its postcard village of old timber houses under shady rainforest trees, has long remained a source of inspiration for countless artists. Since the 1960s, the township has attracted some of the world's best painters, potters, photographers, glass and wood workers to reside in or near the village alongside the Djabugay people; and today it is a haven for those drawn from all corners of the globe with art, music and mutual respect being a unifying force.

Kuranda is also host to a number of spectacular flora and fauna sanctuaries. A comprehensive, live butterfly exhibition, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, is home to hundreds of colourful tropical butterflies, which are free to flutter amidst an all-weather rainforest environment. The Butterfly Sanctuary is renowned as the most successful butterfly breeding facility in the world, breeding its butterflies from eggs laid naturally in its huge aviary. This provides them with not only all the eggs they need in order to maintain their usual population of between 1500 and 2000 butterflies, but also enough in surplus to supply other breeders in Australia - including the Melbourne Zoo butterfly house. The exotic blue Ulysses butterfly, the Cairns birdwing and the red lacewing are just a few of the colourful insects that may choose to land on your shoulder.  

Located within Kuranda Village and adjacent to the Butterfly Sanctuary, the Kuranda Heritage Markets are situated in a beautiful rainforest setting. Ninety stalls show local artists at work and provide an innovative range of handmade local crafts plus Australian opals, gemstones, crocodile and kangaroo leather goods. Locally designed and produced clothing, Aboriginal arts and crafts, mystical gifts, sculptures, Australian made adventure wear as well as quality Akubra hats, whips, belts and accessories are just some of the goods to be found within the quaint shopping village.

Within the Kuranda Heritage Markets, Birdworld houses the giant cassowary, Australia's endangered 'big bird', as well as a collection of free flying birds in a beautiful rainforest setting.  Also incorporated within the Kuranda Heritage Markets environment, Kuranda Koala Gardens gives you the opportunity to see some of Australia's most unique wildlife up close.  As well as koalas, there is a variety of wildlife including freshwater crocodiles, kangaroos, wallabies, snakes, wombats, lizards, monitors, and other reptiles.

For your convenience the Kuranda Heritage Markets operate their own free bus service to and from the Kuranda Scenic Railway Station and Skyrail Station.

Kuranda Village, however, contains far more than the quaint shops and galleries.  Sensational tastes abound under the roofs of inviting restaurants and roadside cafes that provide the peaceful, rejuvenating experience of dining in harmony with nature. Outdoor dining is one of the joys of warm climate living and leisurely meals in comfortable surroundings with charming views add to the pleasures of good food and superb Australian wines and beers.

Easily accessible from the village centre are a range of rainforest and riverside walks, which introduce visitors to the dwarfing majesty of Kuranda's wilderness from another perspective altogether. Time spent in the fresh, clear air of Kuranda brings a sense of calming regeneration of body and mind, as does enjoyment of an alternate lifestyle high above the coast, in the rainforest of Tropical North Queensland.

More information can be obtained at www.kuranda.org.



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