Aboard Australia’s best scenic train ride in Far North Queensland
A worthy scenic train ride from Cairns to Kuranda
The construction of the railway began in 1886 and took five years to complete in 1891. During the construction, many lives were lost as 15 hand-made tunnels and 37 bridges were built to climb from seal level to 329 metres up the Macalister Range which still operational today. It began its passenger service operation on 25th June 1891 and first operated has a tourist train from Cairns to Kuranda township in 1936. Since then, it has been actively operating has one of the Australia’s best and longest serving scenic train rides in the country.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway runs from the coastal city of Cairns, Queensland, Australia over the Great Dividing Range to the town of Kuranda on the Atherton Tableland. This tourist train winds its way up through the Macalister Range on the Cairns-to-Kuranda railway line, operating all-year around except on Christmas Day. The train departs Cairns city and passes through the suburban outskirts of Aeroglen, Stratford and Freshwater railway station, stopping at Freshwater station where many travellers pick up the train to go onboard. The train continues through the suburb of Redlynch and the lush open sugarcane fields and ascending through rainforest before reaching the village in the rainforest – Kuranda.
This tourist rain is one of the most photographed train journeys in Far North Queensland and probably in Australia. With almost 15 carriages and when in its full capacity, it carries almost 700 passengers on a single trip. This scenic railway journey is right on the door-step to the Great Barrier Reef – one of the Natural Wonders in the world. Taking this scenic train trip takes you beneath vast mountains, through heritage-listed rainforest and beside jaw-dropping hillside and cliff-drops along beautiful Barron Gorge and over-looking to glittering sea – Great Barrier Reef.
The city of Cairns, known as the Australia’s nature capital, famed for its world-class access to the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage-protected Daintree Rainforest are two of the biggest drawcards for visitors travelling to this tropical region. But any traveller visiting Cairns don’t leave without travelling on this Cairns regions iconic scenic train ride. This scenic train rides leaves you with memories that you will never forget. In simple, it is one of the most rewarding way to travel up the mountain to this beautiful village in the rainforest – Kuranda. Sit back and relax into your train seat as scenes glide by your window like something from a movie. How could you not do this scenic train ride when visiting Cairns and I am about to experience this train journey.
My scenic train ride began at Freshwater train station. Here, I was greeted by a friendly staff with my welcome “mocktail” drink. Freshwater railway station located 5 kilometres on the outskirts of Cairns city has an information/ticket office, gift-shop and cafe that is inside of an old train carriage and outdoor seated area. While enjoying my morning welcome mocktail drink, within 15-20 minutes, the Kuranda Scenic train pulled into Freshwater station from Cairns for short 5-minutes to pick-up more passengers.
This tourist train offers two classes of service, Heritage and Gold-class carriages to suit all budget.
The Heritage or standard carriages have two booths that face each other which creates a section and there are five of these sections in each carriage. The carriages are very rustic and have been restored to look like the original ones and everything about the carriages is like being sent back in time. The heritage carriage seats are in bright red vinyl covers but this red leather seats can become very hot and the breeze in the train is very minimal, especially during summer periods. However, the carriages are quite very impressive.
There are no services provided on the standard carriages but you’re allowed to take onboard any non-alcoholic refreshments and food. For families, packing your own lunch is always worth it and economical.
For those who want to travel in style, you can upgrade to Gold-class carriage – a premium option. This carriages is where refreshments and finger foods are served on the journey. The refreshments from tea, coffee, soft-drinks to wines and beers are all inclusive and served continuously.
The Gold-class have semi-lounge style seatings and have attractive green covers. Every passengers travel in comfortable singled lounge-like arm chair seats.
Here at Freshwater station, I boarded the Gold-class carriage to my allocated seat. My excitement has just began as I step inside the carriage. I was given an onboard menu on the selection of variety of drinks that are offered including foods that was been served during the journey. Within minutes of departing the station, passing through cane-fields and suburb of Redlynch, I was already half-way through my second glass of authentic Australian chardonay while indulging myself with food and unbelievable views.
As we journey upwards, the line cuts through the Barron Gorge National Park, passing through a number of small waterfalls, including famous Stoney Creek Falls, with waterfalls just metres from the train. This journey continues onto Barron Falls station where the tourist train stops at the lookout, with a stunning view of Barron Falls. During the train travel up, a detailed and informative commentary of the railway’s historical construction is provided, including the scenic breathtaking views. The train-trip guides gives a detailed and informative information of the trip, including a map tracking each tunnels.
As we slowly ascend up the mountain side while enjoying the drinks and food, the stunning and jaw-dropping views were just getting better as we turned every corner. As I looked out the window to gasp the breathtaking views, all I simply done was to sit back and relax in my seat as scenes glide by my window. This was definitely something that on-one take it away from me. Wow, this track runs through some of the finest scenery in Australia and it is just an amazing experience. With endless stunning views certainly gave me a platform for fresh air and reflection-free photography.
Exploring the area and attractions
Arriving in Kuranda, you’re thrown into well manicured, with lush tropical gardens of Kuranda rail station, well-known attraction in the area. As I enjoyed this beautiful station surrounded by tropical plants, thinking back how wonderful this train journey has been. From the train station, it is a 10-15 minutes short walk into Kuranda township where there is a reptile zoo, markets, art galleries, butterfly sanctuary and bird world, where you get the option to hug a Koala and feed kangaroo. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and food stalls and has plenty to offer.
Just below the train station is the Barron riverside walk and boat cruise, where you get to see a freshwater crocodile and other species. After talking a walk along the river, I relaxed myself on the river boat cruise before taking an easy ride on skyrail down back to Smithfield, then onto Cairns.
This train has taken me on a majestic journey through the rainforest and unparalleled scenery, matched with a level of hospitality that I have not found anywhere else during my travels globally. Yes, this scenic train ride leaves you with memories in years to come and most rewarding way to travel up the mountain to this beautiful village in the rainforest.
Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.
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