An ode to Kuranda

Continuing on in my Australia series, today let’s take a look at Kuranda. Kuranda, a remote Australian mountaintop village in Queensland, is one of those anomalies that you really won’t know whether to love or hate. Or perhaps like us you can settle for cheerful ambivalence. Before we visited I read plenty of reviews about how Kuranda is a tourist trap and that a visit there could really dent your pockets. Now that I’ve been there myself, I can confirm that every word of this is true. But in spite of all its perceived flaws, Kuranda has a charm that is hard to deny.

Kuranda is one of those places that are unapologetically touristy. It brazenly owns up to its reputation and challenges you to think otherwise. The place is driven by packs of tourists that flock to this hilltop for often nothing more than a quickie day trip. Tons of little stalls open up for the day in the ancient market and hawk their wares which range from authentic aboriginal art and semi-precious stones to home décor to handmade soaps to silly bags and tees.


Kuranda is a nice, albeit expensive, place to pick up some unique souvenirs and try out some unexpected cuisine (German sausages in a remote Australian village, anyone?). But while a quick stroll through the old market may be worth your while, the allure of Kuranda really lies elsewhere.

For starters the journey to Kuranda itself is a wonderful indication of things to come. There are two highly recommended ways of getting to Kuranda – either by train or by cable car. Contrary to what their website recommends, we opted to take the train up and the cable car down. We booked our tickets online a few days before the trip here.

The Kuranda railway
The Kuranda railway


Huffing and puffing its way into the station, the train looked like it was straight out of an old western. We quickly boarded and soon the PA announcements started, introducing us to the crew on board that day. The crew were courteous and friendly, even making their way through the carriage at one point offering to take pictures for all the passengers.


The scenery enroute to Kuranda
The scenery enroute to Kuranda


The hour long journey was occasionally peppered with anecdotes about the history of the Kuranda Railway – about how it started as a seemingly impossible vision, about the lives that were lost in its construction, the towns that we passed on the way and about how today the train is a bridge from the past to the future.





Apart from the train itself the countryside we were traveling through was wonderful. Bit by bit civilization gave way to smaller and smaller townships and pretty soon we were deep in the forested mountains. We snaked our way through shimmering jade gorges basking in the early afternoon sun. We saw steep, stony cliff faces plunging to startling depths. We made a couple of stops at tumbling silver waterfalls and breathed deeply of the pristine mountain air.


Snaking our way up the mountains
Chugging our way up the mountains


It was a journey of shared marvels, of tentative bonds formed with our bench mates who spoke no English but shared our food and of simply sitting back and letting ourselves be carried away by the moment.

Mountain views
Mountain views


Tumbling silver waterfalls sprinkled along our journey

All too soon the ride was over and we pulled into the quaintest little railway station I have ever seen. Complete with a homey little bakery radiating enticing aromas and a little bird’s nest with a sign from Mr. and Mrs. Birdy asking not to be disturbed.

We spent a few hours rambling through the village trying to kill time until our cable car ride back. We spent some time talking to the locals, tasted some Japanese tea and browsed through all the wares on offer.

We even visited the Kuranda zoo enticed by the possibility of seeing some kangaroos and koalas up close.

If you are interested, you can also visit the Birdworld and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda. If time permits, you could also visit the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural park.


Once we had our fill of the village market, we decided to venture further afield. We chose a couple of hiking trails that would suit the remaining time we had and proceeded to explore on foot. The trails we chose were really easy and well-marked. We only saw a few other people on the trail and pretty much had the entire place to ourselves.


The views were beautiful ranging from boulder-strewn creeks to dense foliage laden with vines and berries to tree-lined avenues by the side of the Kuranda river. It was so beautiful that there were several spots where we just wanted to drop everything and have an impromptu picnic!


If you ever find yourself in Kuranda, please do not leave without trying out at least one of their trails. If possible, pick one that passes by the river. You will not regret it, I promise!


After much rambling around we made it back to the station to catch our ride out of Kuranda – the much anticipated Kuranda Skyrail. And this is everything it is hyped up to be and more.


This was THE longest cable car ride of my life and we were truly blessed to have a clear day that afforded stunning views.




It was a breathtaking end to a wonderful day and the memories of our time in Kuranda will forever be tinged with fond nostalgia.



Have you ever been to a place so touristy that you didn’t quite know whether to love or hate it?


17 thoughts on “An ode to Kuranda

  1. Hi Diya, that’s a beautiful and honest memoir of your trip to Kuranda. The place definitely has charm, it reminds of Shimla in India, one of theost touristy hill stations where people fleece you for every little thing.


  2. Because I’m a half a world away, and also one of my hiking boots blew out, I appreciate that your descriptions and photos were so stellar that it was as if I was along for the adventure. Thank you. Also, I can take the touristy stop, especially if there’s a good pizza parlor about.


    1. Awww thank you Vanny ❤❤❤ We were truly blessed with a bright clear day and stunning views 🙂 Looking back on these pictures brings back so much nostalgia 🙂


  3. Funny that I’ve lived in Queensland my whole life and never heard of this place! I suppose I’ll make a visit if I’m ever up that way.
    I think I get what you mean about places that are super touristy. Queenstown in New Zealand was a bit like that. I think there are more Aussies than NZ-ers there… Great place, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man! So this is more of a hidden gem to the locals then 😉 I’ve heard the same about Queenstown. Sometimes the hype about a place is justified and sometimes you could leave disappointed. I think because we had so little time in Kuranda we really didn’t get a chance to be disillusioned by the place 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ginny. It’s hard not to come back with beautiful photos when you’re surrounded by such stunning scenery 🙂 The train and cable car rides were spectacular. The PA announcements mentioned how numerous people had died building those bridges and laying the tracks along those deadly ravines. Quite sobering. There was even an upgraded cable car with glass floors! Now there’s something to set off my vertigo! 😀


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