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We decided to take a day tour to Kuranda and then take the Kuranda Scenic Railway – one of the most scenic railways in the world – back to Cairns. The Cairns Central Terminus was only a few blocks from our hotel. From there we took bus 850 (timetable) towards Atherton, which stops in Kuranda after a 40min ride at Therwine St near Coondoo St. Alternatively, you can take bus 851 which needs 50min and ends at Therwine St near Coondoo St.
Kuranda is a small rural town with a population of about 3,000 people that caters to hordes of tourists that arrive mostly from nearby Cairns.
It is located in an important wildlife corridor between the Daintree Tableland to the north and the Atherton Tableland in the south. Bordering Kuranda are the Kuranda National Park and the Barron Gorge National Park which are part the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
Kuranda is also where the Barron River begins its steep descent to its coastal floodplains.
The main attractions in Kuranda are:
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With about 1500 free flying butterflies from a large variety of species, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is an experience for the young, young-at-heart and older people among us. Most butterflies are native to Far North Queensland and all of them are bread in the sanctuary’s lab (they breed approx. 30,000 caterpillars every year) and released daily into the sanctuary.
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as Australia's largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit.
The exhibit is self-guided, but guided tours run throughout the day.
Construction of the 23 mile (37km) railway started 1886 in Cairns and reached Kuranda in 1891. During that time, 37 bridges and 15 tunnels were built. The railway was always used as a passenger service, but it took until 1936 when the first tourist train started operating on this line.
It takes a little under 2h for the train to climb/descend the 328m height difference. The train passes one of Kuranda’s highlights, the magnificent Barron Falls, and several smaller waterfalls, including Stoney Creek Falls.
The carriages are designed to look like the original coaches from last century. Passengers can choose to ride in either of the following two classes: