A compact settlement of some 500 people and surrounded by rainforest, Kuranda has become a major tourist attraction in North Queensland.
Location: 27 km north west of Cairns on the Atherton Tableland.
For a great day out from Cairns or Port Douglas, you can either take the 30 minute drive from Cairns into the mountains behind the city, or opt for a ride on the world renowned Kuranda Scenic Railway, which winds its way up a gorge through 15 tunnels and over 40 bridges. The line clings to the rock face and passengers can almost touch the waterfalls as they climb the mountains towards the Atherton Tableland. Offering views back across the Coral Sea, the railway was built by John Robb between 1886 and 1891 and is recognised as a masterpiece of railway engineering.
Kuranda, one of the gateways to the Atherton Tableland from Cairns, has plenty of shops, galleries and cafes to relieve tourists of their dollars, and I don't say that in a derogatory way at all. Kuranda is home to an extraordinary number of artists and craft workers and this is reflected in the large number of shops and market stalls selling their beautiful products. There are in fact three markets - Heritage Markets, Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets and The New Markets - where locally produced arts, crafts, clothing, Aboriginal artifacts and souvenirs are available.
When Trans Australian Airlines (now the domestic arm of Qantas) began operations in mid-1946, its first aircraft aquisition was two Douglas DC-3s. The shell of one of these aircraft - a C-47 Skytrain registed as VVH-DAS, and the first of TAA's fleet - is on display in the Queensland town of Kuranda. The shell is a left-over of its role in the movie "Sky Pirates" in 1984, at which time it was given its USAF markings as "6903077/B5". The remains of DC-3 VH-DAS was assembled into a crash diorama at Kuranda in July 1984. Originally named "Geronimo" by the US Air Force when it began service in Novembver 1942, it was based at Mareeba during World War II. The aircraft was re-named "Cunningham" when it entered service with Trans-Australia Airlines in July 1946.
The C-47 Skytrain was a military transport aircraft developed from the civilian Douglas DC-3 airliner. A dozen more DC-3s would be added to TAA's fleet, all ex-RAAF aircraft originally bought by the Australian Government under lend-lease, which were converted back to carrying passengers. The DC3 was originally designed in America in1935 by the Douglas Aircraft Company for a long range passenger aircraft for American Airlines.
JumRum walk to Barron Falls: There is also a wonderful walk through the rainforest called the JumRum walk that will take you from one end of Kuranda to the other or you can continue further through to the Barron Falls. But if you are feeling lazy, there is a Barron Falls Shuttle Bus next to the Fire Station.
If it is Australia's wildlife you've come to see, you won't leave disappointed. At Kuranda there is a Koala Gardens, Birdworld bird sanctuary, a butterfly aviary, the Australia Venom Zoo, and the BatReach Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre.
Kuranda Koala Gardens: Get your photo taken cuddling a koala (extra charge); see freshwater crocodiles, meet some monitors, wombats and a variety of wallabies. Experience Australia's first walk-through snake house. Kuranda Koala Gardens is part of the Freeman Family owned and operated Wildlife Tropical North Queensland Group. Other wildlife experiences under this banner include Cairns Night Zoo, Cairns Tropical Zoo and Hartley's Crocodile Adventures.
Birdworld Kuranda: Immerse yourself in one of the most unique wildlife attractions of Tropical North Queensland. Join the birds in their beautiful rainforest habitat. Flying around you are species from the vanishing rainforests of the world, including some of Australia's most precious and beautiful birds. There are brilliant Amazonian macaws, the endangered and stately cassowary, cheeky rainbow lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos and many more. Don't be surprised to find a feathered friend taking a ride on your shoulder.
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary: The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit in the Southern Hemisphere. Located in the heart of Kuranda, only a short walk from Skyrail and the Kuranda Scenic Railway station, our sanctuary is home to over 2000 butterflies from a variety of species.
Australian Venom Zoo: Located in 'wildlife central' in the heart of Kuranda, the Australian Venom Zoo's primary focus is on captive breeding and displaying venomous animals that will one day be responsible for producing some of the most advanced medicines in the world. The majority of animals at the Australian Venom Zoo are unique to Australia and in some cases have never before been seen. The zoo believes the education of the general public is an essential step in understanding the importance of Australia's venomous animals.
BatReach Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre: BatReach is a small volunteer run organisation, lead by Pam Tully, an experienced wildlife carer of many years. BatReach generally houses up to, and often over, a hundred megabats, a tribe of microbats and any other animals who have come into care like possums, gliders, bandicoots and native rats. Receiving no goverment funding, BatReach runs on donations from the public. During open days Pam or a volunteer will give informative presentations about the bats and about wildlife rescue.
Tours of the rainforest of all kinds are available - from walking to 6WD amphibious Army ducks, Hummers, cruising on the Barron River, or the overhead Skyrail, spanning 7.5km over the rainforest.
The rainforest is home to the Djabugay aboriginal people who have lived here for over 10,000 years. Exploration by Europeans in the early 1800s opened the way for gold prospectors and the timber industry and settlement by the pioneers. Kuranda was first surveyed in 1888 by Thomas Behan, and the building of the railway and the road from the new seaport of Cairns paved the way for trade and the movement of people over the mountains. Kuranda became a destination for locals on holiday and honeymooners and word soon spread telling of the magnificent Barron Falls and the lushness of the rainforest. During the 1940s there was a big military presence in the area; training and rest and recreation for troops and Air Force personnel took precedence over tourism.
Origin of name: of Aboriginal origin, probably derived from an Aboriginal word in the Yindinji language - "kuran" - indicating an acorn leafed plant (Helmholtzia acorifolia).