Imagine floating above the rainforest. Gazing down into its green heart, a sea of rustling leaves and climbing palms and ferns. A place where cassowaries roam and ancient trees reach for the sky, in a fight for the light. Of rivers and streams, gullies, gorges and waterfalls. A place of peace and serenity, with a soundtrack provided by the birds and insects. Sounds magic doesn’t it? Well stop dreaming and start doing, because you can make that happen on Cairns’ Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. So easy. So beautiful. So worth it.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes you to and from Cairns’ coastal plains, up and over the rainforest in the Barron Gorge National Park. It’s an iconic tourist attraction and a unique way to see the rainforest, with two stops along the way where you can explore the forest floor.
This is undoubtedly the easiest and most scenic way to explore the beautiful rainforests of Cairns and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The 7.5km Skyrail Rainforest Cableway glides effortlessly over the rainforest canopy, its gondola cabins are comfortable and provide panoramic views, and if you upgrade to Diamond View – which we did – then the glass floor lets you peer straight down into the trees below, which is just magic. As well as the cableway journey itself, the Skyrail Experience includes stops at two stations located within the rainforest. This provides the opportunity to get out and explore the forest floor on boardwalks and pathways. There’s plenty of interpretive signage and you can join a Ranger guided tour at Red Peak Station – which we did, and it was excellent – and visit the Rainforest Interpretation Centre at Barron Falls Station. Another highlight for us was gliding over the Barron River, and the views of Barron Gorge and Barron Falls from the cableway and the Edge Lookout.
“I have been on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway many times, and every time I leave so impressed at the experience. For families, it’s awesome because it allows children of all ages the chance to see and explore the rainforest. Same story for older people – the cableway, its cabins and the boardwalks are all accessible. The views are stunning, the staff are all very friendly and there’s a real focus on rainforest education, delivered in a way you can opt in or out of, depending on your interests. The Ranger guided tour at Red Peak Station was very informative and is included in the ticket price – I highly recommend making time for it.” – Julie Johnston
We all loved our day on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which was the first item on our Cairns school holidays ‘to do’ list. We did a return experience from Cairns to Kuranda and booked the Diamond View (glass floor) gondola for the first part of our journey. Departing Skyrail’s Smithfield Terminal at 10am, we were soon gliding over the rainforest and had a lot of fun with the glass floor of the gondola – what a perfect photo opportunity that is! We passed over the Kuranda Range Road a few times, which reminded me of how very different the view and rainforest experience is, from above. Around 15 minutes later we arrived at Red Peak Station, where we enjoyed a wonderful tour with Ranger Gwen. She was very passionate and knowledgeable about the rainforest, explaining its World Heritage values and pointing out some of the evolutionary and survival characteristics of several plants. Her tour was a highlight. We loved seeing the 45m tall Kauri Pine which is believed to be over 500 years old, and taking a closer look at the spiked leaves of the Wait-a-While Lawyer Palm. During her tour, Gwen also talked about the Traditional Owners, the Djabugay Rainforest Peoples, and discussed their use of many of the rainforest plants. She also mentioned that she had seen a male Cassowary with his chicks at Skyrail’s Barron Falls Station earlier that day, we were excited and hopeful of our chances of seeing them too. Her tour lasted around 20 minutes.
The Ranger Guided tours run throughout the day at Red Peak Station, with times posted on a clock at the start of the boardwalk. You don’t have to pre-book to participate, they are included in the ticket price, just wait at the clock at the nominated time. On the day of our visit, we arrived at Red Peak Station about 15 minutes prior to the Ranger guided tour. While we waited for the tour, we wandered around the boardwalk, checked out the Augmented Reality element (got to love those butterflies) and the lookout, before reading some of the interpretive signage underneath the station itself. In fact, the area underneath the station – called the Rainforest Discovery Zone – has a lot of interesting facts and figures, as well as a Cassowary display, so make sure you take the time to have a look. We spent around 30 minutes at Red Peak Station, before continuing our rainforest journey to Barron Falls Station.
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From Red Peak Station, which at 545m above sea level is the highest point of the Skyrail journey, the cableway descends over a rainforest valley and makes its way to the second station at Barron Falls. This part of the journey takes between 25-30 minutes and is a very scenic experience. Gliding above the tree tops we see many different species of trees, some of which had giant basket ferns and others were covered with the climbing Wait-a-While Lawyer Palm. On our right the rugged, rainforest mountain ridgeline continued in an endless sea of green. While on the left we began to see the Barron Gorge, which was carved out by the Barron River and is home to the 250m high Barron Falls. For most of the year the Barron Falls does not have very much water flowing over it, which does not diminish its impressive size and visual beauty. The reason for the lack of water, is that the Barron Gorge is also ‘home’ to a CleanCo hydroelectric power station, which was commissioned in 1963 and still operates today. If you peer down the gorge, looking back towards Cairns, you can see the power station from the cableway.
At Skyrail’s Barron Falls Station we continued our rainforest exploration. Barron Falls Station has boardwalks and pathways, with several lookouts over the gorge and falls, including The Edge Lookout which is cantilevered over the ‘edge’ and provides impressive, panoramic views. After taking in the sights and sounds we went in search of the Cassowary and his chicks that Ranger Gwen had mentioned, while we didn’t find them, we did visit the Rainforest Interpretation Centre which had a display of Cassowary eggs. The Centre provided even more information on the rainforest, had some kids’ activities and was playing a really interesting video on a loop. Barron Falls Station also had an Augmented Reality element, which ‘popped up’ a Cassowary. Everything at Barron Falls Station is included in the Skyrail ticket price, which gives you really good value for money. We spent around 45 minutes at Barron Falls Station, before continuing our Skyrail journey to Kuranda.
It takes around 12-15 minutes to reach Skyrail’s Kuranda Terminal and along the way there’s more amazing rainforest views – and trust me, it’s all so very beautiful. Skyrail takes digital photos as you arrive at Kuranda (and Smithfield) and these are available to purchase at the Retail Stores. That completed our Skyrail journey from Cairns to Kuranda. Actual travel time for a one-way Skyrail experience is around 1 hour in total, with extra time spent at the 2 stops. We spent a few hours in Kuranda (more on this below) before returning to Skyrail for a 2.30pm departure back to Cairns. The return journey is just as beautiful and because you are going in a different direction, you tend to see things you might have missed on the way up – or we did anyway. With a return Skyrail ticket you can choose to spend additional time at the 2 stations on the way back and make sure you visit the Retail Stores at Smithfield and Kuranda, which have a great range of souvenirs (I may or may not have spent more here than expected).
Our first port of call in Kuranda was for lunch, and we chose the Goji Grill which has an eclectic menu featuring classic burgers and Japanese bowls. We’ve eaten here a few times and have never left hungry or disappointed. From there we went down to explore the Original Rainforest Markets, where we got some henna tattoos, and made our way over to the Heritage Markets for a slushy. The Heritage Markets is also home to Kuranda’s wonderful wildlife attractions, Kuranda Koala Gardens and Birdworld Kuranda, both of which we have visited before and highly recommend. With our time in Kuranda drawing to a close, we walked back down to Skyrail’s Kuranda Terminal and continued our rainforest adventure all the way back to Cairns.
I liked Skyrail because it was an amazing way to see these beautiful locations in the rainforest. Fun fact from Ranger Gwen – she said this was the oldest rainforest in the world, believed to be around 130 million years old – so that’s very cool. Her tour was free (included in the ticket price) and I really enjoyed it. There are lots of displays in the station which we looked at before we lined up, to go back onto the gondola. Then we hovered over the rainforest, as the cableway journey continued towards station 2. At station 2 (Barron Falls Station) there was a lookout of the great and mighty Barron Falls, an Interpretive Centre and toilets. The last stop was at Kuranda. We explored the markets and I bought a leather bracelet, before we headed back home on the Skyrail. Personally, I give Skyrail a 9/10. I thought it was really fun and I think you should do it too. Thank you.
Yes, Cairns Skyrail is absolutely worth it and should be on every Cairns itinerary, for visitors and locals. Its ticket price is excellent value for money and includes:
Lots. The rainforest views are certainly a highlight on Skyrail and gliding over it on a cableway gives you a very unique perspective. You will see the Barron Gorge, Barron Falls and Barron River. Skyrail also provides views over the Cairns hinterland, taking in cane fields, some of Smithfield and the northern suburbs, the wake ski-park and Cairns Airport. You will certainly see lots of trees, ferns and climbing palms. You might see birds and butterflies, snakes and spiders and other rainforest critters.
Yes, I think Skyrail’s Diamond View upgrade is definitely worth it – the views through the glass floor are incredible and provide a fabulous photo opportunity. It also means that you have a separate boarding queue at the stations, which made our son feel like a VIP. We all loved the Diamond View upgrade.
Honestly, there’s no actual answer to this other than to say, there’s no ‘bad’ way on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. The views are amazing in both directions. Do yourself a favour and book a return journey, like we did.
The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway journey between its Smithfield and Kuranda Terminals, is around 1 hour. This can be broken up into ‘stages’ as per below, and then allow additional time to spend at the 2 rainforest station stops (Red Peak and Barron Falls).
*The reason I say ‘about’ in regards to the timings is because the cableway can speed up and slow down to accommodate passengers getting on and off (slower speeds for those with prams, wheelchairs and walking assistance devices) and weather.
Yes, there are toilets at each of the Skyrail stops.
Each cabin can accommodate a maximum of 6 guests. Family groups are usually given a cabin to themselves, but sometimes if it is busy and you have a small family, you may have to share a cabin. We did on our trip and met two lovely ladies who were visiting Cairns from a cruise ship.
No, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is not air-conditioned. However, each of the gondola cabins have louvers and windows and you do enjoy a good breeze. The open-air nature of it allows you to hear the sounds of the rainforest too, which is just lovely. All of the stations and terminals are designed to be open-air, with ceiling fans and again, good breezes.
Yes, Skyrail Cairns is so good for families with children of all ages. The pros include, but are not limited to:
Yes, you can take prams on Skyrail. The smaller prams that fold-up are best, as they more readily ‘fit’ into the gondola cabins. If in doubt, check with Skyrail during the booking process.
It depends on your budget, interest and purpose. We have done Skyrail and the train as a ‘shared experience’ many times (up Skyrail and down the train, or vica versa). We have also done return Skyrail many times. I have never done a return train experience because I love the views from Skyrail and the opportunity to gaze down on the rainforest canopy.
Again, there is no definitive answer to this question, and I can only give you our family opinion – and we are all agreed on this one – Skyrail is better than the Kuranda Railway. Better views. More time to jump off and have a look around. The Ranger guided tours with information on the rainforest and so many displays and interpretive signage. In terms of bang for buck and experience, we really do think Skyrail is better.
Cairns Skyrail is a 7.5km (or 15km return) cableway in the Barron Gorge National Park, the journey runs between its Smithfield Cairns Terminal and Kuranda Terminal. It has two mid-stations, Red Peak Station and Barron Falls Station. Time at both stations are included in your ticket.
A one-way journey on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is around 1 hour, but you should definitely allocate time to exploring the 2 rainforest stops / stations along the way. For maximum enjoyment, I would allow between 90 minutes and 2 hours for one-way Skyrail trip.
Yes, you should definitely pre-book tickets for Kuranda Skyrail to avoid disappointment and secure your preferred dates and times.
The cableway experience itself. A Ranger Guided tour at Red Peak Station, plus interpretive signage. The Edge Lookout at Barron Falls Station and Rainforest Interpretation Centre. There’s also an audio guide and augmented reality element.
If you have your own vehicle, you can self-drive to Skyrail with plenty of car parking available at their Smithfield Terminal. It’s about a 20 minute drive from Cairns city to Skyrail’s Smithfield Terminal and the same again to Palm Cove. If you don’t have your own vehicle, they provide coach transfers from various locations across Cairns city.
Any time is a good time to visit Skyrail in Cairns. The rainforest is evergreen and if it happens to be raining during your visit, umbrellas are provided for your use at the stations. This might sound cliché, but I would say that the rainforest is just as beautiful in the rain as it is in sunshine. Side note – Barron Falls is rarely in full flood, due to the hydroelectric station, but at certain times of the year – usually February / March – you can catch the falls in all its glory.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is family friendly and family owned and operated. It’s been leading the way with sustainable ecotourism for over 2 decades and has a swag of Australian, Queensland and Tropical North Queensland tourism awards to its name. We have visited Skyrail many times over the years and are always impressed at the standard of presentation, information and customer service, for people of all ages. It operates most days and pre-booking is highly recommended to secure your preferred date and time of travel. There are family rates and local rates available. Excellent value for money for the inclusions and a great way to see the rainforest.
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