There is something very special about travelling by train. No I’m not talking about the mind numbing daily commute that most of us are forced to endure to get to the office and back. I’m talking about something altogether different. There are a relatively small number of iconic rail journeys on the planet but they usually have astronomical price tags that put them out of reach of many. What if I told you there is a way to recapture the glory of yesteryear on one of Australia’s most iconic heritage rail journeys for less than $50? For a little extra, the Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class experience includes comfy chairs, delicious nibbles, stunning views and champagne. You in? Read on for all the details …
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Kuranda Scenic Railway History
The prolonged wet season of 1882 was the catalyst for the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The residents of Heberton were close to starvation after the roads became unpassable and they began to agitate for a railway. In March 1884 the route was chosen and in May 1886 work began. Construction was difficult in challenging terrain and much of the work was done by hand. At the height of construction over 1500 men (because it was the 1800’s!) worked on the line and 32 workers lost their lives before the Kuranda Scenic Railway was finally opened for passengers in June 1891. Read the full story here.
Kuranda Scenic Railway Overview
The Kuranda Scenic Railway is now pulled by a locomotive and in recognition of the Djabugay people of Tropical North Queensland the engine is adorned by Buda-dji, the carpet snake who according to legend carved out the Barron River. There are two trains per day from Cairns to Kuranda and we took the early train from Freshwater station after driving our bargain hire car the short distance from The Abbott Boutique Hotel where we stayed. You can also join the train from Cairns station if you wish. The 34 klm journey is undertaken at a leisurely pace and takes 1h 45m in total. During your time on board you will be lifted to 328m above sea level, travel through 15 handmade tunnels and cross 37 bridges in some of the most spectacular terrain of The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class
You know I am all about luxury for less and for only $50 more than the cost of a regular ticket you can upgrade to the Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class experience. The rock star treatment starts as soon as you check in at Freshwater Station where you are escorted to a Gold Class exclusive waiting area and presented with a refreshing pre-trip mocktail. There are a number of Gold Class cars and we were seated in car 7. Make sure you check your ticket to see which of the comfy lounge chairs you are assigned. Our host greeted us promptly and wasted no time serving my first champagne of the day. The Hubs opted for a beer instead. A delicious morning tea (and more champagne and beer!) followed as the train chugged onwards. The cars are intimate and you will only be sharing the space with a handful of others. Of course a fully functioning restroom is provided. We loved the gold class experience and I highly recommend spending the little bit extra. At the end of the journey all guests of Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class are presented with a parting gift.
Views To Write Home About
The whole time we were onboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway my eyes were glued to the sash windows. An ever changing vista passed us by and the staff very helpfully made announcements when the best photo opportunities were approaching. My favourite was Stony Creek Falls. The train passes so close you could almost reach out and touch them. Barron Falls is one of the big draw cards and the train stops for about 10 minutes to let passengers get a better view. While you can take photos from the platform, I suggest walking the short distance to the lookout for an even better vantage point.
Kuranda is a quaint little town that is well worth spending a few hours in before you head back to Cairns. Visit the markets, browse the local shops or grab a bite to eat. Many visitors choose to make the return journey on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Cairns for a completely different view of the magnificent rainforest. Packages are available that combine the two.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway is one of the most unique things to do in Cairns and is very popular so savvy travellers book their tickets ahead online. We had a fabulous day out and we were sorry to see our journey come to an end. If you find yourself in Cairns this is one experience you don’t want to miss! Have you been on the Kuranda Scenic Railway? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Until Next Time …
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Disclaimer: We travelled as guests on The Kuranda Scenic Railway. As always, all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links which will earn me a few cents to contribute to the running of this site if you make a qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you.