Magazine article Sunset

Cairns to Kuranda ... Short but Scenic Rail Trip in Australia's Tropical North

Magazine article Sunset

Cairns to Kuranda ... Short but Scenic Rail Trip in Australia's Tropical North

Article excerpt

Cairns to Kuranda . . . short but scenic rail trip in Australia's tropical north

A land of long distances, Australia enjoysfame among train buffs for railroads that stretch arrow-straight across unpeopled outback. But luckily for visitors with limited time, the country's most dramatically scenic train trip is also one of its shortest.

The Cairns-Kuranda Railway winds inlandfrom Cairns--popular base of vacationers exploring the watery pleasures of the Great Barrier Reef. End of the line, in a rain-forest clearing at 2,000 feet, is tiny Kuranda. The 3-hour round-trip ride over narrow-gauge rails--coupled with the town's tropical Victorian charm--makes for a very enjoyable day trip.

Railway construction started in 1886 tolink a mining region with the coast. By 1891 the route was open, complete with 15 hand-dug tunnels. Today, the trip from Cairns winds through fields of waving sugar cane. Tree-clinging vines and giant tree ferns soon take over, as you gaze down Barron Gorge to the Coral Sea. Trains stop for picture-taking.

Kuranda's postcard-pretty station sits bythe Barron River (50-minute boat rides leave from the landing nearby). A block uphill is the main drag, Coondoo Street, which curves into Kennedy Highway two blocks away--that's just about the whole town. You'll find a busy hostel here, host to people of many nations, and one motel.

April through October, Kuranda's populationswells for the Sunday morning market, 9 to noon, where you can buy regionally made items in stalls that line jungled walkways just off Kennedy. Shell, leather, and ceramic jewelry is of particularly high quality. …

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