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Kuranda Scenic Railway picture in Great Barrier Reef
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  • Sightseeing Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
3.9
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    3.0
  • Facilities
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    4.5

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If you need a break from exploring the reef, why not go 1,076 feet above sea level with a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway? Departing from Cairns, the train takes a two-hour journey through the upper Barron Gorge before reaching Kuranda, known as "the village in the rainforest." Along the winding route, you'll weave past gushing waterfalls and lush greenery while hearing commentary on the railway's history. Upon your arrival in Kuranda, you'll have your pick of activities: Get to know the wildlife at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary or the Kuranda Koala Gardens, or stretch your legs on the Barron Gorge National Park walking trails.

While some past visitors bemoaned the high ticket price, others enjoyed the unique experience and breathtaking views. Some also cautioned that the town of Kuranda is a bit touristy and expensive, and a few advised against joining this excursion on a hot day since the old train cars lack air conditioning.

For morning departures to Kuranda, you can board at the Cairns Railway Station or the Freshwater Connection (about 7 miles northwest of the Cairns station). Trains departing from Cairns leave at 8:30 or 9:30 a.m., while trains leaving from Freshwater depart at 8:55 and 9:55 a.m. When it's time to head back to Cairns, trains depart Kuranda at 2 and 3:30 p.m.  

You can choose from a variety of tour packages, depending on what you'd like to do in Kuranda – options include a visit to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and an army duck tour of Rainforestation Nature Park. Round-trip tickets to Kuranda (without the additional village activities) cost 76 Australian dollars (about $56.50) for adults, AU$38 ($28) for children and AU$190 (approximately $141) for families. Upgraded Gold Class tickets, meanwhile, include a gift pack, a welcome drink and snacks like macadamia nuts and cheese. For a full menu of package prices, visit the railway's website.

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#1 Diving and Snorkeling Many visitors say the Great Barrier Reef is best seen through a scuba mask, but it's no small feat to traverse the area's dive spots. When choosing which ... Read more » chameleonseye / Getty Images

#2 Cairns If you plan on exploring the far northern half of Queensland, Cairns (pronounced "Cahns") offers a convenient home base. About 1,500 miles north of Sydney, Cairns boasts the closest ... Read more » artherng / Getty Images

#3 Whitehaven Beach It's the most photographed beach in all of Australia, and after one look at its white sands, you'll understand why. Stretching across more than 4 miles of Whitsunday ... Read more » DarrenTierney / Getty Images

#4 Hamilton Island If the diving spots closest to the Queensland coast are too crowded for you, consider trekking a few miles east of the mainland to Hamilton Island. It's the largest ... Read more » Tanya Ann Photography / Getty Images

#5 Townsville Located by the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, Townsville is conveniently situated between Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands. It sits a short ferry ride away from Magnetic Island ... Read more » Phil Copp / Getty Images

#6 Sailing Picture it: As the wind-powered craft clips along the Coral Sea, a tropical breeze teases your hair while the ocean spits sea spray on your arms. You drop anchor within ... Read more » RugliG / Getty Images

#7 Air Tours After getting a fish-eye view of the reef, experience a bird's perspective of unique sights like Heart Reef and Hook Reef with an air tour. According to recent travelers ... Read more » Gonzalo Azumendi / Getty Images

#8 Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas The Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas is a wildlife sanctuary that strives to promote conservation through up-close encounters with its creatures. You'll have access to four immersion exhibits – the Woodland ... Read more » Louise_Lantz / Getty Images

#9 Hartley's Crocodile Adventures Visitors who want to enjoy a close encounter with Australia's unique animals will love checking out Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. Though the main draw of this wildlife habitat is ... Read more » Darren Puttock / Flickr

#10 Kuranda Scenic Railway If you need a break from exploring the reef, why not go 1,076 feet above sea level with a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway? Departing from Cairns, the ... Read more » chameleonseye / Getty Images

Diving and Snorkeling picture in Great Barrier Reef
Cairns picture in Great Barrier Reef
Whitehaven Beach picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hamilton Island picture in Great Barrier Reef
Townsville picture in Great Barrier Reef
Sailing picture in Great Barrier Reef
Air Tours picture in Great Barrier Reef
Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures picture in Great Barrier Reef
Kuranda Scenic Railway picture in Great Barrier Reef
Diving and Snorkeling picture in Great Barrier Reef
Cairns picture in Great Barrier Reef
Whitehaven Beach picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hamilton Island picture in Great Barrier Reef
Townsville picture in Great Barrier Reef
Sailing picture in Great Barrier Reef
Air Tours picture in Great Barrier Reef
Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures picture in Great Barrier Reef
Kuranda Scenic Railway picture in Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef boasts more than 5,000 dive sites, meaning your possibilities for exploration are nearly limitless. chameleonseye / Getty Images

While the Great Barrier Reef offers an extensive array of underwater sightseeing, don't forget about the mainland. The Queensland city of Cairns is a convenient home base that offers some tourist hot spots of its own. artherng / Getty Images

With just one look at its milky white sands and swirling azure waters, it's easy to see why Whitehaven Beach is Australia's most photographed beach. DarrenTierney / Getty Images

Surrounded by its fellow Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island is a playground for adventure-seekers. Snorkel, hike, sail or simply relax on its soft, sugary sands. Tanya Ann Photography / Getty Images

For some of the best views of Townsville and Magnetic Island, climb to the top of Castle Hill. Phil Copp / Getty Images

Take to the seas on a Great Barrier Reef sailing adventure. Whether it's a daytrip or a multiday excursion, there is nothing quite like clipping along the Coral Sea. RugliG / Getty Images

Enjoy a thrilling bird's-eye view of the Great Barrier Reef while on an air tour. Gonzalo Azumendi / Getty Images

At the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas, you'll encounter a variety of Queensland's local residents, including kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles and koalas. Louise_Lantz / Getty Images

Large and small crocs, plus quintessential Aussie creatures like kangaroos, koalas and cassowaries can be seen at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. Darren Puttock / Flickr

For some of Queensland's best views away from the reef, take a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. chameleonseye / Getty Images

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