Kuranda Scenic Railway#10 in Best Things To Do in Great Barrier Reef
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 regions to explore, consider your skill level, the amount of travel involved and the trip length in that area. Two of the most popular diving and snorkeling locales are listed below:
Hosting a kaleidoscope of fish, sea turtles and humpback whales, Cairns' reefs are teeming with wildlife. Known locally as the Outer Barrier Reef, these reefs are ideal for first-time divers and families because of the one- to three-hour travel times from Cairns' Reef Fleet Terminal. Popular spots by Cairns include Michaelmas Cay, Moore Reef, Green Island and Hastings Reef. Ocean Free, Seastar Cruises and Tusa Dive all offer a variety of half- to full-day cruises; diving and snorkeling cruise packages start at 205 Australian dollars ($152) per adult and AU$120 ($89) for each child.
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