If you want to really experience the genuine charm of Kuranda, then forget about the touristy shops and souvenir market stalls and head to the other side of the train station for a Kuranda Riverboat cruise and rainforest walk.
Most people end up in Kuranda because they chose to take a trip on the Skyrail or Kuranda Scenic Railway, so once you actually arrive in this hilltop township, it’s easy to feel a little lost as to what to see and do.
There are markets, galleries and plenty of shops aimed at tourists, but nothing that really gives you an authentic sense of what Kuranda is really about.
So if you want to get away from the crowds and do something different, then you should definitely check out the Kuranda Riverboat tours.
Kuranda Riverboat Cruise
The Kuranda Riverboat has been operating for about 34 years and yet surprisingly few people seem to know about it, even amongst locals.
The business was recently purchased by Warren and Melissa Clinton who wanted to offer visitors more opportunities to experience the beautiful rainforest environment surrounding Kuranda as well as some of the history of the area.
So they now offer a rainforest walk and morning tea on the opposite side of the river, as well as the riverboat cruise.
cruising the barron river
Arriving in Kuranda by Skyrail or train, most people turn left and head up into the village but if you go the other way and walk over to the other side of the train station you’ll find a small pier where the riverboat operates from.
The riverboat departs 5 times a day, with each cruise lasting 45 minutes, and since it only costs $18 pp ($9 for children), it’s a short and affordable activity to do before you head back to Cairns.
On the day that we took the cruise along the Barron River it was a glorious sunny day with a gentle breeze.
Warren, our tour guide, explained that the river started from an extinct volcano in the Upper Barron River and that one of the very first coffee plantations in North Queensland was planted along its banks.
We learned about the various species of animals living in the rainforest, many even being some of the oldest living creatures on Earth such as the cassowary.
We also saw plenty of birdlife, including the beautiful family of swallows nesting in the roof of the boat itself.
Along the way we stopped to feed some fish and turtles and were lucky enough to see a freshwater crocodile sunning itself on a rock sticking out of the water.
This was an added bonus as the tour isn’t promoted as a croc-spotting cruise although you often do see them on the tour.
The cruise travels about 1.5 kilometres down river to a weir before turning back and slowly meandering back to the pier.
The rainforest tour can be taken as an extra activity or instead of the cruise.
It lasts for about an hour and Warren stops along the way to point out different plants and trees. There are actually 1,160 species of trees, 65 reptile species and 35 different species of mammals that inhabit the Wet Tropics rainforest, so it’s a fascinating place to visit.
We saw lots of Wait-A-While vines, brown pines which are also known as Dinosaur Trees and Crow’s Foot Elm trees that the Aboriginals used to use to make shields from their roots.
We also learned where the term trailblaze came from – early settlers used to mark the trees like this to blaze a trail so they could find their way back.
It was quite amazing to learn that it may take around 800 years for all the richness of a rainforest to form again in a cleared area.
The walk is non-strenuous and we found it very enjoyable and informative. If you’re lucky you might spot ‘Elvis’ the local cassowary on the walk but the only evidence we found on our trip was a few fresh droppings full of blue quandong berries.
At the end of the walk we came back to the undercover rainforest tea room where we were greeted with morning tea in pretty teacups along with some cake and fruit.
It was a great chance to ask any more questions and just listen to the birds calling out to each other in the trees around us.
blaze your own trail
These tours are definitely our favourite things to do in Kuranda and great for those people who prefer to avoid the crowds and soak up the peaceful, natural environment without any gimmicks or a single souvenir in sight.
travel nq fast facts:
- Kuranda is 318 metres above sea level so it can be a little cooler than Cairns and the cruise is a great way to escape the heat
- Pack insect repellent if doing the Rainforest Walk
- Make sure you bring your camera as there are plenty of opportunities to get some fantastic photos
- Kuranda Riverboat often run ‘jamming’ musician cruises so make sure you check their Facebook page for updates of when these are on.
- The Kuranda Riverboat can be hired for wedding ceremonies, work parties and other special occasions.
- For more information visit www.kurandariverboat.com.au