Soaring on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Soaring on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Our day trip exploring the Skyrail cableway was an amazing, #active experience, taking you deep into the tropical rainforest in #Cairns #Australia. The journey allows you to #adventure into the wonders of the ancient tropical #rainforest and learn about one of the most botanically fascinating and diverse areas on earth. #tourismaustralia


It has been publicized as “The world’s most beautiful rainforest experience." Sometimes, one gets a little skeptical of marketing tag lines. But, we were pleasantly surprised there was some truth to this when we rode the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway near Cairns, Australia during our visit last month. Glide over the rainforest canopy, rivers and waterfalls with us for this unique experience.

Glide over the rainforest canopy, rivers and waterfalls with us for this unique experience

Skyrail rainforest cableway entry
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway entry

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is one of Tropical North Queensland’s major attractions. 

The cableway is 4.7 mile (7.5 km) long and soars above the lush, tropical rainforest and Barron Gorge National Park. The tropical rainforests in Australia are considered the “oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest” and the most diverse in the country. 

from  $50

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Experience

Active
 Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, Smithfield, Queensland, Australia
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It is protected and a part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site
A gorgeous view
A gorgeous view

We boarded the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway at their Smithfield Terminal after a few hours of cultural immersion at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park which was conveniently located next door. The gondolas pass through the Tjapukai park so we got a great view of the park from above.

Great place
What a ride!

The gondolas move continuously with helpful attendants. With 114 gondola cabins and each occupying a max of 6 people, there shouldn’t be any worries of crowds and queues here. The Skyrail goes from Smithfield to the mountain village of Kuranda. Along the way, it stops at two rainforest stations where visitors could get off, learn and admire the surrounding views.

The gondolas
The gondolas

We got here a little after noon and there were barely any lines. We may have missed the tour buses or everyone was eating. So, come here really early or around lunchtime. Our gondola slowly glided up to the first station and went up pretty quickly. The ride was smooth for us but may not be for anyone afraid of heights.

Incredible experience
Incredible experience

The panoramic views were spectacular as we ascended over the rainforest canopy. We had stunning views of the surrounding towns including Coral Sea. It really gave us a different perspective of the whole area. Being that it was the rainforest, we were lucky enough to be here on a bright, sunny day. It helped that we were visiting during their winter, yet dry season.

The panoramic views were spectacular as we ascended over the rainforest canopy

Incredible view from the gondola
Incredible view from the gondola

Red Peak Station

Our first stop was at the Red Peak station, which had a 175 meter (0.1 mile) rainforest boardwalk. Visitors can do a self-guided tour or go on ranger-guided tours held throughout the day. Our guide was informative but also entertaining and interacted well with the kids. Thanks Phil!

The first stop
The first stop

Since this was our first venture into an Australian wet tropical rainforest, most of the plants looked unfamiliar. So, it was a good idea to tag along with the rangers. The tour took about 20 minutes but you can wander off and explore more and walk around the rainforest at your own pace afterwards to look at the plants closely. Trust me, they’re worth a second look.

Pleasant view
Pleasant view

One of the most striking trees we saw was the Kauri Pine. Sometimes, some plants, called emergents, become taller than the rainforest canopy. This particular tree was one of them and is Queensland’s (the Australian state where this is located) tallest tree species. These rainforest giants tower at 164 feet (50 meters). It was interesting to see that it didn’t have any lower branches and had a flaky bark.

The nature
A monster of a tree

We learned that everything is recycled in the rainforest and plants must conserve their nutrients. The ever present rainforest canopy of leaves provides shade to the forest floor but results to only 1% of the light making it all the way down. As a result, plants must compete for light in the varying forest layers.

The roots
The roots

While some plants are able to survive on the forest floor with little light, some have adapted ways to be a bit more determined to get closer to the surface and the sun. This form of adaptation ultimately determines each rainforest plant’s shape. The ranger pointed out varying plants and how they use different techniques to get close to the sun. We found plenty of vines and some plants that almost looked like they latched on to and took over the other plants to get to the top of the canopy and the light source.

Great forest
Great forest

We also saw a few gaps in the rainforest canopy. Unfortunately, vines and weeds tend to overrun the gaps as they seek for more light. One plant was called, lawyer cane or ‘Wait-a-while palm’, which tend to close off these gaps of light as it attached itself, using its large thorns, to other plants to reach the canopy.

Wonderful place
Wonderful place

We also learnt about an Australian native animal, the cassowary, and its important role as “ancient gardeners” in the rainforest. The cassowaries have such mild digestive systems that seeds from fruits they’ve eaten aren’t harmed and are deposited back into the forest.

They have been the essential “seed dispersers” for more than 100 various rainforest plants for millions of years. Unfortunately, they are on the endangered species list with road fatalities as its most single cause of recorded deaths. 

Unfortunately, they are on the endangered species list 

We didn’t encounter any cassowaries here but lucky enough to have seen one a few weeks earlier during our visit to a koala sanctuary.

The animals
The animals

We found out that there were animals here too like the tree kangaroos and flying foxes. Who knew? The rainforest also has wildlife like the cockatoos and Ulysses butterflies. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any of the birds and butterflies that frequented the area. We spotted this bird that looked like a turkey though.

Small bird
Small bird

After our stop at the Red Peak Station, we were lucky enough to get on the glass bottom Diamond Gondolas. There are only a few of these special 5-passenger gondolas. Visitors have to wait for them about every seven minutes. We highly recommend going on the Diamond gondolas and for just an added upgrade to the tickets, it is worth the price. It gave us a unique perspective of looking down the trees. My kids loved it! We had a hard time convincing them to look up and around. They were convinced they were going to spot a bird or nests (which we never did).

We highly recommend going on the Diamond gondolas and for just an added upgrade to the tickets, it is worth the price 

Wonderful experience
Wonderful experience

For the more daring and adventurous travelers, we also saw the fairly new Glider Gondolas. These were the open air gondolas that only allowed four people. I was nervous imagining myself in these gondolas but I can imagine the thrill of the experience and the stunning photos without the glass barrier. I just hope that’s stable enough during windy days. My kids declared they would love to try this the next time we come back here.

open air gondolas that only allowed four people

Canopy glider
Canopy glider

Barron Falls

Our last and favorite station stop was Barron Falls. It was amazing to see parts of it from above while on the skyrail.

Barron Falls station
Barron Falls station

There were three lookouts along the boardwalk to get different vantage points of the gorge and the most visited waterfall in this part of Australia. Barron Falls is 853 feet tall (260 meters) and cascades down Barron Gorge towards Cairns.

Barron Falls
Barron Falls

Unfortunately, the water wasn’t flowing rapidly or in full force. This usually occurs during their Wet Season (January – March ) and after heavy rains. It was interesting to see the bedrocks behind the waterfalls though and how the water flowed through them.

Even though some parts of the waterfall were only a trickle, it was still a beautiful scenery. The sounds of the water flowing and the whole backdrop was such a tranquil setting.

Great fall
Great fall

The trails and boardwalks were also lovely walks. We even spotted these purple berries in one area.

Amazing nature
Amazing nature

We also spotted this group enjoying a small natural pool by the waterfalls. It looked so refreshing and inviting considering it was a bit warm outside.

Small place to swim
Small place to swim

Parts of the Barron Gorge hydroelectric power station on the gorge could be seen from one of the lookouts. Building this station altered the falls since waters from the Barron River were harnessed and some of the water was diverted into a tunnel. This was Australia’s first underground power station.

Nice lake
Nice lake

Before boarding the Skyrail for our destination, we visited the indoor Rainforest Interpretation Centre. My kids loved the touch screen computers, microscopes, videos and the other interactive activities that helped us learn a bit more about the tropical rainforest and its ecosystem.

Rainforest interpretation centre
Rainforest interpretation centre

Can you tell my kids loved being on the Skyrail? They also found it entertaining to see who would wave back at them from the other gondolas. We’re happy to say that mostly everyone did.

We love Skyrail!
We love Skyrail!

Our trip ended at the Kuranda Terminal which was the “gateway to the village in the rainforest”. Kuranda was such a charming town to visit. Yes, it got a bit touristy but was still a wonderful place to stroll around. Our brief but pleasant time here deserves its own future post. This was the Kuranda River which offered boat tours.

Nice view
Nice view

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway provided an amazing way to see and experience this Australian tropical rainforest. It was relaxing and such an enjoyable journey. One never knows what you’ll see on each ride. It’s not often we get to see the tree tops. We really liked the two rainforest station stops which broke up the ride but were also informative and educational for the whole family. Don’t miss this ride!

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway provided an amazing way to see and experience this Australian tropical rainforest

Pleasant and relaxing experience
Pleasant and relaxing experience

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Basics & Tips

Getting There: It is located 15 minutes north of Cairns in the town of Caravonica and next to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Shuttle pickups from the hotels can be booked in advance or together with your ticket purchase. We rented a car and drove there.

It is about 1.5 hours for the one-way Skyrail experience taking into account 20 minutes for each station stop. Although, we took longer since we spent a bit more time at the stations. Visitors have the options of taking it one way up or down the mountain or round trip.

Don’t forget to shop. The company donates sale percentage from merchandise to foundations that help with rainforest research and education.

Fold-up baby strollers can be taken into the gondolas as well as standard wheelchairs.

They’re open everyday except on Christmas.

Look into the 40-minute walk with a local guide – the Djabugay Aboriginal Guided Walking Tours. We wish we had more time to do this one since it looked so interesting.

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