A compact settlement of some 500 people and surrounded by rainforest, Kuranda has become a major tourist attraction in North Queensland.

Location: 27 km north west of Cairns on the Atherton Tableland.

For a great day out from Cairns or Port Douglas, you can either take the 30 minute drive from Cairns into the mountains behind the city, or opt for a ride on the world renowned Kuranda Scenic Railway, which winds its way up a gorge through 15 tunnels and over 40 bridges.

The line clings to the rock face and passengers can almost touch the waterfalls as they climb the mountains towards the Atherton Tableland. Offering views back across the Coral Sea, the railway was built by John Robb between 1886 and 1891 and is recognised as a masterpiece of railway engineering.

Kuranda, one of the gateways to the Atherton Tableland from Cairns, has plenty of shops, galleries and cafes to relieve tourists of their dollars, and I don't say that in a derogatory way at all. Kuranda is home to an extraordinary number of artists and craft workers and this is reflected in the large number of shops and market stalls selling their beautiful products. There are in fact three markets - Heritage Markets, Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets and The New Markets - where locally produced arts, crafts, clothing, Aboriginal artifacts and souvenirs are available.

If it is Australia's wildlife you've come to see, you won't leave disappointed. At Kuranda there is a Koala Gardens, Birdworld bird sanctuary, a butterfly aviary, the Australia Venom Zoo, Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve and the BatReach Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre.

In addition, tours of the rainforest of all kinds are available - from walking to 6WD amphibious Army ducks, Hummers, cruising on the Barron River, or the overhead Skyrail, spanning 7.5km over the rainforest.

Natural features: Kuranda Forest Reserve; Barron River; Barron Falls; Caravonica Lakes

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Brief history

The rainforest is home to the Djabugay aboriginal people who have lived here for over 10,000 years. Exploration by Europeans in the early 1800s opened the way for gold prospectors and the timber industry and settlement by the pioneers. Kuranda was first surveyed in 1888 by Thomas Behan, and the building of the railway and the road from the new seaport of Cairns paved the way for trade and the movement of people over the mountains. Kuranda became a destination for locals on holiday and honeymooners and word soon spread telling of the magnificent Barron Falls and the lushness of the rainforest. During the 1940s there was a big military presence in the area; training and rest and recreation for troops and Air Force personnel took precedence over tourism.

Origin of name: of Aboriginal origin, probably derived from an Aboriginal word in the Yindinji language - "kuran" - indicating an acorn leafed plant (Helmholtzia acorifolia).

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