Kuranda and the Barron Gorge National Park
Winding our way around tight corners, past craggy rock face and swinging vines, we drive higher and deeper into the Barron Gorge National Park in tropical north Queensland. Using my free CamperMate app on my phone I was able to locate a campsite for my partner and I to set up at before our day exploring. There are no campsites within the national park but you can pay online to stay near the park’s western boundary at Speewah Regional Park for $6pp/pn (e-permit only self-registration no longer available). The campsite has flushing toilets, cold showers, gas barbecues, picnic tables and a communal fire pit for use. After unloading some of our belongings we set off again deeper into the rainforest with the hope of finding the little village nestled in the heart of it, Kuranda. Barron Gorge National Park, surrounding Kuranda, extends from the coastal lowlands to the higher peaks of the Atherton Tablelands. Driving higher up the mountain you are rewarded with views across the sprawling tablelands, a patchwork of farming fields and crops, below. Flowing along one of Australia’s highest rainforest belts, the Barron River runs throughout the park before crashing and cascading 250 metres down the Barron Gorge. In the wetter months and after a heavy downpour the falls are a pretty spectacular sight. The water falls onto narrow coastal lowlands and flows into the coral sea. Nearby lies the Barron Gorge Hydro-Power station, Australia’s first underground power station. Built in 1935 it was built to utilise the power of water flowing over Barron Falls. [caption id="attachment_2723" align="alignnone" width="900"] Barron Falls[/caption] It was Barron Falls that first attracted visitors to this area of the world-heritage rainforest. Soon a large number of artists and designers moved into the rainforest, inspired by the surrounding natural beauty, and the little village of Kuranda was created. It has since grown into a popular tourist resort and base to explore the lush rainforest. It lies 25km northwest of Cairns and is worth spending a day there. Regular markets are held selling local crafts, food produce, tie-dye clothing and souvenirs. From the Kuranda village centre there are a few good walking trails you can follow. We chose a fairly simple circular route which took us a little way out into the wet tropics past a few startled snakes and through just a few of the twelve hundred species of flowering plants that make the rainforest their home. Look out also for orchids, ginger plants, strangler figs, palms and lots of different climbing plants. The walk took around one hour and brought us back into Kuranda where we stopped for spot of lunch from one of the cafes. There are plenty of family friendly activities on offer in the village including a visit to Butterfly World and the Koala sanctuary, or watching an aboriginal cultural performance in respect to the traditional owners of the national park, the Djabugay people. You can view the Barron Gorge from one of the many lookouts dotted throughout the national park, some accessible by car and some by other means of transport. From Kuranda Village you can take the Scenic Railway or Scenic Cable Car to explore areas of the rainforest you are unable to access via your own vehicle. [caption id="attachment_2726" align="alignnone" width="900"] Barron Gorge[/caption] The 7.5km cable car is a journey you will never forget – especially if like me, you are scared of heights! Take the cable car down to the base of the mountain to experience a gentle sloping journey offering 360° panoramic views over the rainforest canopy below. You can hop on and off the cable cars at a few lookout points including Barron Gorge and explore under the green canopy on wooden boardwalks. We took the scenic railway to climb back up the mountain and enjoyed listening to the on-board commentary in the carriages. The 34km railway, built between 1882 and 1891, travels through 15 handmade tunnels and over 40 bridges providing a lots of good photo opportunities! It was nice to be able to return to our own little campsite in the rainforest back at Speewah and have a night spent swapping our favourite sights of the day next to the fire with neighbours.