On one of my trips to Cairns, I took the Kuranda scenic railway. Kuranda is a small town 25 km away from Cairns, up in the hills and surrounded by a rain forest. It's a lovely little place but unfortunately overrun by tourists, and the local economy seems to revolve exclusively around the tourist trade. Besides the railway, there is also a cable car that goes there from the suburbs of Cairns.
I was very happy to take the old train. This is a stock photo from the internet, but I took the other ones myself.
The train station is delightful. The town probably has more station gardeners than actual railway employees.
The whole town in buried under pleasant vegetation.
From the train, both going to Kuranda and back, there are several very nice waterfalls to admire.
If the weather is nice, I definitely recommend a visit to Kuranda by anyone in the Cairns area.
On other travel forums there's a strong prevailing view that Kuranda is too touristy to justify, though everyone agrees that the Skyrail and train (take the train up and the Skyrail down) is worth doing.
Of course, when one visits a tourist destination, they will wait for hours if necessary to take a picture that doesn't include any other tourists.
Except Japanese, who seem to only like pictutes that have people in them. We have noted that they will pose their fellow travelers happily in front of a dumpster. I often wonder if they have any pictures of just scenery, without a person posing prominently in the foreground.
This area is a few hours drive from home for me. SO much more to see in the vicinity - though without a rental car, your options become more limited.
It's not a difficult drive to get out to the Chillagoe Caves, where you cross from the tropical rain forest into the genuine "outback". Heading out via Dimbula (tobacco growing country). Authentic local pubs to stop at for a counter lunch an ice cold beer or two along the way or in Chillagoe itself.
The loop from Cairns vis Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands is a magnificent drive, no shortage of places to stop off. If you're taking the kids, bring a towel, there's SO many quiet/private/deserted fresh water (critter free) swimming holes to stop at.
Some of the busier ones include the two defunct volcano's of Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine;
You can hire house boats at Tinaroo Dam, no shortage of wildlife and birds to enjoy as you kick back on the deck of your houseboat, and reel in a burramundi or three.
We may get to several of these places, as we have now scrapped plans to go to either the top end (too hot/humid) or red centre (too pricey/hot) and will concentrate on North QLD perhaps as far south as the Whitsunday Islands, and Sydney.
Will get to explore inland QLD with all the time this frees up.
Well we did go to Kuranda, but not by Train or Cable Car.
We waited till the very end of our 10 day campervan rental, having seen Cairns, Pt. Douglas, Mossman Creek, Cape Tribulation, GBR snorkel, Tablelands, Millau Waterfall Circuit, platypus watching at Yungabarra (we saw 2), Ravenshoe, Tully Gorge, Mission Beach, and Babinda Boulders in the meantime.
With a 3:30 deadline for turning in the campervan (unlike car rentals, camper rentals are by the calendar day, so best to pick it up as early in the day as you can and turn it in as late as allowed on the last day), we used our final day to drive from the free camping ground at Babinda Boulders park to Kuranda and explore in the area. We really enjoyed the hiking trails through the rainforest. We popped into a couple shops selling aboriginal art and wood crafts, but weren't seduced into buying anything.
We drove down to Barron Falls, pictured in K2's series and took the rainforest skywalk (elevated board walk) hike there.
And we saw the train (there are actually 2 trains) 3X that day: had to stop at a crossing to let it go by on our way up to Kuranda, heard the whistle whilst on a pathway at Kuranda and scrambled up the bank to photograph the train as it chugged by, and we met the train at a crossing again after we returned the camper in Cairns and had visited the botanic garden on our way back to our hotel on foot. Didn't feel the need to ride it.
Kuranda was worth going to for the hiking alone, but I'm glad we didn't skip anything else to go there.
BTW, we also changed our mind about skipping the Red Centre, and rented a 2nd campervan there for 5 days.
Kuranda is a delightful "tourist trap". I will never criticize such places, because even though they are not essential, it is often very nice to see them anyway. France has hundreds if not thousands of them, and nobody seems to be complaining.