Steph goes on The Sunlander

Staff member: Steph // Trip date: Feb 2012

Kuranda Skyrail

This 7.5km journey is a unique rainforest experience taking you on an unforgettable journey through Australia's World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforests near Cairns. Glide just metres above the canopy in Cairns Skyrail comfortable six-person gondola cabins. The Gondola stops at two rainforest stations. At the first you can take a Rangers tour to learn more about this fascinating rainforest environment. At the second stop are viewing platforms for the spectacular Barron Falls. A one-way Skyrail experience takes 1.5 hours, including time at both stations. If you are not a fan of heights you may struggle with this ride, it is definitely a long way up!

Kuranda Township

A small but diverse township with plenty to see and do, market shopping for souvenirs is very popular here. Worthwhile to visit is the Butterfly Sanctuary (make sure you take a guided tour!) Koala Gardens and Birdworld.

There are plenty of places to eat - numerous cafes and pubs, as well as a German restaurant. Everything is within easy walking distance of both the Skyrail and Kuranda railway.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Departing from Cairns, Freshwater Station or Kuranda, this scenic railway meanders along 37kms of track, including 15 tunnels and 55 bridges. A 10 minute stop at Barron Falls allows passengers to disembark and take photos of this amazing waterfall.

Gold Class is the classy way to travel with "lounge chair seats', complimentary beverages and a snack. You have plenty of room to move in Gold Class to take in all the scenery on both sides of the train. Gold Class also includes a souvenir gift pack - write up a postcard to family or friends and staff will post it for you free of charge to anywhere in the world. Standard class seating is also perfectly comfortable with bench style seats - take your own snacks and drinks. The only negative of this train was the lack of air conditioning, so having the windows open is a must - when it rains the train becomes stuffy very quickly! I found the staff on board very friendly and informative along this 2 hour journey. A TV screen & speaker provides information about the points of interest along the journey - the men who laboured on this track endured many hardships; it makes you appreciate the journey even more.

Sunlander Cairns to Brisbane - Queenslander Class

My first impression when I walked onto the platform at Cairns station was thinking to myself "This looks like an old train" and indeed it is - around 50 years old. The Sunlander is an "old style" train, however it has been maintained quite well and you can't fault the service.

There is no "check in desk" at Cairns Station - staff will be waiting on the platform to meet you and help you check in your luggage and locate your cabin or seat and answer any questions before departing.

We were treated to Queenslander Class, an all-inclusive service with meals, (not alcohol), and tea/coffee. The cabins are exactly the same as a standard 2 berth cabin, however they have a few extras which make it more comfortable and convenient. Full bedding with linen and duvet (doona!), a treat on your pillow, towel, robe and slippers and a complimentary toiletries pamper pack.
The cabins have a reasonable amount of space, however it is clear why you would need to only take an overnight bag with you and check in luggage. There is limited storage space in the cabin so a suitcase would end up being literally under your feet during the trip.

There is one shower and a male and female toilet for each carriage. They are basic but very clean and the shower has a hand rail to hold onto if you feel unsteady. Drinking fountain and cups are also located on each carriage for you to help yourself to.

We had set off for not more than 15 minutes when we were invited to the lounge car for a welcome drink to meet our fellow passengers. As Queenslander Class is locked off from the rest of the train, you become quite well acquainted with fellow travellers in Queenslander class.

Shortly after our welcome drink, we were moved into the dining car to sit at comfortable tables (4 per table) for morning tea - scrummy freshly baked scones, jam and cream with bottomless coffee and tea. We knew we were set for some amazing meals just from tasting these scones!

The rest of the journey is yours to enjoy how you wish - hang out in the lounge car with a drink and listen to the on board entertainer, sit in your cabin and read a book or watch the landscape slip past. At some point you'll succumb to the temptation to snooze (usually after the delicious meals!).

My highlight would have to be the first lunch, I ordered the Seafood platter and my expectations were blown away with the plate placed in front of me. Huge prawns, whole crab, Morten bay bugs and oysters - enough really to feed 2 people well! It was a real treat - something we don't see at this quality in NZ. After wading my way through as much of this as I could I suddenly realised I still had desert to go. We were warned we would "roll off the train" in Brisbane, and oh this is so true.

During the journey as we passed various places of interest, a staff member would come on the speaker to explain a bit of history of the town or region you were passing, or about the sugar cane growing process.

The train does make short stops along the way, and before each it is announced how long the train will stop for and if it is possible to disembark. Smokers will need to make their way completely off the station platform.

We had a walk through the rest of the train and had a look at the other accommodation options.

First Class Sleeper (Twin / Single)
The Twin is exactly the same as Queenslander class just without the little extras. Bedding is more limited with just a pillow, linen and blanket (no fluffy duvet).
Single is very compact, a seat folds down to a lower berth which fills the room. There is just enough room with the bed down to open the door enough to get out at night.

Economy Triple
The same size as the Twin but with a lower, middle and upper berth. There is not a lot of room between the bunks - you wouldn't be able to sit up.

Economy Seats
Open saloon carriages with overhead luggage racks and reading lights. Seats recline and have a fold down table and foot rest. No pillow or blanket is provided - bring your own. All seats face the direction of travel. I would not be keen to sit here on a longer journey, but for a shorter sector between towns it is perfect.

Club Car
The Club Car has a friendly atmosphere and offers continuous service for light refreshments, drinks and confectionery except for some periods of night travel. A restricted liquor service is also available in the Club Car.

Buffet Car
A licensed Buffet Car is available for passengers to purchase a range of Australian style meals and beverages. There is a good range of choice from cold to hot meals and the prices are reasonable.

You are given first class, friendly service - and genuinely friendly. The meals truly are restaurant grade and a generous serving. I think perhaps if they also included an alcoholic drink with lunch and dinner it would help towards selling the benefit of upgrading.

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