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  • Writer's pictureAround the World in Vegan Eats


Updated: May 24, 2023

While we were in Cairns we were really keen to check out some of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. And one of these places that we chose to visit was the beautiful mountain village of Kuranda. But this place isn't just about the destination: it's all about the journey too. Because in order to reach Kuranda, you can choose between two popular options: the Scenic Railway or the SkyRail cable car. If, like us, you fancy a taste of both, then why not take one up and the other back down!

With Kuranda being a traditional mountain village - one that has been adapted first by the hippy settlers that made it home a few decades ago, and subsequently for the tourist economy that pack the village every day - we really weren't sure how the experience would be for vegans. Would there be anything to eat? Would there be anything that unsettled us? We embarked on our day visiting the mountain village, determined to find out!

What were our first impressions of Kuranda?

First of all, Kuranda is an absolutely breathtaking place. We loved the scenic railway tour, from which we imagined how the journey would have been back when it was built. There were a couple of stopping points on the journey where we could check out the view, and we loved the history that we learned while on board the train too.

As I said, the journeys here are really an attraction in themselves, and as much as we loved the train, the cablecar really was something else. Stretching down over the top of the rainforest, we really felt tiny in comparison to the enormous expanse of jungle below us. We really felt, from the privacy of our cable car, on our own in this magical landscape, keeping an eye out for some of the hundreds of native species residing in the trees below. We were beyond happy here.

As for the village itself? The touches of authenticity allowed us to feel immersed in this stunning landscape... but with all of the souvenir shops scattered around the main area, it is clear that tourism is the main thing going on here. We took a short stroll outside of this tourist high street into the more authentic side of Kuranda and it was very beautiful, and a breath of fresh air - but really, most of the things you're going to do here aren't going to show you the true Kuranda, more of an experience manufactured for the enjoyment of holidaymakers.

What impressed us about Kuranda?

There was a lot that impressed us about Kuranda, the most surprising of which was the food! Though many of the restaurants are meat-focussed, there was one fully vegan eatery (Fruibies) where we tried a classic burger with cashew cheese, fries, and aioli. This plant-based place focus on smoothies and vegan versions of popular junk food, and we were really impressed. Though it honestly wasn't the tastiest food we've ever eaten, the prices were pretty standard for a tourist attraction (the meal cost $26.95, which is approximately £14.42, €16.60, or $17.95). We were really pleased to find a comprehensive menu of vegan goodness up in the mountains of Kuranda! And some of the neighbouring omni places offered vegan choices too: Mike visited Annabel's Takeaway Pie Shop next door, and bought us a Vegan Curry Pie for the low price of AU$7 (approx. £3.74, €4.31, or $4.66). This pie was really delicious, we were so surprised to find this little gem here!

The views from Kuranda were incredible, and though the food was great the thing we'll remember most is the cable car for sure. To be able to hover above a rainforest, listening to the jungle sounds while feeling like you're the only people in the world was a really incredible experience. At several points along the journey you can hop off and check out the visitors centre, as well as stepping into specially paved parts of the rainforest. Here you can take a look into the trees and speculate about what creatures you might come across if you were to wander further into its leafy depths. This was the place the inspired some of the settings in the original Avatar film, and it's easy to see why: this place has a magic of its own, and is a place I won't forget in a hurry.

What were we not so keen on?

Some of the most popular things to do while you're actually in Kuranda village involve animals, and we weren't big fans of the experiences themselves. You can buy a combined ticket that gives you entry to two of the following: the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Kuranda Koala Gardens, and Kuranda BirdWorld. We are big fans of butterflies and birds, so we chose to visit these two attractions. As I discussed in our recent Australia Zoo blog, koala handling is illegal in all Australian states except for Queensland, so we decided to give Kuranda Koala Gardens - where koala handling is a big part of what they offer - a wide berth.

When it came to the Butterfly Gardens we were really happy, the butterflies seemed happy and the gardens were really spacious and beautiful. We loved that they had a breeding programme for some of the local butterflies here, as well as endangered moth species. It was a really cool place that we were pleased we visited - though the mounted butterfly specimens on the way out were a little uncomfortable viewing for me at least. Honestly, we were so happy with our experience at the Butterfly Gardens, we wished we'd left it at that!

When it came to BirdWorld though, we were less comfortable and satisfied. We are both massive bird lovers so rarely pass on the opportunity to see some beautiful feathered friends - but this wasn't such a happy place. There are a lot of birds packed into a pretty small compound. Though it is well decorated, we didn't feel like they had sufficient space to form their own territories and get away from people and other birds. There was quite a lot of bird poo (inevitable, I know!) and it just didn't feel like the birds were particularly thrilled to be there.

When you enter, you have to remove or put tape over any piercings, to avoid the birds trying to pull them out of your body. This really isn't the behaviour of happy birds, who usually would prefer to keep a bit of a distance from visitors. We have visited many bird attractions and I have never had to walk around with tape over my nose ring and ears before or since! Though natural, the bird bullying we saw was likely a result of too many birds in a small space, while quite a few birds had feathers missing which could imply they are distressed and self-harming. While the opportunity to interact with the birds is definitely something that a lot of people enjoyed, it really isn't a natural behaviour. Our advice? Just check out the butterflies, then enjoy a walk around the village itself.

A quick additional note: lots of tourist shops in Australia sell kangaroo testicles on key rings. No, I don't get it either. There was a lot of this up at Kuranda, as well as shops specialising in Australian leather goods. So while you will be able to pick up some souvenirs that are cruelty-free, just be prepared for this so you're not surprised walking around town!

What were our lasting impressions of Kuranda? Would we go back?

Definitely, we would be thrilled to go back to Kuranda - but we would also choose our activities while we were there a little more carefully! Both the Scenic Railway and the SkyRail were absolutely thrilling, we enjoyed every moment of our time on board. Exploring the village was really cool too - but the highlight for us was the rainforest. We were delighted to find out that vegan food is fairly easy to get hold of here - particularly since it's quite few and far between in Cairns - so you can be sure you'll find something to keep your hunger at bay here. While we absolutely recommend a trip to Kuranda, just be aware that aspects of the village might be a little uncomfortable for animal lovers.ix

Have you been to Kuranda? Do you think it is a good place for vegans to visit? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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The centre of Vienna with tall, historic buildings all around
Cairns is best known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef!

Where should I stay?

For the convenience of accommodation in the centre of the city, as well as excellent reviews, and modern, recently renovated private and dorm rooms, check out The Village, Cairns. For more of a social vibe, with a swimming pool, BBQ facilities, hammocks, a TV room, and the choice of privates or dorms in a homely atmosphere, Travellers Oasis, Cairns is really popular with tourists.

Tours & Experiences

Some of the most beautiful and unique views in this area come from the incredible village of Kuranda - and the train ride to get there is one of the most famous and scenic in the world. Why not try this Kuranda Scenic Railway tour, which also includes the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, for spectacular views over this ancient rainforest! Or, if that's not for you, check out some of the top-rated Viator tours below!

Please note that the tours displayed below are automatically selected for their popularity by Viator, not chosen or recommended by us. Please carefully consider the ethics of animal-based tourism activities before taking part!

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