Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

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View from Skyrail
View from Diamond View glass floor gondola
Djabugay Tours
The path of the Skyrail

Coordinates: 16°50′53″S 145°41′41″E / 16.84806°S 145.69472°E / -16.84806; 145.69472

Helicopters were used extensively during construction
At the Red Peak Station
View from the cableway of Barron Falls

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a 7.5 kilometre scenic cableway running above the Barron Gorge National Park in the Wet Tropics of Queensland’s World Heritage Area north of Cairns which has won more than 25 awards.

It was the only Australian finalist in the 2014 International Tourism for Tomorrow Award.[1] In 2012, it was the first tourism attraction in the world to receive Platinum EarthCheck Accreditation.[2] It won the 2000 British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow International Environment Award,[3] the 1996 EIBTM European Greening of Business Tourism Most Environmentally Conscious Visitor Attraction Award and the 2008 and 2009 Qantas National Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism.[4][5] In 2000, it was inducted into the Queensland Qantas Award’s Hall of Fame for Best Tourism Attraction and in 2010 for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism.[6] It was the longest gondola cableway in the world when it was completed in 1995.[7][8][9]

The cableway, which travels over the McAlister Range between Smithfield and Kuranda, includes six-person gondola cabins that travel metres above the treetops. A one-way trip takes about 1.5 hours and a return trip is about 2.5 hours. Two rainforest stations, Red Peak Station and Barron Falls Station, allow exploration of the forest floor on boardwalks, interaction with the environment and education of the World Heritage area. A Rainforest Interpretation Centre, developed in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), is located at the Barron Falls Station.[10] In 2012, Skyrail, in conjunction with Djabugay Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (DNTAC) developed walking tours with aboriginal guides on a rainforest trail on traditional Djabugay lands, departing from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Barron Falls Station.[11]


The Skyrail concept was put forward in 1987, with construction beginning in June 1994. Pre-construction included consultation with and approval from 23 local, state and federal government agencies and local communities along with numerous assessments including an Environmental Impact Study. It also established an agreement with the Djabugay Tribal Aboriginal Corporation for the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage.[11][12] Skyrail is owned and operated by the Chapman Group, led by George Chapman, AO, who was named one of Queensland Government’s 2011 Queensland Greats.[13] His son, Dr Ken Chapman, is Skyrail’s managing director and daughter, Karen Hawkins, is a director.[14] The $35 (AUD) million cableway opened to the public on August 31, 1995 with 47 gondolas.[15] A $2.5 (AUD) million upgrade in May 1997 increased the number of gondolas to 114, enabling it to carry over 600 passengers an hour in each direction.[16] In 2006, it underwent a $2.5 (AUD) million upgrade which included a replacement café, expanded ticketing services and larger retail store.[17] In November 2013, it introduced 11 Diamond View glass floor gondolas,[18] and in April 2014, the Canopy Glider, a ranger-escorted, open-air gondola, was added.[19] Special guests at Skyrail include Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on March, 2002,[20] former Australian politician Julia Gillard in 2004,[21] and Australian tennis player Pat Rafter in 2013.[22]


Before construction, the site was surveyed to make sure endangered and rare species wouldn’t be affected. The top soil and leaf litter were collected and reintroduced when construction was complete. Plant seedlings removed during construction were re-planted in their original locations.[15] Construction began in June 1994 despite protests from conservationists.[23] The 32 towers at Skyrail were built in 10x10 metre clearings and workers had to sterilise equipment and footwear before entering sites. Russian Kamov helicopters were used extensively to carry equipment, materials and cement to tower sites and rainforest stations. Helicopters carried 900 tonnes of steel, cement and building materials into the Barron Falls Station alone. Because no roads were built during construction, workers walked to the tower sites each day with their equipment.[24]

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation[edit]

The Skyrail Rainforest Foundation was established in 2005 to raise and distribute funding for tropical rainforest research and education projects. These include scientific studies of rare and endangered rainforest fauna and flora, canopy ecology and of rainforest species for medical research.[25] The foundation offers funding for students and educators to research into rainforest protection.[26] Since inception and from April 2014, the foundation has provided $302,000 (AUD) towards research projects.[27]


Skyrail over Kuranda

Skyrail won a number of Australian National Tourism Awards including 2008, 2009 and 2010 Excellence in Sustainable Tourism, 1997 and 1999 Best Major Tourist Attraction and 1996 Best Tourist Development Project. Queensland Tourism Awards include the 2010 Hall of Fame - Excellence in Sustainable Tourism, 2008 and 2009 Excellence in Sustainable Tourism, 2000 Hall of Fame Best Major Tourist Attraction, 1997, 1998 and 1999 Best Major Tourist Attraction and 1996 Best Tourist Development Project. Its Tropical North Queensland Tourism Awards include 2014 Best Eco-Tourism, 2009 and 2010 Sustainable Tourism, 2004 Hall of Fame Best Major Tourist Attraction, 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2013 Best Major Tourist Attraction. International Tourism Awards include 2000 British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow International Environment Award, 1999 Wet Tropics Management Authority Cassowary Award, 1996 EIBTM European Greening of Business Tourism Award in the Category of "Most Environmentally Conscious Visitor Attraction" and 1996 Australian Federation of Travel Agents Awards for Excellence in the category "Best Resort or Tourist Attraction" Far North Queensland. It also won the 1999 Wet Tropics Management Authority Cassowary Culture Award.


Skyrail holds a number of business and environmental accreditations and certifications, including EarthCheck Platinum,[28] Advanced Ecotourism Certification: Eco Tourism Australia [29] and Climate Action Innovator.


  • The cableway can operate at a speed of five metres per second (18 kilometres per hour, or 11 miles per hour); however its normal operating speed is much slower to provide guests with the maximum time to enjoy their rainforest experience.
  • There are 32 towers in total. The highest tower is Tower #6 at 45 metres (133 feet).
  • Red Peak is Skyrail’s highest station at 545 metres (1,788 feet) above sea level. The Kuranda Station sits at 336 metres (1,012 feet) and Smithfield Terminal is only 5 metres (16 feet) above sea level.
  • The steepest section of the cableway has a slope of 19 degrees.
  • Skyrail Rainforest Cableway has 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) of 40.5 mm galvanised steel rope weighing more than the equivalent of 100 sedan cars.
  • There is a multi-core communications cable which runs in the middle of the towers, between the two lines of haul rope. This carries all the voice and safety circuit communications.
  • The cableway is driven by a 383 kW (500 hp) D.C electric motor located at each drive station, the Kuranda and Smithfield Stations. Each drive station has a back-up diesel motor and a further auxiliary Hydrostatic Drive.[30]
  • There are 2 streaming webcams providing live footage and views from the cableway. The cameras are located on top of towers 7 and 25.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Cairns Post, March 1, 2014, page 45, Skyrail joins world’s elite, by Nick Dalton
  2. ^ The Cairns Post, Friday, Nov 23, 2012, page 11, Skyrail has green light from awards
  3. ^ The Telegraph, by Lisa Donald, Oct 16, 2000,
  4. ^ Qantas News, April 2010, page 7, Qantas Australian Tourism Award Winners 2009
  5. ^ The Courier Mail, March 1, 2010, by Kate Schneider Queensland attractions shine at Qantas Tourism Awards
  6. ^ Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Hall of Fame,
  7. ^ Construction in Focus Building the Cairns-Kuranda Railway and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
  8. ^ The Cairns Post, August 31, 2000, page 21, Skyrail rainforest cableway celebrates 5th birthday
  9. ^ Queensland Government, Queensland’s history – 1990,
  10. ^ CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, CSIRO gets into ecotourism,
  11. ^ a b Tourism Australia. "Australian Stories, Lunch of Djabugay Aboriginal Guided Rainforest Walks". 
  12. ^ The Cairns Post, Thursday, August 3, 2000, page 22, Still riding high
  13. ^ Queensland Government, 2001 Queensland Greats recipients,
  14. ^ Cairns Life magazine, July 2001, Family Affairs,
  15. ^ a b Hudson, Alan (2007). Growing up in Cairns - A Memoir by Alan Hudson. p. 136. 
  16. ^ Australian Financial Review, June 20, 2005, page 5, by Mark Ludlow, Skyrail a winner for tourists and rainforests.
  17. ^ The Cairns Post, Nov 22, 2005, page 35, by Gavin King, The sky is the limit
  18. ^ ABC, April 26, 2013, by Sharnie Kim, Skyrail clears plans for better rainforest views,
  19. ^ The Cairns Post, March 30, 2014, by Nick Dalton, Special open air gondola open for the public at Skyrail
  20. ^ The Cairns Post, March 2, 2002, page 2, by Marie Low, Royal revel in rainforest trip,
  21. ^ ABC, October 31, 2004, by Alan Porritt, Julia Gillard rides the Skyrail
  22. ^ The Daily Telegraph, April 6, 2013, by Chanel Parratt, Pat Rafter hits waves in Queensland
  23. ^ The Cairns Post, September 1, 1995, Page 1, by Margo Zlotkowski, Skyrail lift-off
  24. ^ Construction in focus, Building the Cairns-Kuranda Railway and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
  25. ^ The Cairns Post, October 4, 2005, by Peter Wex, Rainforest research gets huge donation
  26. ^ The Cairns Post, August 31, 2007, page 9, Money for forest research projects
  27. ^ The Cairns Post, April 23, 2014, page 21, by Nick Dalton, Funds offer for researchers
  28. ^ Skyrail Named As Environmental Leader
  29. ^ Green Travel Guide
  30. ^ Skyrail Facts
  31. ^ Skyrail Webcams

External links[edit]