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 km scenic cableway running above the Barron Gorge National Park, in the Wet Tropics of Queensland’s World Heritage Area. North of Cairns, it has won more than 25 awards.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway journeys through the world's oldest continually surviving rainforest on earth, older than the Amazon Rainforest.

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 AU$35 million cableway opened to the public on 31 August 1995 with 47 gondolas.[15] A AU$2.5 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 AU$2.5 million upgrade which included a replacement café, expanded ticketing services and a 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 would not be affected. The top soil and leaf litter were collected and reintroduced when construction was complete. Plant seedlings removed during construction were replanted in their original locations.[15] Construction began in June 1994 despite protests from conservationists.[23]

The 32 towers at Skyrail were built in 10x10 m 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 its inception from April 2014, the foundation has provided AU$302,000 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.

In 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations, the Skyrail Rainforest Cable was announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for its role as a "structure and engineering feat".[28]


Skyrail holds a number of business and environmental accreditations and certifications, including EarthCheck Platinum,[29] Advanced Ecotourism Certification: Eco Tourism Australia[30] and Climate Action Innovator.


  • Skyrail operates within the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics area, which is home to the worlds oldest tropical rainforest.
  • Dating back 130 million years, many of the ancient plants in this rainforest existed when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
  • The cableway can operate at a speed of 5 m/s (18 km/h, 11 mi/h); 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 m (133 ft).
  • Red Peak is Skyrail's highest station, at 545 m (1,788 ft) above sea level. The Kuranda Station is 336 m (1,012 ft) and Smithfield Terminal 5 m (16 ft) above sea level.
  • The steepest section of the cableway has a slope of 19°.
  • Skyrail Rainforest Cableway has 15 km (9.3 mi) 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. It carries all the voice and safety circuit communications.
  • The cableway is driven by a 383 kW (500 hp) direct current electric motor located at each drive station: the Kuranda and Smithfield Stations. Each drive station has a backup diesel motor and a further auxiliary Hydrostatic Drive.[31]
  • There are two streaming webcams providing live footage and views from the cableway. The cameras are located on top of Towers 7 and 25.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Cairns Post, 1 March 2014, page 45, Skyrail joins world's elite, by Nick Dalton
  2. ^ The Cairns Post, Friday, 23 November 2012, page 11, Skyrail has green light from awards
  3. ^ The Telegraph, by Lisa Donald, 16 October 2000,
  4. ^ Qantas News, April 2010, page 7, Qantas Australian Tourism Award Winners 2009
  5. ^ The Courier Mail, 1 March 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, 31 August 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, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 August 2005. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Tourism Australia. "Australian Stories, Lunch of Djabugay Aboriginal Guided Rainforest Walks". Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  12. ^ The Cairns Post, Thursday, 3 August 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, 20 June 2005, page 5, by Mark Ludlow, Skyrail a winner for tourists and rainforests.
  17. ^ The Cairns Post, 22 November 2005, page 35, by Gavin King, The sky is the limit
  18. ^ ABC, 26 April 2013, by Sharnie Kim, Skyrail clears plans for better rainforest views,
  19. ^ The Cairns Post, 30 March 2014, by Nick Dalton, Special open air gondola open for the public at Skyrail
  20. ^ The Cairns Post, 2 March 2002, p. 2, by Marie Low, Royal revel in rainforest trip,
  21. ^ ABC, 31 October 2004, by Alan Porritt, Julia Gillard rides the Skyrail
  22. ^ The Daily Telegraph, 6 April 2013, by Chanel Parratt, Pat Rafter hits waves in Queensland
  23. ^ The Cairns Post, 1 September 1995, p. 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, 4 October 2005, by Peter Wex, Rainforest research gets huge donation
  26. ^ The Cairns Post, 31 August 2007, p. 9, Money for forest research projects
  27. ^ The Cairns Post, 23 April 2014, pagep. 21, by Nick Dalton, Funds offer for researchers
  28. ^ Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). "PREMIER UNVEILS QUEENSLAND'S 150 ICONS". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017. 
  29. ^ Skyrail Named As Environmental Leader "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2015. 
  30. ^ Green Travel Guide
  31. ^ Skyrail Facts
  32. ^ Skyrail Webcams

External links[edit]