You know how you sometimes visit an attraction because you want to keep the kids happy? Because they are on holidays after all, and one iron rule is: if the kids are happy, we are all happy.
You start making compromises. You agree to visit the trazillionth zoo, waste your time with boring activities that are clearly designed for toddlers that have the brain size of a pea, and all you wanted was a holiday for yourself. Because you are the person that works really hard and that needs its most. Look at those little children, what stress do they have in their little lives? But here you go again. You are on holidays and in the end its all about them.
But not so when you visit Rainforestation near Cairns in tropical Queensland. This Kuranda attraction is actually really refreshing and different. Why? Because it is like a potpourri of tropical Queensland attractions all in one, neatly packaged and easily digestible for the whole family.
It’s not just a zoo or a plantation. It’s not just culture but also action. There are so many different things to do and to see, it’s perfect for a family. No matter whether you are from Australia or visiting from overseas I dare to claim that you do get some really good experiences for your money.
So what is there to see at Rainforestation?
You have to understand that the concept behind Rainforestation is to show the visitor a multitude of tropical Queensland related experiences. There is the tropical rainforest, of course, and native Australian animals. But then there are also the people that make this country so special, namely the local Pamagirri people who have lived in this area for many, many generations. Plus, there is some exciting exploration to be had which is perfect in particular for guests that are interested in vintage army memorabilia. Intrigued? Then read on as we explore all the different areas of the park one by one.
Rainforestation has been around for more than 40 years. That’s a long time and a good testament for the success of this business. Situated on the site of a former orange orchard, it today covers the enormous area of 100 acres of the World Heritage rainforest of tropical Queensland. Yet, it is just five minutes from the charming rainforest town of Kuranda, which boasts plenty of other tourist friendly attractions and activities, not to mention the convenient vicinity of Cairns where you will find beaches, cruise operators and many other things to do.
One by one we explored the different parts of the park with the kids… follow us as we find our way around the different stations.
Koala & Wildlife Park
Cute fluffy animals are always a winner with the kids. At Rainforestation we found the usual Australian native animals as you would see them at other zoos and wildlife parks as well, namely koalas, wallabies (small kangaroos), and snakes. But there were also crocs (this one here aptly called Jack the Ripper because he has killed 12 of his girlfriends in the past), reptiles, turtles, frogs, wombats and many more.
Needless to say that not all of them were up for a cuddle, but the wallabies in particular were very friendly and tame and had no issues coming really close for lovely photos and a good pat on the back. This part of the experience never gets old with us, and no matter how hard you try I don’t think you will ever outgrow a good old native animal experience.
Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience
From here we moved on to the aboriginal experience. The park employs a group of men from the Pamagirri people who are very versatile with spears, boomerangs and the didgeridoo. They looked like fierce warriors with their war paint on and their sincere dedication to their roles, but overall they were really approachable and friendly fellas.
This experience took about one hour and ended with a stage performance of dance and music. We started at the spear throwing station. These spears are actually called woomera, and we have been told that one of the guides is actually listed in the Guinness Book of Records as he is able to throw the woomera a whooping distance of 147.75 metres! Now, that’s pretty impressive! When we visited, hitting the target was another matter, but still the demonstration did leave us speechless.
From there we moved on to the didgeridoo. Our guide explained to us that this musical instrument was actually created by termites who are tricked into hollowing out the thick branch. The mouth peace is made of bees wax to help with the creation of the unique and haunting sounds that are so recognisable and wonderfully Australian. We listened in awe as we were given a performance of different animal sounds, a tune that briefly captivated us and took us far away to the red desert plains of Australia.
Our next experience was boomerang throwing. Not just observing how the boomerang would behave in flight, actually returning to the throwing person. But also trying it for ourselves (obviosuly, the adults were failing miserably while the kids fared slightly better).
We ended the tour with a stage performance in the open-air theatre. The show consisted of a number of ritual dances, some of them a bit more tongue-in-cheek but all of them with an astonishing earnest and sincerity. The music these men danced to was a mix of percussion and the didgeridoo, which made this overall a lovely experience. A word of warning though: Make sure you don’t catch the performers’ eyes as they will eventually invite some audience members to dance with them on stage! But, hey, maybe you dig that?
Army Duck Tour
Now, you are excused for thinking that an army duck was an animal. It is not. It is an amphibious army vehicle that has tyres when on land and a rudder and propeller when in the water. You can use it to both drive on roads like a jeep and to navigate on lakes and rivers like a boat. The correct name is DUKW but there is no fun in that so let’s call it a Duck.
I know that my brother would love to sit in one of these vehicles. The ones at Rainforestation are historical – they had been built for World War II, in particular for the Pacific War but have been used in many other locations around the world and many more conflicts too – wherever an onshore landing was required, these babies came in handy.
The ones we could see at Rainforestation were built between 1942 and 1944 in Detroit, Michigan, and they can carry up to 30 passengers. As you can see riding in these vehicles alone is quite a unique and unforgettable adventure.
But of course we came with a mission. We boarded the Duck and the guide then took us for a ride in the rainforest. We stopped on multiple occasions, where the guide would then explain to us the wonders of the rainforest around us. He pointed out sharp bladed leaves that were good for cutting, showed us a massive birds nest fern which had come down from the tree tops one day and which took a lot of effort and manpower to move it to the side of the road. We saw turtles sunbathing on the shores of the little dammed lake that we cruised on, admired the beautiful flowers of the banana trees. We loved it.
The Tropical Orchard
This part of the park is hardly advertised but proved to be one of my personal highlights. It was a great way to show the kids where the fruit comes from that they know from the supermarket: pineapple and cacao, star fruit and jackfruit, papaya and passionfruit are all featured here and easy to detect. Plus of course a multitude of tropical flowers, perfect photo subjects for my ever growing gallery.
Of course, looking at all these delicious fruit the kids wanted to have a try too, and the nearby café was the perfect place to buy exotic fruits and banana chips and ice-cream and juices and lots more.
Summary and How to’s
Overall, Rainforestation was perfect for us. Our family members have such a wide range of interests that we could all cherrypick our most favourite experiences. The kids knew that there were many different things in store, so if one activity was too boring for them (say, the fruit orchard), they knew there were still the cute animals to go back to.
We loved that is was fun, educational and adventurous all at the same time, and if you have only one day to spare for activities in the area to explore the different aspects of tropical Queensland, then this is the perfect place to start. I don’t think you will have the feeling that you have missed out on anything, rather that you have had a taste of many different things, some of them you would have maybe not even considered booking on its own such as the ride in the Army Duck.
We came early which was good for the temperature and to avoid coach tourist groups. If you want to book your own adventure, do have a look at the different ticketing options. The operator is looking after a number of family-friendly attractions in both Kuranda and Cairns and it might be a good idea to purchase combo passes to save some money. We also visited the Butterfly Sanctuary, so if you would like to know what that was like, have a look here.
To reach Rainforestation you will either need to have a car (we hired a rental car), or you join a tour from Cairns, or you catch the shuttle bus from Kuranda (it’s not free unfortunately). More info here: http://www.rainforest.com.au/
And if you are still looking for accommodation options in the area: We stayed at Pullman Sea Temple Resort and Spa in Palm Cove – always our preferred choice, we have stayed there three times in the past (Disclaimer: If you click on this link to book with Booking.com you will send a small commission my way which will help support the blog. Many thanks!)