People come for miles to see the unusual volcanic lava tubes at Undara National Park in North Queensland but they are only part of the reason why a visit to Undara should be on your ‘to do list’.
Undara is about a 3-4 hour drive west from Cairns or Townsville, a small distance in Australian terms, but it feels like it’s a million miles away in the middle of the Australian outback.
Located on an Australian cattle station in Gulf Savannah country, the scenery at Undara gives you a chance to dip your toe into the vast, parched and wild spaces of the typical Australian bush without going too far away from the coast.
The roads are sealed the whole way (unless you decide to take a detour) and it is well worth the drive to get there.
the lava tubes
The Undara lava tubes were formed by a volcano that erupted 190,000 years ago.
It oozed an estimated 23 kilometres of molten hot lava that travelled along water courses across more than 1550 kms, with one lava flow extending for more than 160kms.
These are the largest lava tubes in the world and undoubtedly the main drawcard for visitors.
Since they are of national significance the government has made the area a national park and given Undara permission to conduct tours.
They are not accessible to the public so you can only see them by going on one of the tours.
(TIP: Book yours tours in advance because they get busy).
There are two tours available, both 3 hours long, which go to different lava tubes:
- The Archway Explorer is the easiest option involving walking through lava tubes on wooden decks
- The Active Explorer requires a bit more agility as you need to walk over rocks, although in most cases there is a rope to hold on to.
Undara has a camping and caravan park but they also offer a range of accommodation options that really add to the experience.
Probably the most unique option is to stay in an old repurposed railway carriage.
In fact, you’ll notice that many of the buildings at Undara are made from railway carriages including the reception, bar and restaurant.
They have become a part of the character of this place and they are very comfortable to stay in.
If you’re wondering where they came from, the story goes that the owner of Undara noticed the old Queensland Rail carriages sitting around in a disused siding one day and decided to ‘upcycle’ them into this unique style of accommodation.
Each one contains a sitting room, bedroom (with a very comfy queen bed) and a bathroom with a shower.
There is a fridge and tea/coffee making facilities but no TV’s. Who needs a TV with all that scenery to admire!
Another option is to stay in one of the Pioneer Huts.
These are better if you’re travelling with children because they have a queen bed and a sofa bed.
They also have air-con as well as all the basic comforts and nice private verandahs where you can sit and watch the wallabies hop past as well as the abundance of birdlife.
The third option is to stay in a permanent swag tent, which look like something from a Stargate movie set.
These provide basic but comfortable accommodation.
If you’re travelling as a family you can stay in two tents adjoined by a deck in the middle with sink, bar fridge, table and chairs.
One of the biggest highlights of staying at Undara is the bush breakfasts.
It is one of the must-do activities to do at least once.
Watched by one of the resident “kookaburra’s in an old gum tree”, guests are served a full cooked breakfast (eggs and bacon) in a fantastic bush setting with tree stump seating, billy tea on the go and long prongs to toast your own bread over the campfire.
It really is an excellent way to start the day and enjoy the peace and quiet of the bush first thing in the morning.
For other meals, the restaurant at Undara serves a limited menu of good local pub-style food.
There is generally one vegetarian option (curry) so if you want more choices we’d recommend taking along some healthy snacks/food of your own.
Since it’s in the middle of nowhere there obviously isn’t anywhere else to get food if you don’t like what’s on offer.
other Things to do
The best way to enjoy Undara is to put your walking shoes on and explore the property’s walking trails.
There are a number of bush walks, which vary in terms of distance and grade.
At the very least we would recommend the Bluff Walk, which takes less than an hour and gives you a great view across the resort area, and the walk around the rim of the Kalkani Crater (about a 15 minute drive from Undara).
If you do decide to embark on a bushwalk, for safety reasons make sure you sign yourself in and out of the book at reception.
The trails are all well-signposted but its important to let people know where you’re going in case you get lost.
Also take water, hat and sunscreen.
travel nq Fast facts:
- Mobile phone coverage is limited in remote outback areas except major towns on the Telstra network
- The road to Undara is sealed the whole way
- Events: Undara’s Rock & Blues Festival is held in April and Opera in the Outback is held in October.
- For more information go to www.undara.com.au or call 1800 990 992