Visiting the Undara Lava Tubes in Outback Queensland has been one of the more interesting places we’ve explored on our trip around Australia so far.
As I mentioned in this post, I didn’t even know much about Australia’s volcanic history. I was fascinated and impressed with this off-the-beaten-path experience in in Tropical North Queensland.
Undara Lava Tubes is part of the Undara National Park, which is home to 164 volcanoes, cones and vents. They are about a four hour drive along the Savannah Way west of Cairns.
The Undara Experience is designed and produced by the Collins family, the earliest white settlers in this locality whose cattle grazed in the area since 1862.
The Collins family proposed a national park be created around the caves on their property and they would allow access via tours from the lodges that would be managed by the family.
They wanted visitors to learn how this ancient land was formed by natural forces over hundreds of millions of years and preserve its rugged beauty.
Here are our highlights of the Undara Experience.
Do the Archway Explorer Lava Tubes Tour
A ribbon of green emerges from the ground below – strangler fig, pandanus palms and ferns provide a fertile rainforest environment in the middle of the dry savannah landscape and a marker for the course of the lava tubes.
It’s a fascinating exploration of the time volcanoes lorded over the landscape in Far North Queensland.
You can access the tubes via a tour only. I loved walking through the tube sections and caves learning about how they were formed – and your kids will love wearing their head torches as you make your way through the darkness.
These lava tubes were formed when large flows of lava ran through valleys and when the outside of the lava crust cooled it created a tunnel for the rest of the lava to flow through.
Over time some of the roof sections have collapsed, revealing the tubes and creating caves and open spaces that continue to support a rainforest habitat. These tubes were created over 190,000 years ago by the now extinct Undara Volcano and flow
It’s a truly beautiful to see the patterns and ledges formed by the cooling lava dribbling down from the ceiling and whirl pooling in sections where more than one tube met.
Cost: $55 adult, $27.50 child $165 family
Take a wildlife sunset tour
The wildlife at sunset tour features sightings of numerous kangaroo and wallaby species, with thanks to the knowledge of our guide I learned a lot about macropods that I never knew. Including the word macropod.
They are all the different type of kangaroos, wallaroos, and wallabies – and there is so many!
Enjoy a glass of champagne paired with cheese and crackers as the sun sets and then walk to the entrance of a lava tube cave to watch for the emergence of thousands of tiny microbats from the tube.
It was a pretty cool site to see especially just inches over our heads. The girls thought it was pretty cool. Others not so much!
Cost: $60 adult $30 child
Enjoy a bush breaky surrounded by wildlife
The bush breakfast is served every morning at the Ringers Camp.
Who doesn’t love a good bush breaky with your billy tea or freshly brewed coffee, toast cooked over the fire – a favourite activity with our kids – and hot breakfast of bacon, sausages and eggs to start your day.
Enjoy the early morning air and being surrounded by bouncing kangaroos, wandering cattle and swooping ravens, kookaburras and kites (watch for the food swiping!)
Cost: $24 adult, $12 child. (all you can eat)
Be entertained around the campfire at night
Every evening at 8pm a campfire is lit and one of the Savannah guides leads an activity like trivia, bush yarns, or folk songs.
For the first night we experienced a little bit of poetry reading and the second evening the guide shared with us interesting facts about some Australian wildlife, the moon, and drinking wine.
At first I thought it was going to be boring, but the guide was actually quite hilarious. It was so entertaining we stayed the entire hour instead of sneaking off after 10 minutes.
Bike or walk the many trails
There are plenty of walking trails surrounding the Undara Resort, several of which go to lookout points.
They were a little too long for us to walk so we took our bikes for a ride beside the swamp, which was empty of water. We cycled out to the Heritage Hut used during the days, but the landscape didn’t change much so wasn’t particularly thrilling in terms of sight seeing but worth it to get out on the bike and just ride through the outback.
Sleep in a railway carriage
There is the opportunity to sleep in beautifully restored railway carriages, which of course our kids were thrilled about.
The carriages are set along the original Cobb & Co coach road under the shade of tall trees surrounded by Australian Native wildlife.
There isn’t a lot of space in the carriage so leave your clothes in your car. It’s a unique experience and one to do if you love trains, and was nice to get out of our camper trailer for the night..
You can also camp with your own caravans at the Undara resort or stay in cabins or safari tents.
Cost of carriages: $90 for a single, $170 for a double
Camping: $18/ $12.50 per adult (powered/unpowered) and $9 per child
Walk around the rim of Kalkani Crater
About a 13 kilometre drive from Undara Lava tubes is Kalkani Crater.
There’s a bit of an uphill climb to get to the summit of the crater, but then it’s an easy 2km walk around the rim and a great perspective of the volcano dotted landscape off in the distance.
The only disappointment was the lack of signage to point out Undara Volcano, I would have loved to have seen it. Make sure you look below to see the curving free ribbon indicating the lava tubes.
- The Undara Experience is pretty amazing and unique, but it can be a little expensive when you add up the tours. So be selective which tours and activities you do according to your budget.
- Definitely the Archway Explorer Tour was a highlight, and at 2 hours in duration it wasn’t too long to keep our two kids (6 and 2 yrs at the time) entertained.
- Try to take your own food as the restaurant prices are quite high, although we highly recommend you eat there one night as the food was good, and the setting incredible! We stayed in the railway carriages and did not have any cooking facilities, so wore the cost of the dinner.
- If your budget allows, absolutely recommend trying out the bush breakfast experience!
- Our guides were knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. BUT, we did find the reception staff in the office quite rude, and I don’t mean on one occasion but consistently rude, so I think they need to work on the customer service on that side of things.
More Outback Queensland Travel Tips
We visited Undara in partnership with Tropical North Queensland. Check out their Drive North Queensland website which has more information about the Savannah Way drive. To get all the details about visiting Undara check out: Undara.com.au