Undara Lava Tube

The Undara Lava Tubes in the Atherton Tablelands

November 1, 2021
Best Destinations

The Undara Lava Tubes in the Atherton Tablelands

Queensland, on the northeastern coast of Australia, is undoubtedly very diverse. In addition to tropical islands with white beaches like the Whitsunday Islands and dense rainforests with glittering waterfalls around Cairns, there’s also the Atherton Tableland, a real Australian hinterland in the northern tropics of Queensland. 

Here we visited the fascinating Undara lava pipes of Undara Volcanic National Park, stayed in historic rolling stock, visited the historic cities of Yungaburra and Ravens, and the beautiful Lake Eacham. In this post, I wrote down the best tips and highlights about the Atherton Tableland. 

Atherton Plateau: Pieces of the Australian Outback The picturesque plateau of the Atherton Plateau, southwest of Cairns, is home to the fascinating Undara Volcanoes National Park, a real Australian outback piece. Most of this national park is completely crossed by huge lava tunnels (also called lava tubes here) and caves. All of these were created by the eruption of the Undara volcano about 190,000 years ago. 

The word “Undara” means something like “a long way” in Aboriginal terms. Here at Undara Volcano National Park, you can explore the longest lava flow on earth, 160 km long, and the longest lava tube in the world, 100 km, so I think it’s somehow appropriate. 

In 1862, the Collins were the first white cow breeders on the Atherton Tableland. The charm of the Undara Lava Tube was born to him when Bram Collins discovered his first lava tube as a child while playing with his family’s property. In 1990, Bram campaigned to protect this special planet and nature. Andara Volcano National Park was established. 

Undara Experience: Sleeping on an old train wagon Anyone who takes a four-hour drive from Cairns to Undara can spend the night here in a very special place. Some historic train wagons have been beautifully and carefully restored by Bram and his family. These are now picturesque in the middle of Australian bushes, among the old shaded trees. They are waiting to provide you with a cozy and special sleeping place. A real Undara experience! 

Spend hours, lie in bed for 30 minutes and listen to the sounds of the hinterland. Countless birds sing and make exotic sounds. Kookaburras’ loud, slightly malicious laughter echoes on top of the eucalyptus tree. If you’re lucky, you may see many kangaroos and wallabies grazing just outside the window. Cute little animals feel very comfortable here and enjoy the protection provided by Undara Volcano National Park.

Australia Outback: Undara Lava Tubes & Sundowner 

Shortly after arriving, the first highlights are already waiting. Head to a small hill in the bush where you want to see the sunset. Our guide shows us a lot of kangaroos and wallabies along the way and explains a lot about different species. For some reason, I completely forget the time and almost miss the sunset. By the way, it’s the first time for me to see these cute animals in the wild. A small dream will come true for me! 

After a while, you will arrive at your destination on time. We trip over a small slope and witness a beautiful sunset. The sunsets like a scorching heat behind the bushes and trees of Undara. A glass of sparkling wine, two glasses of cheese, and grape crackers, and the atmosphere is perfect! On the way back to the 

Lodge, we stop at one of the many Undara Lava Tubes. There, the guide only guides us to a pitch-black place. There is nothing in the light of the flashlight. In the middle of the cave, turn off all lights completely and wait about 30 seconds. When the guide suddenly turned the lamp on again to illuminate the ceiling, we suddenly saw hundreds of small bats flying through the cave in search of insects. Unfortunately, there are no photos of this special experience. I’m sorry it’s too dark. Standing in the darkness of the lava tube, the guide also told a series of stories about pythons and brown tree snakes hanging around the entrance to the Undara lava tube, trying to catch bats even at night. When I left the cave, I actually saw three such tree snakes. Creepy that I couldn’t see when I entered!

A real bush breakfast in the hinterland of Australia 

 I slept very well in my car. About 10 hours! Last night I was really tired from the long drive from Cairns to Undara. So I got tired and fell into bed right after dinner. I even missed a cozy gathering around the campfire. But now it’s rewarding. I’m not a little tired when the Australian Asahi sends the first ray from the train window around 6 am. 

This morning’s program includes a visit to two myriad lava tunnels in Andara Volcanoes National Park. I am very happy to see these natural features with my own eyes! But before that, we have a genuine Australian Outback Bush breakfast to enhance. What you need right now!

Breakfast is served a short distance from the lodge. A wooden sign that says “Bush Breakfast” will tell you the way. I hike through the bushes of the picturesque nature trail in the shade of countless eucalyptus trees, about 300 meters from the lodge. Some curious wallabies are looking at me from a safe distance. How cool would it be to find a koala on top of a tree? 

During the last 50 meters, I can grill a combination of freshly brewed coffee, fried egg, and bacon. Today we also have beans in tomato sauce and toast. The latter is very bushy and roasted over the open fire of a small fireplace. HM is delicious. So the day begins! 

Reference: When staying at Undara Lodge, the “Alloucaneat Bush Breakfast” (7 am-8 am daily) is not automatically included. Reservations can be made the day before at the front desk or bar.

Archway Explorer Tour to Andara Lava Tube 

Today’s tour to Undara Lava Tube is called “Archway Explorer”. We are on the road for about two hours. Take a small bus to a kind of parking lot, almost directly in front of the cave entrance. Also, on this trip, you can see a lot of kangaroos and wallabies. 

Climb a path made of several stairs and wooden boards to a lava tube. Even the entrance to the cave is more than spectacular. A huge round arch made of strange-looking rocks, surrounded by mighty trees. These seem to put everything together with oversized roots. The whole scene reminds me of Tomb Raider and Angkor Wat. After the guide provides a lot of information about the formation of lava tubes in Undara Volcano National Park, of course, you will also visit the actual lava tubes, the pitch-black caves. Excitingly, so far, I have only known volcanoes that “usually erupt from a cone”. But here in Undara, lava flowed underground, forming an attractive tunnel. 

Reference: The Archway Explorer Tour runs up to 4 times a day (8 am, 10:30 am, 1 pm, 3:30 pm). There is also an Active Explorer Tour for those who want to be a little more active in and out of lava tubes. This also takes about 2 hours, but it is related to mountaineering.

What else can you do with Undara? 

You can sit comfortably with other guests around the warm campfire every night from 8 pm if you have more energy than I do after dinner. Listen to the guide. Sometimes there is even guitar music with an exciting story from the bushes. 

There are numerous hiking trails in Undara Volcano National Park. Many of them lead to a magnificent view of the park’s impressive volcanic landscape. Get a hiking map at the lodge reception, and you’ll be there in no time. 

For example, some relatively easy paths start at the reception. Everything is included, from 1.5 kilometres on the Bluff Walk to 12 kilometres on the Rosela Plains Observatory. You can also find a useful overview of all hiking trails on the Undara Experience website. 

Regardless of which route you choose, don’t forget to check out at the front of the hut at the beginning of your hike. Of course, there are also some toxic animals, including snakes, here in the bushes of Undara. Therefore, it is very important: wear high and durable shoes for your hike. If you come back later, please let us know again. Make sure you have enough water and good sunscreen! 

The cool self-drive route also leads to the impressive Calcanic Crater, just 16 km from the lodge. Once there, you can hike the Kalkanik Crater Rim Walk along the green Crater Rim for spectacular views. Walking time: Approximately 1 hour on a 2.5 km circular route.

Atherton Platteland: Beautiful Lake Eacham 

On the way back to Cairns from Undara, there is another pretty cool stop. The picturesque Lake Eacham is a small volcanic lake of Crater Lake that belongs to Crater Lake National Park. With a depth of more than 65 meters, it is a popular meeting place for swimming, canoeing, and hiking. A very nice circular hiking trail guides you completely around the lake. 

Specialty? The mysterious green shimmering waters of Lake Eacham are home to fairly large freshwater crocodiles. The sign next to the bathing embankment reminds you to be a little careful when swimming. For me, as a European, it’s a completely explicit idea, but for an Australian, I think it’s perfectly normal. Australia’s largest snake, the Australian Amethystine python, also lives in the forests around Lake Eacham.

A Journey Beyond Time: The Small Towns of Yungaburra and Levenshu 

The small historic towns of Yungaburra and Levenshu surprised me unexpectedly. Both are on the way from Cairns to Undara and vice versa. For example, Levenshoe was actually planned as our short gas station, but when we saw all the old buildings that “looked out of time,” we had to take a short walk. Bottom! 

Both locations create an incredible “flare of the past.” I could have walked the streets for hours and really photographed everything. Yungaburra is also home to some of the most historic buildings in Queensland. 

My Tip: Yungaburra has a very quaint and incredibly attractive bookstore. Old and comfortable armchairs, cats, and piles of books all the way to the ceiling. This alone will take at least 30 minutes! 

If I were to go to the Atherton Tableland again, I would spend the night in Yungaburra because some of the different sleep options here are really beautiful and extraordinary. Airbnb also has a nice rental cottage.

In this article, would you like to eat the Atherton Tableland, Undara Lava Tube, Lake Eacham, Yungaburra & Ravenshoe near Cairns? Or have you been to Australia’s “real” Outback? We are really looking forward to your comments on our blog!