Looking for something different on your Far North Queensland trip? Heard of the Undara Lava Tubes and wondering if they are worth visiting? Want to know what Undara Lava Tubes accommodation is available? You are in luck! Below, you will find our full Undara Lava Tubes reviews as well as everything you need to know about what Undara Experience offers including Undara accommodation, dining, bush breakfast and more!
On our latest trip to Far North Queensland we wanted to do something different beyond the reef and rainforest experience. I had a vague memory of seeing something about lava tubes Cairns had many years ago back when I would book holidays via travel brochures at a travel agent and I started Googling.
Enter Undara Experience.
The Undara lava tunnels are found a few hours from Cairns in the savanna region of outback Queensland in the Undara Volcanic National Park. Formed 190,000 years ago, they are the best preserved example of lava tubes in the world. They are fascinating to explore and to see these unique geological formations and habitats.
However, Undara Experience is more than this and I hope you’ll do more than drop in for a day tour. It’s a well set up tourism experience from its unique accommodation – you can stay in well preserved train carriages – to its Undara Caravan Park Qld to its absolutely fantastic dining area and its bush breakfasts.
We had a fabulous time staying here and enjoying the Undara volcanic park, the Undara lava lodge and the experiences on offer. We stayed here with our three kids aged 5, 9 and 11, but this really works well for all ages and families were in the minority here when we visited.
Below, you will find our full guide to visiting Undara Lava Tubes and Undara Experience so you can have a great experience too!!
- 1 Undara Lava Tubes Qld Facts And History
- 2 Visiting Undara Volcanic National Park
- 3 Undara Experience Tours
- 4 Undara Lava Tubes Tours From Cairns
- 5 Undara Lava Tubes Accommodation
- 6 Eating Options At Undara Lava Tubes Queensland
- 7 Undara Lava Tubes Map
- 8 Undara Lava Tubes With Kids
- 9 Final Words
Undara Lava Tubes Qld Facts And History
The word Undara is an Aboriginal word meaning “long way”. It’s appropriate as the lava tubes Undara has are one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world.
The Undara Lava Tubes history is long as the Undara tubes came about around 190,000 years ago when a large volcano erupted and lava flowed down a dry riverbed. As the lava flowed, the top later cooled in the air and formed a crust while the lava below kept flowing away. This left behind the Undara tunnels – a series of hollow tubes.
Found on the western slopes of the McBride Plateau, the plains of the savanna can cover up these Undara lava caves underneath – that is until some of the roofs of the Undara caves collapsed, exposing the caves and allowing dry rainforest to grow giving a perfect area for animals to shelter. You can clearly tell when you are approaching the entrance of an Undara cave thanks to all the thick greenery of the rainforest compared to the open savanna.
Visiting Undara Volcanic National Park
Today, this area is part of the Undara National Park Australia where these globally significant tunnels and caves can be studied and visited.
Access to the Undara volcanic caves is ONLY by guided tour. It is dangerous to visit without a knowledgeable guide due to the possibility of concealed holes where tubes may have collapsed and some tubes have high carbon dioxide levels.
However, you can visit the Kalkani Crater rim without a guide. This is a 2.5 kilometre walk from the Kalkani day use area. There are great views from here (including of the lava tubes from above) as well as information boards along the way so you can learn more about the area
Undara Experience Tours
For far more Undara Lava Tubes information and Undara Lava Tubes facts, you should not miss the chance to take one of the Undara tours. This is the only way you can go inside a lava tube and see them up close.
A few different companies offer tours but the easiest way (and how we did it) is from Undara Experience which is very close to the tubes.
They offer a few different tours. Since we were with our kids, we did the easiest, two hour option, the Archway Explorer.
This tour consisted of a short drive in a minibus from Undara Experience to two of the tubes where we got to see the Archway (amazing) and go inside both tubes. There are some steps but anyone who can handle a couple of flights of stairs will be fine on this tour.
The guide was informative and we learned a lot. We got to see some bats, a bush turkey and see the beauty of the lava tubes up close. It is well worth the effort.
The Undara Lava Tubes prices are not cheap once you are paying for a family, but it is worth it, in my opinion, to see this unique piece of Australia.
Undara Lava Tubes Tours From Cairns
At the time of writing, I could not find any Cairns to Undara Lava Tubes day tours. Thankfully, it is very easy to travel Undara to Cairns yourself.
This is about a three and a half hour easy drive from Cairns along the 1 highway. Undara Experience itself is a short drive of about 14 kilometres on a sealed road from this highway. It is clearly signposted.
If you don’t have your own car, you can hire one by clicking here.
I highly recommend staying overnight at Undara Experience and then driving from Undara Lava Tubes to Cairns the next day (or even stay longer, it’s a great spot!).
Undara Lava Tubes Accommodation
The easiest accommodation near Undara Lava Tubes is also the best – Undara Experience. We had such a great experience staying here.
Not only is the service friendly and top rate at the Undara resort Qld but there are some fabulous accommodation options.
My one gripe is that no options cater to families of five unless you stay in the Undara Lava Tubes caravan park section and bring your own tent or caravan. The upside of this, however, is that since we had to book two rooms anyway, we opted for two different accommodation types so got to experience both the railway carriages and the swag tent village.
The Undara Lodge area also has the usual types of facilities you would expect for an Undara Resort Caravan Park – amenities blocks, laundry, camp kitchen and BBQ areas. There’s also a great pool. People travelling without kids will be happy to hear that this is the only one I visited during this school holiday trip where the pool was dominated by adults instead of kids.☺
There’s also fabulous dining and a shop which are described more below as well as a fuel pump. Wifi is available in the main dining area but it’s not good. Only Telstra coverage is available in some areas of the park, and it’s not great either. So don’t expect to do more than check email.
The Undara accommodation prices are fair although a bit pricey for a tent which is very basic. It did add up for a family of five but I would have happily stayed longer.
Note that despite being in Far North Queensland, the weather does cool down here in the evening so I didn’t find air conditioning or even a fan was required.
If you can, book a railway carriage. These are amazing! And, in fact, it was seeing this accommodation option which sealed the deal for us booking a trip here.
The railway carriages are turn of the century, restored carriages. They are well presented and surprisingly comfortable and spacious. I expected them to be super compact, which they weren’t.
They consist of a bedroom area with twin or double bed, a sitting area with a futon couch (can be set up as a bed for third occupant which is what we did), fridge and tea and coffee making facilities and a bathroom with shower.
There’s also a porch along the side with two chairs and a table. Perfect for enjoying the surrounding bush scenery.
Located near the railway carriages, the pioneer huts offer modern accommodation with king or twin beds, an optional sofa bed, small fridge and tea and coffee making facilities. They have private bathrooms and air conditioning as well as a private verandah.
These huts do look very private.
This accommodation option had just been completed at the time of our visit. They have similar facilities to the pioneer huts (but no sofa bed), but aren’t as private. They are close together near the swag tent village and pool.
Swag Tent Village
The swag tent village consists of permanent tents in a shady area of the park, quite close to the main lodge. There are two-person, four-person and family tent options which surround an undercover camp kitchen area with hot and cold water.
We had a two-person tent. It was reasonably spacious with two single beds that were comfortable and a roof tall enough so my tall husband could stand in there as well as a power point.
It was very stuffy during the day. There are panels to open but these were broken and hard to open in our tent. It was also noisy until about 10pm when everyone was quiet.
The four-person and family options are made up of two two-person tents with a fridge and sink area in-between.
All linen is included with all options.
Undara Lava Tubes Camping
For camping near Undara Lava Tubes, Undara Experience has a camping area with powered and unpowered sites and access to all their facilities.
Eating Options At Undara Lava Tubes Queensland
Undara Experience has a fabulous restaurant, maybe the best looking one I have seen anywhere in the world.
It’s a big undercover area on a platform looking out over the savanna. The best part is that it’s lined with train carriages and we loved being able to sit in a train booth while eating.
Lunch and dinner are served here. Prices are fair and food is delicious. There’s also a bar so if you are just driving through, at least stop for a drink.
A shop is right here as well. Not much is sold but you can get a souvenir or a snack or drink.
Breakfast is extra special here, and I highly recommend you book into the bush breakfast if you are staying overnight.
It cost $26.50 for an adult and $13.50 for a child when we visited. This includes a breakfast buffet served bush style!
The breakfast itself takes place a few hundred metres from the main resort areas surrounded by bush. There’s cereal, juices and fruit to help yourself to as well as hot food cooked on the BBQ. You can also have a billy tea, coffee or hot chocolate with water boiled over the fire. The best part is getting to cook your own toast on the fire.
It all tasted great and was the perfect way to start the day. I also liked that the seats and tables were logs so it did feel like you were roughing it while not roughing it at all. Just awesome ☺
Undara Lava Tubes Map
The Undara Lava Tubes location is about 3.5 hours south-west of Cairns just off the major 1 highway. You can see it in the map below. The distance Cairns to Undara Lava Tubes is about 260 kilometres.
Undara Lava Tubes With Kids
The Undara Lava Tubes and Undara Experience are the perfect family excursion. While admittedly my 5 year old was bored at times on the tour as it’s not the fastest moving one we‘ve been on, he did like seeing the bats and going in the caves. My older kids found it more interesting.
Staying on a train is super fun for all ages though and our kids were so excited by this! It’s just a shame there isn’t a family sized one although, in reality, the sofa bed is a double futon and a family of four could fit fine into one of these. It’s a shame it’s not able to be reserved as such.
Our kids also loved the novelty of the tent village although it did pale in comparison to the train carriages. The restaurant was also fun for them thanks to the train carriages to sit in and they were able to play in the bush while waiting for food. There is a kids menu.
All in all, this is a great place to visit with kids.
In case you can’t tell already, we loved our visit to Undara Experience. The lava tubes are interesting and unique and the accommodation is well set up and lots of fun. In fact, I would have loved staying here even without the lava tubes. The trains are cool and I really loved the dining area and bush breakfast.
The service was fabulous everywhere which stood out actually as we didn’t find it that great in general in Far North Queensland on this trip.
My only complaint is that I wish they catered better for families bigger than four. Even better would be if they made some family train carriages. That would get me back here every time we went to Queensland!
Still, it is a fabulous spot and worth your precious holiday time.
Sharon is a proud Melbournian mum of 3 who blogs for a living in between parenting and satiating her travel addition.