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Undara Volcanic National Park

After leaving Mount Surprise, we decided to visit the Undara Lava Tubes since they were directly on our route to Atherton and the Palmer River goldfields.

The Lava Tubes are located in Undara Volcanic National Park, located about 30 km east of Mount Surprise, and about 15 kilometres off the Savannah Way.

A total of 164 volcanoes were once active in the area; referred to as the McBride Province in geological terminology. Massive eruptions took place some 190,00 year ago and resulted in over 23 cubic kilometres of lava consuming approximately 1550 square kilometres of land surface.

The extensive Undara lava flows that resulted stretch for more than 160 km, making it one of the longest single lava flows in the world.

Thermal abrasion, a process whereby hot lava cut through old flows and surrounding country rock, is thought to have created the extensive labyrinth of lava tubes that now exist. One of the tubes formed by the lava flows extends for about 100km.

Although the Lava Tubes are in a National Park, they can only be accessed by guided tours arranged through the Undara Lava Lodge which operates on the station adjoining it.

Undara Lava Lodge

The station owner, Gerry Collins, is the sixth generation of the Collins family who first settled in the area in the late 1860's and he developed the Lodge and the "Undara Experience" in 1990.

The Undara Lava Lodge features authentic, turn-of-the-century railway carriages that have been restored and are used as the principal accommodation. Caravan and camp sites are also sprinkled through the savannah vegetation of the Lodge site.

When Gerry established the Lodge he apparently struck a deal with the Queensland State Government providing his outfit with exclusive access to the Tubes (currently under review by the Govt.) and the net result is that to visit have to book on his company's guided tours...and pay the exorbitant price that is charged for the experience.

At $33.00 per person for a two hour tour that could have easily been condensed into an confirms our view about monopolies.

National Parks are for ALL and exclusive arrangements like this, no matter what the quality of delivery, lead to exploitation of the public.

The Undara Experience...

...after a short bus ride we arrived at the Undara National Park and were each provided with poor quality rechargeable torches before proceeding to enter the lava tubes through a section that had collapsed.

The National Parks Service has installed an extensive series of steps and wooden boardwalks to negotiate the tubes easily, safely and without impact to the environment but have not provided lighting of any kind in the sections open to visitors. Consequently, it was difficult to take photographs and to appreciate the various elements and features pointed out by the guide.

How would we rate the Undara Experience? -Interesting... but a bit like a visit to a rather ordinary cave...without formations!


Undara  lava tube


First section of the lava tube with collapsed section at rear.

Note rainforest vegetation growing on earth and boulders in the collapsed section. The soil, mainly decomposed basalt is extremely rich and fertile.


roof of the lava tube


A section of the roof of the lava the tube showing intricate patterns on basalt created by exposure to air and mineralised water percolating down from the surface.


inside a lava tube Undara


View from inside a lava tube looking back towards the entrance (a section of the tube roof that collapsed sometime in the past). Visitors are obliged to stay on the boardwalks at all times (I only fell off once whilst engrossed in the process of trying to compose a photo).