Road Trip: Undara Lava Tubes Experience

Since, the city of Cairns officially openned its doors for international flights in early 1980s, it has been a thriving city and conitnues even today.With so many visitors flooding the region every year, many come to simply to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere in this tropical paradise destination and also to experience the natural beauty: the reef and the rainforest. While others, come to experience the outback for its lifestyle and unique attractions. Living in this far nothern part of Australia, you virtually get to experience these natural beauties – the reef, rainforest and the outback on a same day without travelling a far.

The Cairns region has all its natural wonder attractions within short drive away. A self-drive road trip to Undara lava tubes is a journey that will take through the outback that definitely shows what lifestyle is like in the outback that not many travellers get to experience. Here you escape to experience the natural wonders of lava tubes in the outback and away from the natural wonders of lush greenery and crystal clear blue waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many tourist destinations around Australia have been restricted for travellers and many residents haven been exploring their own backyard. With this restrictions in place, this has given me a great opportunity to explore some of Cairns regions hidden gems, that I would have never done otherwise.

Why Go?

Having few days of leisure, I decided to venture out to Undara, a tiny place out in the Outback, just a short drive away from Cairns city. This is one of the few places that I always wanted to explore – the Undara Lave Tubes.

This natural geological wonders are so fascinating  and impressive to see and Undara is the place to visit and understand its origins. Curious of exploring certain desinations or places have always been my exciting part of travel. It gives me an opportunity a challenge to explore its sites, attractions and what to see and do. Undara is one place that is filled with such variety of opportunities and challenges to explore.

The thought of Outback Undara Lava Tubes and just under 4 hours drive away from Cairns city makes it thrilling and is one place that cannot be missed on any travellers itinearary to the far north. The Undara lava tubes has been on my list of places to explore for a very long time. Lava Tubes has always fascinated me. Studies conducted confirmed that Undara Lava Tubes are the oldest on earth and are a world class natural geological phenomenon. Huge tubes formed approximately 190,000 years ago. The molten lava drianed out under a thick cooler crust, leaving a series of long, hollow tubes. This is what prompt me to go and see the place for myself. Undara is truly different in every sense.

Getting there?

If you’re the kind of adventure traveller who finds remote regions of Australia alluring, then this scenic road trip from coastal city of Cairns to outback Undara Lava Tubes is for you. It is a great short adventure trip and I found this road trip to be the most scenic way to get myself from Cairns to Undara.Better than that, it turns Undara into a journey, not just a destination.Taking this such adventure road trip to Undara lava tubes has brought me back in time and to understand this natural geological phenomenon which has occured over the years. This was going to be a weekend away for nature, beauty and exploration in the outback. It is a great time to getaway from the city to the outback for relaxation, away from the rest of the world.

Knowing that getting to this place was easily accessible by conventional vehicle, I took on one of Far Northern Queensland regions most exciting drive routes – bring together a world of crater lakes, pioneer history, waterfalls, flora and fauna and mind-blowing views, sunsets and sunrise. This was a road trip that was taken me to a part of the region where blue skies and breathtaking landscapes make driving a dream. From the lush tropical rainforest and colourful reefs of Great Barrier Reef in Cairns to the outback Savannah of Undara Volcanic National Park and seeing unique water falls, crater lakes, rare formation and species of plants along the way is a one-time lifetime experience.

Driving to Undara from Cairns was supposed to be approximately under 4 hours, however, it took me almost 8 hours to get to my destination. Along the way, I detoured to various popular attraction spots that cannot be driven past without stopping by. Every attractions were worth seeing. Leaving early, I headed 20km south of Cairns, passing through lush sugarcane farmlands before turning right, heading west inland from Gordonvale and up Gillies Range, almost 20km of winding road. This road is so windy that if you get motion sickness, it is not recommended to take this route but the views from the Heal’s Lookout, halfway up the Gillies Range is breathtaking and I could not drive past this impressive view. As I conitnued my drive making my way up this windy road with twists and turns, I could feel the change in the coolness of the temperature and the scenery. From sugarcane fields, through rainforest to rolling hills and dairy farmslands of Atherton-Tablelands.

Once, I reached the top of the Gillies range, the road was almost straight and the drive was easy with incredibly impressive views on every turn. Here at the top, I began my Atherton Tablelands attractions “must-see” stops before heading Savannah Way to Undara.

My first visit was to Lake Barrine, a crater filled with water, surrounded by lush tropical rainforest and native plants with beautiful setting that overlooks the lake.



Leaving Lake Barrine, I drove to Yungaburra, a classy little town with pioneer history behind it. It is the first town you visit that opens up the gateway to the groups of many townships scattered around Atherton Tablelands. Here, I took a stroll around the swinging bridge which is located right behind the town centre. It is little known to many travellers and visitors to the area.


From there, I went over to Tinburra, just a minute drive out of Yungaburra town centre. It is a great picnic and playground area for families but the view of Lake Tinaroo is absolutely impressive. It is so peaceful and a great place for relaxing.



Just outside the township of Yungaburra is the Curtain Fig Tree. This phenomenal Curtain Fig Tree is a must-see for any visitor to the area. It is one of the visited and photographed site in Atherton Tablelands and probably in Far North Queensland.



From Yungaburra’s impressive attractions, I continued my “must-see” tour to the township of Malanda – the very heart of Atherton Tablelands dairy land, just 15km out of Yungaburra town. Just 500 metres from the centre of the town is the Malanda Falls, a popular swimming spot for locals and visitors.


Just 30km of drive along dairy farmlands and rolling hills from the township of Malanda is the MillaMilla Waterfall. This waterfall is very impressive with its eye-catching and captivating curtain-like water drop which is featured on many travel brochures.


I continued further west from MillaMilla Falls, with a stop at MillaMilla Lookout along East Evelyn Road. I couldn’t drive past this place. The majestic birds eyeview of the area and the rolling green meadows from this location is just magical and absolutely breathtaking. Here, I just forget about the world and absorb how far my eyes can see. I know why locals love this place.

I then continued my 20km drive further inland west along East Evenlyn Road to see the wind-farm just before the town of Ravenshoe. This huge turbines that continuosly producing power are impressive and the views of the farmlands and Savannah land from this lookout is special and the beginning of the outback journey.


With bypassing Ravenshoe township, the highest town in the State of Queensland, I reached Millstream Falls, just 10km outside Ravenshoe town and was the last attractions to see along the way before reaching my destination – Undara.

Once I past the township of Ravenshoe, the changes from lush rolling green meadows to dried savannah land. This Savannah Way is Australia’s Adventure Drive, linking Cairns in Tropical North Queensland with the historic pearling town of Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley, via the natural wonders of Australia’s tropical savannahs and the Northern Territory’s Top End.

Travelling by conventional vehicle across semi-dried landscapes and tropical savannah took an easy breezy sealed roads without venturing into the dry,dusty and rough tracks and back roads. The bituman road from Ravenshoe to Undara seems like endless highway but discovering this ancient land at my own pace made this road journey even more interesting, with a stop at Mt Garnet town, a tiny township with very little tourist activity except during winter months when grey-nomads flood the town and the popular Mt Garnet races in the outback.


Finally arriving in Undara, just before five o’clok in the afternoon after a 90km drive from Mt Garnet, in time to unpack, unwind and make myself familiar with the surroundings before dark. This tiny place in the middle of nowhere in the outback takes you back in time where communication accessories are packed-away, except your camera.



The following day, it was time to go on an informative tour and visit one of this natural wonders – lava tubes. The formation of these lava tubes are a world class natural geological phenomenon and are the oldest on planet Earth. According to the history and studies conducted found that these huge tubes formed approximately 190,00 years ago, which molten lava have drained out under a thick cooler crust, leaving a series of long and hollow tubes.

Many years ago, these lava tubes lay undiscovered, untouched and unseen. But today, since their discovery, Undara’s highly trained and qualified Savannah Guides conduct small informative guided tours that will take you into the heart of the lava tubes. Once we entered the lava tubes, we were able to marvel at this incredible geological wonder. Seeing this natural creation and formation of these lava tubes kept my head shaking. It truly took me back in time what it was like then. This Undara experience is a one-time experience that I have come to profoundly understand its origins and at the same to experience the tranquility lifestyle of the outback.

Where to stay?

There are various types of accommodations in the area to suit all styles and budget ranging from old railway carriages, custom design huts, Swag Tents and camping grounds. For me to experience Undara in style, I stayed in one of the restored turn-of-the-century railway carriages which Undara offers. Staying in one of this old carriages turned into a comfortable stylist accommodation gave me an ultimate Undara Experience that I have come to enjoy.




My Highlights

To come to an outback area like Undara, located in the middle of nowhere is only for one thing and that is to experience Undara Lava Tubes.  I have learnt so much about the lava tubes and walked away satisfied with my road trip.



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