Camping at Undara

Camping at Undara gives you a real taste of the outback. Set in the heart of the savannah grasslands and just a 3.5 hour drive from Cairns, this is a place where you can camp under gum trees, wake up with kookaburras, explore ancient lava tubes, wander around craters, splash in the pool and toast marshmallows at night. And that’s just the beginning of a stay at Discovery Resorts – Undara, which also has a range of accommodation, including restored railway carriages and pioneer huts, swag tents, powered and unpowered sites, several walking tracks and trails and a restaurant and bar. The Undara lava tubes are the main attraction, and these can only be accessed on guided tours, so make sure you book that in to avoid disappointment.

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We did the 2 hour Archway Explorer Tour which was very interesting. We visited 2 lava tubes and learned lots about the region’s history and geology.

Lava Tubes And Outback Views When Camping At Undara

The Undara Volcanic National Park is home to the world’s longest lava tube cave systems. Its story began about 190,000 years ago, when the Undara Volcano erupted and poured out enough lava to fill Sydney Harbour three times over. There’s no telling how long the eruption lasted, it could have been anywhere from three weeks to a decade, but we do know it lasted a while. Long enough for the outer edge of the flow to cool, while the interior kept flowing. This is what created the tubes, which became exposed thousands of years ago when earthquake activity caused sections of the roof to collapse. Of the 23 countries around the world with lava tubes, this system is believed to be the longest of its kind. Its name ‘Undara’ is Aboriginal meaning ‘long way’.

“We’ve visited the Undara lava tubes a few times over the years and I’m always impressed by their beauty and the passion and knowledge of the guides who take you there. They provide a lot of information regarding the creation of the lava tubes, their ‘discovery’ and the interesting plants and animals that live here. To me the colours, contours and patterns of the tubes’ ceilings and walls are otherworldly – almost lunar in appearance. The scope and scale of the tubes is impressive, and you would never know their presence by looking at the largely flat surrounds of savannah grasslands. Apparently more than 70 lava tubes and caves have been found within the park, but only a few are open to the public on guided tours.” – Julie Johnston

Camping And Exploring Discovery Resorts – Undara

We checked in to a powered site at Discovery Resorts – Undara for 2 nights and 3 days. The camping area is extensive with hard, flat dirt surfaces. There are well established trees for shade and the local animals are clearly very familiar with sharing their space with guests. This makes for some special encounters, and we were lucky enough to have a wallaby stop by our caravan several times during our stay. The communal amenities were well maintained and included a camp kitchen, laundry, toilets and showers. There’s also a lovely little swimming pool and a bar and restaurant on site, if you want to take a break from cooking. The menu at Undara’s Fettler’s Iron Pot Bistro is limited but does the job. When we visited in 2023 lunch options included soup, wraps, toasted sandwiches, a salad and fish and chips. Dinner was more substantial and included options for steak, ribs, kangaroo loin, pork lion, barramundi, chicken schnitzel and vegetarian curry. There were also entrees and desserts.

On the property itself there are 8 walking tracks and trails to choose from, which range from short walks around the lodge to longer and more challenging tracks. As well as giving you the opportunity to explore the savannah surroundings, you are almost guaranteed to spot kangaroos, wallabys and wallaroos, not to mention a diverse array of birdlife. We also took the opportunity to check out the nearby Kalkani Crater Rim Walk (review), which is a 15 minute drive from Discovery Resorts – Undara.

Other Tours And Activities You Can Do At Undara

You can only access the lava tubes and caves in the Undara Volcanic National Park on guided tour. When you are staying at Discovery Resorts – Undara, the tour departure point is clearly sign-posted and is adjacent to Fettler’s Iron Pot Bistro. Here you are met by a guide who drives you to the tubes and caves. An informative commentary is provided throughout the tour. On our 2023 visit to Undara, we did the 2 hour Archway Explorer Tour, which included a few tubes. The Arch and Ewamian Tubes, which are wreathed in lush, vine-thicket rainforest, and the Road Tube. Access to all tubes was on comfortable timber walkways. At the last tube we walked a little way into the system, leaving the daylight behind and relying on our guide’s torchlight. All of the ones we visited were impressive. There is also a 2 hour Wind Tunnel Explorer Tour, which involves climbing over rocks and uneven surfaces. We have not done this tour.

Other tours and activity options during your stay at Discovery Resorts – Undara include the Wildlife at Sunset Tour and Bush Breakfast. We have done both of these in the past, and do recommend them. The Wildlife at Sunset Tour departs Discovery Resorts – Undara in a coach, which takes you Sunset Bluff, a large granite outcrop in the park. After a short walk, you’ll enjoying sweeping views and a golden sunset over a few glasses of complimentary champagne and some nibbles. As twilight deepens, you head to Barkers Tube where you might be lucky enough to witness the emergence of thousands of tiny microbats. The Bush Breakfast is the perfect way to start the day, especially as someone else is cooking, cleaning and preparing the billy tea. The last time we did the Bush Breakfast, several cheeky kookaburras came swooping down to snare some sausages from unsuspecting guests. All tours and activities should be booked in advance to avoid disappointment, as there are limited numbers available.

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The Bush Breakfast is a very relaxing way to start the day. Authentic billy tea and someone else doing the cooking and cleaning, sounds like a plan to me.

Questions About Camping at Undara

Is Undara worth it?

Yes – Undara is worth it. People of all ages will find the lava tubes tours interesting and the guides are excellent and engaging. Given that Undara is only a 3.5 hour drive from Cairns, you can even manage this one over a long weekend.

Can I visit Undara lava tubes without a tour?

No – you cannot visit the Undara lava tubes unless you are on a guided tour. These tours should be pre-booked to avoid disappointment, as tours do fill up and sell out. Top tip – book your tours at the same time as your stay.

Can I camp at Undara?

Yes – you can camp at Discovery Resorts – Undara. There are powered and unpowered sites and even swag tents.

What are the camping facilities at Undara?

The camping facilities at Discovery Resorts – Undara are everything you would expect. Camp kitchen, laundry, toilets and showers. There is also a swimming pool, bar and restaurant.

Is there a restaurant or bar at Undara?

Yes – there is a restaurant and bar at Undara, which are open for lunch and dinner and snacks. If you were chasing breakfast, you need to book in the Bush Breakfast Tour. Reservations should be made for dinner.

How long does it take to get to Undara from Cairns?

It’s a scenic 3.5 hour drive from Cairns to Undara. The road takes you from the coastal plains, up through the rainforest highlands, west into the outback. From Ravenshoe onwards, savannah plains dotted with gum trees and termite mounds, surround the road.

Do you need a 4WD to get to Undara?

No – you do not need a 4WD to get to Undara. The parts of the road that are unsealed are hard, graded dirt surface.

What are the roads like between Cairns and Undara?

The roads between Cairns and Undara are generally pretty good. We’ve been a few times, in a few different vehicles – 2WD and 4WD – and never had any issues. Always drive to the conditions and check roads are open before traveling.

When is the best time to visit Undara?

Discovery Resorts – Undara is only open seasonally, usually between end of March and October. In the ‘wet season’ the roads often become impassable, so the facility closes during those months (November to late March).

Can I bring my pets to Undara?

No – you can not bring your pets to Undara. It is a National Park, so standard National Park rules apply. Note: If you are traveling with your dog/s you can stay at the nearby Mount Surprise Holiday and Caravan Park and drive in to Undara to participate in a tour.

Camping At Undara What You Need To Know

Firstly, you do not need a 4WD to get to Undara. There are some dirt roads, but they are graded and in good condition. You can choose powered or unpowered sites. There is also a range of accommodation options, for those who do not camp. The camping amenities were clean and well maintained. Undara does get busy, so book ahead and make sure you pre-book your tours. Undara has a bar and bistro, for lunch and dinner.

  • Suitable for People of Reasonable Fitness
  • All accommodation and camp sites must be pre-booked
  • Tours should be pre-booked
  • Bring your own supplies
  • Bar and bistro onsite

About the Author

Julie was born in Cairns and grew up running around in the cane fields south of the city. She has explored, breathed and loved everything about our amazing Cairns region her whole life. Excited to be able share this wonderful place with our son and see it all again through ‘new’ eyes. Watch this space for more info on the people, places, destinations and things you can do up here.

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