Hundreds of thousands of years ago, fountains of red-hot volcanic rock burst from the earth, landing in layers to create a scoria cone crater. Today this is a place of grasslands and serenity, home to brilliant jewel bugs, whiptail wallabies and vine thicket forests. The Kalkani Crater Rim Walk is a 2.5km circuit track, which takes you from the car park up and along the rim and back again. It’s a relatively gentle walk through the wilderness, with wildlife and expansive views waiting for your discovery at Kalkani Crater.
The Kalkani Crater is a part of the Undara Volcanic National Park, which is a 258km drive from Cairns. You can’t camp at the crater but you can stay at nearby Discovery Resorts – Undara (which we did) or the nearest town is Mount Surprise.
The Kalkani Crater is an interesting destination. From the air (or a drone photo) you can clearly see the crater rising from the savannah plains that surround it, but from the ground, it’s more of a gentle rise along a graded pathway to the rim. You don’t get the essence of climbing a volcano and you can’t really see ‘inside’ the rim, but you do catch glimpses of it as you walk around it. The best views are looking outwards across the lava plains that make up the National Park, where you can see the remains of several old volcanoes. There is also several strategically placed interpretive signs, which explain the geology, history and landscape.
“A highlight for me was taking our time on the walk to really immerse ourselves in the sights and sounds of the surrounding landscape. During the 600m walk from the car park to the crater rim, we saw several Whiptail Wallabies (Notamacropus parryi), which are also – and most aptly – known as Pretty-faced Wallabies. I didn’t know that at the time, but I was taken with their definitely ‘pretty’ faces, with white lines of fur creating distinctive markings emphasizing their black noses and dark eyes. They were cute and my subsequent research revealed they live in grasslands and woodlands on hills and slopes, which makes perfect sense for them to be right where we found them. They are active in the mornings and late afternoon, we visited around 8am. I was also captivated by a cluster of Green Jewel Bugs (Lampromicra senator) which were sitting on the underside of some leaves right by the walkway. I had never seen these before and the colours were just beautiful. There were also several different plants flowering when we visited in early July, which I wasn’t expecting to see. All in all, I loved the views, the plants and animals and the natural surroundings. It was very peaceful and we only encountered one other group of walkers during our journey around Kalkani Crater.” – Julie Johnston
Yes, if you are in the area, then the Kalkani Crater rim walk is definitely worth adding to your list. It’s a short walk with great views and the chance to see some cool plants and animals.
What you will definitely see is the Kalkani crater, the surrounding lava plains, views over the Yaramulla ranger base and a range of native plants. Depending on the time of year and day that you visit, you may also see Whiptail Wallabies (also known as Pretty-faced Wallabies), Green Jewl Bugs and an array of native flowers and fruit. We saw all of these things when we visited on 5 July 2023 at around 8am.
No, you can not stay at Kalkani Crater, it is a day use area only. The closest place to stay and/or camp is the Discovery Resort – Undara (which is where we stayed) or the closet town is Mount Surprise.
The facilities at the Kalkani Crater rim walk and lookout include parking, toilets, picnic shelters, interpretive signage and the walking track.
The Kalkani Crater rim walk track is a 2.5km circuit. The rim is around 600m from the car park. The signage says to allow 1.5 hours return, but you can easily complete it much quicker than that.
No, we did not find the Kalkani Crater walk difficult at all. The elevation to the rim is only 50m and the walk itself is graded as moderate. The track you are walking on to the rim is graded dirt and relatively even. The track along the rim itself can be rocky in places with uneven surfaces, so you need to have a reasonable level of mobility (would not be suitable for prams or similar).
No, as with most national parks in Queensland, the Kalkani Crater rim walk and lookout – and everywhere else in the Undara Volcanic National Park – is not pet friendly. Domestic animals are not permitted as they disturb wildlife.
Definitely early mornings or late afternoons would be a good time to visit Kalkani Crater, as the walkway itself is not shaded; this is also the best time for wildlife spotting. In regards to the best time of year to visit Kalkani Crater, I suggest April to the end of October would be the best times; heat and rain may prevent access at other times of the year.
No, you do not have to pay to visit Kalkani Crater rim walk or lookout. It’s all free.
The Kalkani Crater is a 258km drive from Cairns, which Google maps says is a 3.5 hour drive, which is about right. We included a visit to Kalkani Crater as a part of our visit to the Undara Lava Tubes. It is great complementary experience to do, as you get to see over the lava plains.
No, you do not need a 4WD to get to Kalkani Crater rim walk or lookout.
The Kalkani Crater rim walk and lookout are located in the Undara Volcanic National Park. It’s a 258km drive from Cairns and a 15.5km drive from Discovery Resort – Undara, which is where we stayed. If you are visiting Undara then you should definitely include the Kalkani Crater rim walk and lookout as a part of your itinerary. It’s an easy walk with nice views and we all really enjoyed it. Our top tip – take a hat and drinking water – visit in the early morning or afternoon. Take your time and enjoy the serenity.
© I Love Cairns 2023