Undara Experience is reshaping its campground and building new heritage-inspired accommodation with “life-changing” grants providing a vital “leg up” for the renovations.
From Nov 1-March 22, the Undara Experience will close its ‘Green Season’ operations to build 18 new air-conditioned ensuite rooms, owner Bram Collins reveals.
“They will be named after the historic homesteads in the region,” Bram explains.
Three-and-a-half-hours south west from Cairns, the Undara Experience is the gateway to Queensland’s extraordinary lava tube system–thought to be the world’s oldest.
The attraction is touted for its dining; events; guided tours and self-guided walks; unpowered, powered camping and glamping–plus its pioneer huts and railway-carriage conversions.
Indeed, some groups are waiting up to three years to book lodgings. Particularly at the height of the season, forcing Undara Experience to knock back large-scale bookings, Bram explains.
This year, Undara Experience applied for a grant on offer through the Queensland Department for State Development, Tourism and Innovation to meet this demand.
As a result, Undara Experience acquired $1 million dollars from the Growing Tourism Infrastructure Fund to finance the Homestead-style accommodation.
“To be a recipient of that grant, it’s a life-changing event and not just for us. It’s going to make a massive difference to our region.”
A GROWING CLIENTELE
Indeed, the upgrades will cater to tourists previously unable to access the Undara Experience.
The 18 new air-conditioned suites will welcome bus tour guests during the high season, while boosting capacity for self-drive tourists in the shoulder periods.
The dining area will enjoy significant upgrades to support the new clientele with expanded bathroom facilities.
The changes will also improve the experience for event guests attending Undara Experience’s popular Outback Rock and Blues festival, which incorporates Anzac Day celebrations.
“The increased facilities will better serve our crowd; we’ve already sold out for next year’s event.”
CAMPING GROUND CHANGES
The closure fast-tracks the attraction’s phase one caravan park renovations, funded under a different Queensland Department for State Development, Tourism and Innovation scheme.
As a result, Undara Experience will boost the number of camping sites available and simplify bookings thanks to the Queensland Tourism Icons Program.
“The caravan park’s current design grew organically without a town plan if you like,” explains Bram, adding that the many different-shaped campsites create bottlenecks and confusion at enquiries.
Under the new plans, campsite sizes are redefined to two sizes (8x6m & 10x12m) to hasten booking times while still welcoming larger rigs on-site.
An upgraded road network central to the plans will improve access throughout the on-site caravan park without damaging its environmental aesthetic.
RETAINING ITS NATURAL APPEAL
Retaining Undara Experience’s natural appeal was central to the current plans, which have received planning approvals.
“If we clear-felled, we could acquire many more sites but we’re not about that.
“We are on ancient granite soils here. It’s not very fertile and good shade trees take a long time to grow so I am pedantic about tree clearing.
“Shade trees are a premium and accounted for in this new design … we want to keep our big ironbark and bloodwood trees. I’m prepared to sacrifice a few extra sites to protect the natural appeal.”
In fact, landscaping between each campsite will assure privacy.
“We try to only plant natives; if you plant flowering trees you attract birds and butterflies and it creates a better experience for visitors,” says Bram.
Undara is hiring locals to install the power and plumbing facilities with more amenities on the cards at a later date.
NTH QLD/SAVANNAH WAY, AN ALL-YEAR-ROUND DESTINATION
Operating during the Green Season is always challenging due to the seasonality of tourism in Northern Australia. But Undara has chosen to close this year due to the scale of the undertaking.
Indeed, Undara Experience averages fewer than 300 bookings during the Green Season between November and March. But remains committed to welcoming year-round visitors.
“We usually hire 22 staff during our peak time, down to two at our slowest period for the year.”
Bram believes it’s a real shame that guests are discouraged from travelling to Tropical North Queensland at this time of year.
“It’s a beautiful time of the year.
“Sure, it’s hot but no hotter than in the south. And yes, it rains but that’s why we have some of the oldest rainforests on Earth. And when it rains, the waterfalls are at their most spectacular.
“This is the time you want to experience it.”
Renovations aside, access isn’t usually an issue either.
“You could drive a Porsche into Undara Experience,” Bram explains.
Not that he would ever have one, choosing instead to invest back into this iconic business.