Undara lava tubes and Mt Surprise

“You literally climb over the rocks from a fallen lava tube roof.”

We booked a half day tour of the Undara Lava Tubes through Bedrock Village who are one of the only two tour groups permitted to do tours of the Lava Tubes. Our guide, Sean, was full of information about the tubes, how they formed, what happened to enable us to go into them, and what happens in the tubes naturally. 


Before you go to the Lava Tubes there is a volcano to climb. Its name is Kalkani, it’s not huge and it is dormant. Apparently, you should never say a volcano is ‘dead’, they are all just dormant–in case the unbelievable happens and they blow their top. It’s a steepish climb, one of Australia’s long and winding tracks. 

Once there, you get to walk around the crater rim and have a look out over the Savannah. You can see where the tubes are because of the change in colour of the trees. You can also see dozens of other volcanoes all around the place. The area is said to have 164 volcanoes in it. Luckily, Australia is the oldest land mass on the earth and our volcanoes seem to enjoy being dormant.

After you come back down it’s smoko times. Cakes, biscuits, slices and sometimes scones appear as if by magic along with tea, coffee and an endless supply of hot water.


Then it’s time to move to the Lava Tubes. They really are amazing, and well worth the descent into the tubes. You literally climb over the rocks from a fallen lava tube roof. There’s nothing easy about this, but there are rope hand rails to hold on to, and help will be given if you need it.

“The Ballroom”


Even if it takes you a long time to get down, it is worth it. I wouldn’t have missed wandering around the tubes for anything. We went into the Wind Tunnel, named because you can see the exit from the entrance. That’s not necessarily the norm for Lava Tubes. One of them is about 120km long. A problem with very long ones is airflow and, following the idea of the canary in the coal mine, the guide uses a cigarette lighter. If it flares you get out because there isn’t enough oxygen in the tube.

After the Wind Tunnel we clambered out, went on a very pleasant short walk through the park and descended into another one. This one had a superb huge space called, with good reason, the Ballroom. The ceilings are different colours, with water marks, and all sorts of shapes and formations created by how they cooled 190,000 years ago–give or take a century here or there.

Even with the difficult entrances to and exits from the caves, it should be on everyone’s bucket list. Former Bedrock Village owners Jo and Joe have created a superb tour, their guides now part of the Discovery Parks network really know what they are talking about and will answer every question. Peter and I really enjoyed the tour and are so glad we finally did it.



Sean, our guide, was very informative but if you’re like me, too busy looking at everything while mimicking a mountain goat getting in, and out, of the tubes–or just need a reminder–the Queensland Parks and Wildlife website reveals all.

Essentially, the Undara Volcanic National Park on the western slopes of McBride Plateau comprises open woodlands and vast savanna. Beneath seasonal grasses and remnant rainforest, rich volcanic basalt soil conceals the Undara lava tube–one of the longest of its kind in the world.

Undara is an Aboriginal word that means ‘long way’. The tube system formed 190,000 years ago from lava flowing rapidly down a dry riverbed. As the lava drained, the top, outer-layer cooled forming tubular crust.

Fauna and flora prosper at the sheltered entrances and within dry rainforest where the tubes have collapsed, supporting bat colonies, rock-wallabies, birds including owls as well as predators including snakes.