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Image credit: Queensland Tourism

Under the spell of Undara

The Accessible Outback

Exploring volcanic caves and watching opera in the outback is all part of the charm of Undara, as Amanda Cranston and her family discover.

Towing our camper trailer, we headed off on the three-hour drive from Cairns to the inland town of Undara.

For most of the journey the landscape was surprisingly barren with dried-up creeks, a far cry from the luscious greenery you see during wet season.

In fact, it was so humid on the day we travelled that some of the tarmac on the highway had actually melted away, proving just how hot it can get in the tropics.

The fun heats up

Finally we arrived at the resort, driving past the restored railway carriage accommodation before pulling into the dusty campground where we were greeted by a few inquisitive wallabies looking for a shady spot to snooze.

Our powered campsite had a firepit, a few shady trees and was only a short walk from the amenity block and camp kitchen.

Hoping to escape the heat ourselves and dive into the resort pool, we wasted no time putting up our camper tent and changing into our bathers for a swim.

As the intense heat of the day subsided and dusk set in, we dressed up and headed out for a night of opera in the outback.

Only a short walk from the campground itself was the Ooramin Place Amphitheatre. A grand piano sat proudly on the dirt-floor stage with the magnificent, natural bushland as its backdrop.

As the sun set we were lucky enough to spot a few wallabies nibbling on grass by the stage, happily enjoying the music and oblivious to the rows of people sitting opposite them.

It was a true-blue Aussie setting for the annual Opera in the Outback event. It was the first of three opera evenings, this being the ‘family-friendly’ introduction to opera with cabaret songs from musicals such as ‘Grease’, ‘The Boy from Oz’, ‘Mamma Mia!’ and ‘Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story’. The kids even got pulled up

Opera in the Outback - kids on stage

Undara is also home to the Swags Tent Village for those wanting to rough it… in style.

Tent village at Undara

Caves and volcanoes
Noisy kookaburras woke us at about 5am the next morning – but that just meant we had plenty of time to have breakfast before our 8am tour of the Undara Lava Tubes.

You simply cannot visit Undara without a trip out to these spectacular caves.

Formed around 190,000 years ago when Undara Volcano erupted, the lava tubes were created as a result of the lava crusting over the valley and forming a roof. Today Undara’s lava tube cave system is a protected tourism attraction that can only be visited with a guide.

A natural phenomenon, it is considered one of the earth’s longest lava flows from a single volcano in modern geological times. We visited the Stephenson Lava Tube and The Archway as part of our tour and were fortunate to have a great guide who was incredibly knowledgeable about the formations and the region.

We spent another afternoon by the pool before enjoying a second night of opera featuring arias and ensembles from some of the world’s most celebrated operas.

The kids loved the costumes and the whole experience, but the music was probably more suited to an older crowd or die-hard opera fans.

On our final morning we enjoyed the famous Undara Bush Breakfast before the drive home.

We spotted wallabies and kangaroos on our walk to the bush camp then enjoyed freshly brewed coffee, billy tea and bacon and eggs.

We toasted our own bread over the coals and then grabbed a tree stump to sit down for our Aussie bush cook-up.


Report Card


Getting there
Undara is known as Australia’s Accessible Outback, able to be reached by air, road or coach. It’s a half-day scenic drive from Cairns or Townsville with a number of self-drive itineraries to choose from. Alternatively coach tours head there from Cairns and there is also a local airstrip.

Image credit: Queensland Tourism

There is so much to do here: lava tube tours, sunset wildlife tours, bush walking, bird watching, a nightly communal campfire and various annual events (as grand as Opera in the Outback and the Undara Outback Rock and Blues Festival, no less).

Accommodation includes restored railway carriages, pioneer huts, safari shelters, a swag tent village and campground, plus a fantastic restaurant and Saloon Bar.

In our opinion, Undara really is the jewel of the outback.

Image credit: Queensland Tourism

Cleopatra bombs into the pool

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