Bush Camping at Undara Experience

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

While camping is not permitted in Undara Volcanic National Park, there’s a fabulous campsite nearby which had everything we needed and more. 

Undara Experience, just outside the national park, offers a range of options from unpowered bush camping and large powered sites to tents, cabins and luxury converted railway carriages. Our powered site was perfect – shaded in the afternoon, close to the amenities and a short walk to the bistro.   

We visited the bistro at Undara Central every day. It was the ideal location to enjoy an invigorating morning coffee, a tasty lunch or a refreshing ice cream after a long walk. 

Seven bush walks, ranging from 1.5 to 12 kilometres, all begin from Undara Central and there’s plenty of wildlife around the camp ground and on the tracks. While we loved seeing the pretty face wallabies, kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets, I was less than excited when I came face to face with a huge goanna sunning himself outside the toilets one morning!

Even in May the afternoon temperatures rose to the high 20s C. The swimming pool was a popular spot. 

Best of all was the delicious dinner we enjoyed at Undara Experience: macadamia crusted barramundi with chips and salad followed by a chocolate lava cake for dessert. It was bush camping with a touch of luxury!

Learning While Walking

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

After going on two guided walks in Undara National Park, it was nice the next day to head off on our own. Seven bush walking tracks start from Undara Experience and we selected two of medium length with different themes. 

In the morning we walked to Atkinson’s Lookout. For most of the 3.84 kilometre walk there was no formed track; we followed white arrows pointing the way over huge slabs of pink granite. 

This walk focused on our natural surroundings. We found clumps of white paper daisies and wattle trees just coming into bloom.

We were intrigued by these very large ant nests but thankfully we didn’t meet the inhabitants. 

When we reached the lookout on a rounded dome of granite, we found a rather unusual cairn, perhaps a bush version of travellers’ stones. 

The view over the plain was dominated by Undara, the volcano we’d come to know well. 

Our afternoon walk, on a well worn path through the bush, was a history lesson. Watched by a friendly kookaburra, we headed off on the 3.6 kilometre Pioneer Track following the route of the first telegraph line, built in 1872.

Native Cypress pine trees were used for the telegraph poles. The timber’s termite resistant quality means that 150 years later some of the poles still stand beside the track. 

As we neared the end of the track a small timber cabin came into view. Constructed by hand using pioneering techniques, this slab hut is a replica of the first home built when the Collins family moved to this area in the 1870s.

With so many walks to choose from, we covered everything on offer at Undara – geology, geography, nature and history.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

On the Edge of a Volcano

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

While the lava tubes at Undara are only accessible by guided walks, there is another way to get up close and personal with a volcano on your own. The Kalkani circuit track goes around the rim of a volcano even older than Undara.

Unlike Undara, Kalkani erupted in a violent explosion of magma, gases and volcanic rocks which formed a cone with a deep crater inside. 

The rim of the crater is only a couple of metres wide. This is one of those times when staying on the track is a very good idea.

On the right hand side, the ground drops away into the centre of the crater before rising up again to the opposite edge. 

To the left, the steep outer side of the crater falls away just as sharply. From this elevated spot it’s easy to make out some of the other 163 volcanos in the region. Sections of darker green dry rainforest growing in collapsed lava tubes contrast with the rest of the forest.

A family of pretty face wallabies rests in the shade, surrounded by large volcanic boulders. They watch cautiously as walkers pass by. It’s as if they are surprised to see other living things in this vast landscape. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

An Evening To Remember

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

Our second guided walk at Undara Volcanic National Park took place late in the afternoon. The Sunset Wildlife walk promised fabulous sunset views over the park and the chance to see little bent-wing bats emerging from a lava tube ready for a night’s hunting. We weren’t disappointed. 

A short walk uphill ended on a ridge with 360° views of the plains. Most prominent were the volcanos which helped form this landscape. Undara, with Racecourse Knob to its left, were clearly visible on the horizon. 

Eventually we turned our backs on Undara, because it was the sunset we’d come to see. 

With champagne and a little tray of treats in hand, we watched as the setting sun burnished the sky in an ever changing display of colour. 

As nature’s light show ended, we walked back to the bus which took us to Barkers Tube.  Here, on a platform just outside the entrance to the tube, we stood silently in the dark listening as hundreds of bats flew out into the bush. We could also feel the movement of the air as they passed just overhead. 

Just as she had in Wind Tunnel earlier in the day, our guide turned on her torch for a few seconds. It was long enough for us to see the bats without disturbing them or sending them back inside the lava tube. The privilege of being able to see these tiny creatures in their natural habitat wasn’t lost on any of us. 

It was truly an evening to remember.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

The Story of a Volcano

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

Around 190,000 years ago a giant shield volcano on the McBride Plateau erupted, forcing 23 cubic kilometres of lava to the earth’s surface. The fast moving lava flowed into a river bed and continued across the plain for 160 kilometres. While the outer layers cooled quickly and solidified, the molten lava inside continued to flow away, leaving huge basalt tunnels behind. The volcano is now known as Undara, which means long way in the local Ewamian language – the lava flow is the longest in the world.

Over time some of the tunnels collapsed, forming sheltering spaces for dry rainforests. The intact lava tubes provide the perfect habitat for dark-dwelling fauna like microbats, insects and small amphibians.

Undara and the lava tubes are now part of Undara Volcanic National Park and the wider McBride Volcanic Province, which contains 164 volcanos. Safety issues mean the lava tubes are only accessible on guided walking tours. Some contain high levels of carbon dioxide and many are difficult to negotiate.

Our guided walk started at Mikoshi Lava Tube, 46 metres long, 14 metres wide and 11 metres high. With a sturdy cable in hand for safety, we clambered down a jumble of fallen rocks to the floor of the tube.

Sunlight streaming in from each end shone across the walls of the tube, highlighting the layers of solidified lava.

At 293 metres, Wind Tunnel was much longer and the light only penetrated a few metres at either end. 

We made our way into the tube by torchlight, carefully following in our guide’s footsteps. 

She explained the geology of the tube system, her torch showing where the lava had moved and settled. In some places streaks of red iron oxide and white silica created beautiful marbling on the walls while elsewhere the stone was pockmarked with burst air bubbles.

A colony of little bent-wing bats lives in the darkest part of Wind Tunnel. We could hear them all the time, rustling and moving about on the ceiling eight metres above, but we only saw them for the briefest of moments. The guide lit up the roof for just three seconds; enough for us to see them but not enough to disturb their daytime rest. 

As we left Wind Tunnel there was time for one last glance back into this natural wonder. It was hard to imagine that not so long ago, in geological terms, this was filled with a river of molten rock. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

More Than a Fuel Stop

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but red dirt and bush, is the Lynd Oasis Roadhouse. Located close to the junction of the Kennedy Developmental Road and the Gregory Highway, the roadhouse is a natural stopping point for travellers wanting to top up their fuel tanks.

We had an extra reason to stop at the roadhouse. It houses Australia’s Smallest Bar and Glen, being a beer connoisseur, wanted to try it out.

I’m no beer drinker so while Glen sat in the shade enjoying one cold beverage I had something even better – a delicious macadamia mango Weis bar.

I didn’t need to go to Australia’s Smallest Bar for that!

Driving the Beef Road

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.

Leaving Townsville, we began the long trek west to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The first 134 kilometres of the journey were on the Hervey Range Developmental Road, a wide two lane highway in excellent condition. 

It wasn’t always so good. Just past Stockyard Creek, we came across a memorial and plaque commemorating the completion of the road in 2005. 

In 1864, when Townsville was a new settlement, a rough track was forged west from the coast up and over Hervey Range to Georgetown. 

In the 1960s the Federal Government devised a plan to seal the roads right around the country of most importance to the burgeoning beef industry. Being the most direct route from the Gulf and Burdekin districts to Townsville, Hervey Range Road was included in the plan and construction started in 1971. 

When the Beef Roads Scheme finished in 1975, 120 kilometres of the road were still unsealed. In the early 1990s work began once more and the road was finally completed in 2005.

We were glad the road up the range was not still that rough dirt track from 1864.

Note: The name for the range and road is Hervey Range or Hervey’s Range, depending on which map I’ve looked at. I’ve chosen to continue using Hervey Range. 

Advice Worth Taking

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.  

Before we left home, a friend gave me some very important advice. 

“While you’re in Townsville, make sure you go to Juliette’s Gelateria on the Strand,” she said. 

And of course we did – twice!

 Our first visit came after we’d walked the Street Art Trail in the morning and explored Castle Hill in the afternoon, so a double scoop was well-earned. The extensive range of flavours meant choosing just two was difficult.

I decided on caramel biscotti topped with Malteser. Delicious!

The next afternoon we found ourselves on the Strand again, so we returned for seconds. This time I had vanilla choc cherry and chai latte – also delicious.

If you went to Juliette’s, what would you choose?

Up The Hill

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

When is a mountain not a mountain? 

When it falls short of the required 300 metres in elevation by a mere 14 metres.

Castle Hill might just miss out on mountain status but at 286 metres it dominates the city of Townsville. The pink granite monolith, also known by its indigenous name of Cootharinga, is popular with both locals and visitors who can either walk up the famous Goat Track with its 758 stairs or drive up the 2.6 kilometre sealed road to the top. On a steamy 33° afternoon we did not walk up the Goat Track. 

Once at the summit we could easily have just stayed at the car park lookout which has spectacular 360° views – Townsville’s sprawling suburbs spread across the coastal plain, Hervey Range in the distance and Magnetic Island 10 kilometres off the coast.

But after avoiding the long walk up the hill we had energy reserved for the short walks at the top. The Radar Hill walk was closed for renovations so we set off on the Summit Walk to Hynes Lookout. 

From here we could see the CBD, where we’d walked the Street Art Trail in the morning, the busy Port of Townsville and Cape Cleveland far away on the horizon. 

Closer to the coast, Magnetic Island was veiled by a humid haze. 

Further round to the north east the Pill Box Walking Trail, which leads to a relic of World War Two, was our next destination.  

This track and lookout gave us a slightly different perspective on the same views. But it was the history connected to the site which made it interesting. 

A 1942 Observation Bunker, once an important part of Australia’s wartime defence system, now stands disused, a silent reminder of a time when the country was under threat of invasion. 

The people who worked here had huge responsibilities. They also had the best view in town!

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Street Art in Townsville

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

How often do you find the recommended time to see an attraction is simply not enough?

The Street Art Walking Trail in Townsville’s CBD, featuring 27 works of art commissioned by the City Council, winds its way around six city blocks. The brochure with descriptions of each painting and a map of the trail suggests 45 minutes is sufficient.

Perhaps they didn’t allow for us actually being able to find the paintings and then taking photographs of them. We spent more than two hours wandering through the city seeking out all the spectacular works of art.

Some were tucked away down the sides of buildings or dingy back alleys and sadly, some had rubbish bins and large skips right in front of them or graffiti sprayed across them. Some were on tricky angles, making them hard to photograph. But we did manage to take photos of several fabulous creations. 

This collection of street art continues to grow as new works are added. If you’re in Townsville, pick up a map of the Street Art Walking Trail at the Tourist Information Centre and be sure to allow plenty of time to see them all. 

Croc and Turtle – ROA, 2015

The Barrier – TELLAS, 2017

Sound and Movement Personified – Claire Foxton, 2018

Mother Earth – LEANS, 2017

Girroogul and the Soap Tree – Garth Jankovic and Nicky Bidju Pryor, 2016

L to R:

Concord – James Giddy, 2019

Cat and Mouse – 815K1, 2020

The Smizler – Lee Harnden, 2014

Brolga Dance and Song – Nicky Bidju Pryor, 2018

Under the Sea – HAFLEG, 2020

And this mural of tropical fauna we spotted on a large water tank up on the hill, not in the brochure but still worthy of inclusion. 

Joining Marsha for Photographing Public Art and Jo for Monday Walks