Flinders Ranges, South Australia © SATC
3 of Australia’s most powerful nature experiences
Be awed by the force and spectacle of the Earth’s power during these otherworldly Australian travel experiences.
By Lee Atkinson
Australia really is awe-inspiring. Shaped by the Earth’s energy and wild weather over millennia, it’s one of the oldest landscapes on the planet. There aren’t many other places in the world where you can experience the phenomenal forces of nature at work, getting so close you can touch it, smell it, breathe it and feel it. These unique back-to-nature experiences will change the way you see the world – and make you feel more alive than ever.
Walk through the world’s longest lava tube
If you want to get a close-up of how this planet was formed, step inside the world’s longest lava tube at Undara Volcanic National Park. Undara means “long way” in the local Aboriginal language, and there really is no other way to describe the 160 kilometre-long (100-mile) river of lava that spewed from a massive volcanic eruption around 190,000 years ago. It is the longest known lava flow from a single volcano in the world. As the rivers of molten rock cooled, they formed a hard crust, ultimately becoming tube-like caves, some more than 21 metres (69 feet) wide and 10 metres (33 feet) high. You’ll be blown away by the magnitude of the eruption as you walk through these extraordinary tubes that form one of Australia’s most amazing natural wonders.
How to experience it: The lava tubes can only be visited on a two-hour guided tour, with two options tailored to different fitness levels.
Feel the force of millennia of weather in the Flinders Ranges
If you’ve ever marvelled at how a few nights of wild weather can alter the landscape, wait until you see the Flinders Ranges. It might be hard to believe, but these weather-beaten mountains (you can clearly see where the land was folded together when two continental plates collided) were once higher than the Himalayas, and have been worn down by more than 600 million years of wind and rain.
Even more remarkable is Wilpena Pound. This distinctive mountain in the heart of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park looks like a meteorite crater, but it too was formed by erosion, this time from the inside out. It’s so huge that the best way to see it is by flying over it, but you can also explore it at ground level on one of walking tracks that climb up to the edge of the rim.
How to experience it: With a range of accommodation options, as well as guided tours and scenic flights, Wilpena Pound Resort makes an excellent base for exploring the area.
Go cloud surfing in the Gulf of Carpentaria
Watching a 1,000 kilometre-long (621-mile) cloud roll across the sky at speeds of 60 kilometres (37 miles) per hour is to witness one of the rarest and most awe-inspiring natural spectacles on the planet. And the only place you can do it – with any certainty at least – is in the tiny town of Burketown, on the edge of the Gulf of Carpentaria in outback Queensland.
Called the Morning Glory Cloud, this huge wave-shaped cloud rolls across the sky between late September and early November, bringing with it daredevil glider pilots from around the world who come to “surf” the cloud. Burketown is the only place in the world where the Morning Glory appears with any predictability – according to locals, if the fridges in the Burketown Pub frost over there’s a good chance you’ll see the cloud the next day.
How to experience it: See the Morning Glory from the air on a scenic flight from Burketown.