Geological wonders of Far North
THERE is far more to Far North Queensland other than reefs and rainforests.
For those interested in geological wonders, there really is no better place on Earth.
The Wet Tropics has a fascinating geology, consisting of three main types of rock forms: metamorphic, granites and volcanics.
Whether you are island hopping, cruising the Tablelands, or just strolling through the rainforest, you can see each of these on display across the region.
Here is a short list of some of the best geological attractions to check out because they, well, really rock.
FOR LAVAS OF THE OUTBACK
One of the most truly jawdropping natural attractions in the region is Undara lava tubes, located about 300km southwest of Cairns. Undara Volcanic National Park contains the remains of one of the earth's longest flows of lava originating from a single volcano. You can explore a couple of these giant cave openings, which is akin to being in nature's cathedral. The caves are brimming with life, ranging from rainforest plants - in the middle of an otherwise savanna grassland environment, through to bats, snakes and moths. The park is woven with not only geological but cultural history. It's well worth a tour.
If you travel the Mulligan Highway, about 25km southwest of Cooktown, you will find one of the region's most fascinating and mysterious rock formations. Black Mountain appears as a giant pile of dark-coloured rocks. This is, in fact, the result of about 260 million years of magma solidifying, forming a body of hard granite, and then becoming exposed to the elements. The corners of granite chunks eventually became rounded, forming boulders. The solid granite core of the mountain now lies beneath this jumbled cover. The mountain is also steeped in legend. People have disappeared exploring its depths, and there are reports of horses and even whole herds of cattle vanishing here as if swallowed by the mountain itself.
A GORGEOUS CRUISE
At the sprite age of 1700 million years old, this gorge has the title as the youngest in Queensland. Located 460km southwest of Cairns, this gorge is another must-see on an outback tour of the tropics. The gorge was created by a series of geological processes. Subsequent wet seasons have spilt torrents of water through the narrow fractures, creating deep gorges and permanent springs and seepages. The gorge is unique as it narrows to a mere 2m in places - enough room to take a relaxing stand-up paddleboard tour through. It is set amid rugged sandstone formations occupying an area of about 80 sqkm with spectacular 9m high cliffs.
A PIPE DREAM
High on the Atherton Tablelands, you can find the beautifully sounding Mt Hypipamee National Park. The park is home to a 61m wide crater, known as a volcanic pipe, that is thought to have been created by a massive subterranean gas explosion. This resulted in boulders and rocks being hurled into the air. According to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, this geological feature, known as a diatreme, is the only example of its type in the region. The crater is filled with water, which only a few souls have been brave enough to explore with deep-diving scuba equipment. It's quite the sight, checking out from the lookout.
WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN
If you have never ventured south of Cairns before, our natural Pyramid is a sight to behold. Walsh's Pyramid, near Gordonvale, is a granite core left standing in the form of a pointed hill when older, less resistant metamorphic rocks were eroded away. It's also a spectacular and challenging climb, which you can do in about 5-6 hours return. Eucalyptus trees cover the hill's lower slops, and as the soil becomes shallower, the trees give way to grasses and rock ferns. The summit is a fantastic place for a selfie. Just don't bother listening to locals rambling on about the pyramid having a hidden man-made pyramid underneath it. That's crazy.