Chillagoe - Cities, Towns and Localities
The historic town of Chillagoe in the Tropical North Queensland, offers
visitors a taste of the real Outback, in one of the world’s
unique geological sites. As well a history built on mining,
the region rests on an ancient seabed that over 450 million
years ago, teamed with prehistoric marine life.
Located 141 km west
of Mareeba, 205 km west of Cairns, and at 352 m above sea
level, Chillagoe offers the visitor a unique
combination of a relic copper mine, historic town, limestone
caves and Aboriginal culture, as well as its newest addition
‘The Hub’ from the Queensland Heritage Trails Network.
The human history of the region stretches back 35,000 years
with significant Aboriginal rock art site that have been
The region was first settled as a pastoral property in the
1870s by John Atherton’s son William, who had travelled down
the Walsh River looking for suitable cattle grazing land and
finally settling at Chillagoe Creek. In 1887 two men working
for the mining baron John Moffat (of Irvinebank fame) found
copper and silver deposits on Chillagoe Station. Moffat soon
began mining the area, however transportation was a problem.
He solved this by building a private railway line from
Mareeba to Chillagoe and Mungana. Work on the line commenced
in 1897 and was completed in 1900. The Chillagoe smelter
opened in 1901 and at its peak employed over 1,000 men,
extracting gold, silver, copper, and lead from ores which
were brought in from the surrounding area.
In 1918 the Queensland Government purchased the railway from
the Chillagoe Railway and Mines Company. The mine closed
down in 1943.
The town’s biggest attraction are the Chillagoe Caves,
described as a mystical underground world of rare limestone
caves and Aboriginal art. The National Parks and Wildlife
Services Office has free maps of the area with clear
directions to each of the caves.
Don’t forget to visit
Bluffs Lookout for a breath-taking sunset and sunrise view,
and to Boogie Hole, where water spills over rocks into a
deep pool and children can play on the sandy beach. You can
try your hand at fossicking for crystals at nearby Muldiva
Creek, there is also good fishing along the Walsh River.
Check out our listing of
In addition to our listed online travel guide information, contact the local
tourism visitor centre for your destination for more attractions, tours, local
maps and other information.
an area characterised by volcanic activity it is surprising
to find limestone caves, however the limestone in the area
is the result of an unusual uplift of sediments (that
include coral) which were deposited in the ocean off the
edge of the Australian continent about 400 million years
ago. As the sea level rose, the continental shelf moved east
and then, about 360 million years ago the sediments were
compressed and uplifted.
600 caves have been documented in the Chillagoe region,
with the largest system claimed to contain over 6.5 km of
passage. Every cave is different and names such as ‘The
Cathedral Cave, or ‘The Piano Cave’, often give clues
to what may be found within.
on the geology of the area can be found in the publication
‘Rocks and Landscapes of the Chillagoe District’ which
is available from the Parks and Wildlife Service office in
Chillagoe Ph: 07 4094 7163.
and Donna Caves
caves are available for viewing. Both the Royal Arch and
Donna Caves are by guided tours. The Royal Arch is a
series of 13 chambers spread along a 1.5 km passage with
roots from trees and patches of light reaching into the
caves. The Donna Cave is the prettiest of the caves in
the area, but is quite small.
Bauhinia Cave and
can be seen on self-guided tours, but you should bring a
torch and must notify the Ranger before entering the
There are a
number of interlocking walks which connect the caves,
the lookouts and the landmarks. It is possible, for
example, to walk from the Balancing Rock to the Donna,
Bauhinia and Pompeii Caves (which are all close to each
Parks and Wildlife Services Office has free maps of the
area with clear directions to each of the caves as well
as the smelters and the Balancing Rock.
Other caves include Trezkinn Cave,
Castle Cave, Haunted Cave and Spring
Chillagoe - The Hub Interpretive Centre
Street, CHILLAGOE QLD 4871 • Ph: 07 4094 7111 • Fax:
07 4094 7122
• Located in the heart of the town on the
former National Australia Bank site. The Hub is a one-stop
shop for visitors, offering information, tours, and an
interpretive displays telling the story of Chillagoe.
• Hill Street, CHILLAGOE QLD 4871
private collection that includes local Aboriginal artefacts
and a collection of pieces of mining equipment. A highlight
of the museum is the projectors from the town’s old
cinema, in particular the manually operated silent
• The marble produced from these pits were used
for the marble floors of the Westpac Bank Headquarters in
• Just 15 km past Chillagoe is the old
settlement of Mungana, once the site of the famous Lady Jane
and Girofla copper mines. North of Mungana is The Archways,
an open daylight cave system with maidenhair ferns growing
in the passageways, and an Aboriginal art site.
Old State Smelters
• Continue down the main street of Queen Street, cross the
Chillagoe Creek and follow the signs to the Smelters, along
a road that passes the Chillagoe Limeworks and crosses the
railway line, where you will reach the Old State Smelters.
Here is a interesting collection of ruins, which make
obvious the scale of the smelters when they were fully
operational. Copper from the surrounding area (as far south
as Einasleigh) was brought here for smelting. The old
chimney stack is still a prominent landmark that can be seen
from many kilometres away.