Chillagoe is a town in Northern Queensland, within the Shire of Mareeba. It’s located 205km west of Cairns, making it a popular day trip or camping destination for North Queensland Families. It is known for its combination of a relic copper mine, historic town, Aboriginal rock paintings and limestone caves. Here are 6 free things to do in Chillagoe that are family-friendly.
The Old State Smelters are an interesting collection of ruins, where at one point in time, copper from surrounding areas as far south as Einasleigh were brought for smelting. The chimney stack is a prominent landmark that can be seen from kilometres away. Please be aware the site is a restricted access area and entry is prohibited for your safety. Observe the site from the viewing area only.
The famous Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park has opportunities to walk and explore the tracks and rock formations, and see Aboriginal rock art and of course the caves. With distances ranging from a couple hundred meters to 9km and varying degrees of difficulty, there is an adventure for every family. Please note the times listed on the Department of Environment and Science Website and shared here are calculated for people of average fitness who are wearing the correct footwear. Please allow additional time for young children and for those who may be below average fitness, and don’t forget to be prepared and bring your water. More information for your safety and being prepared can be found here. You can go on a self-guided or ranger-guided tour, but if you’re wanting to head out with a ranger, you’ll need to book in advance with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service staff based at The Hub in the Chillagoe township. The park map can be found here.
Balancing Rock track (Grade: moderate)
Allow around 20 minutes for this 440m track. It’s only short, but it is rated moderate as it is a rough track that climbs up a rock formation. Once you’re there though – you do get views of Balancing Rock – a large boulder precariously balanced on a hillside. It’s certainly a stunning natural marvel that are sure to provoke a “wow!” from the kids.
Donna car park to Balancing Rock car park (Grade: easy)
Allow and hour for this 2km round trip. It’s an easy walk, through open woodland featuring eucalypts and ironwoods. You may even hear kookaburras laughing or spot an agile wallaby or wallaroo on your trek.
Royal Arch track (Grade: easy)
It’s an easy walk, but it’s a long one. This 9 km track will take about 2.5 hours to complete. This track passes the Wullumba Aboriginal rock art site, limestone outcrops and native trees.
The Archways (Grade: easy)
Bring your torch, and follow the short 220m (return) track from Mungana Archways car park to this semi-open cave. Allow 30 minutes for this adventure.
Pompeii Cave (Grade: difficult)
Pompeii Cave is another cave that can be explored on a self-guided tour. It is 600 metres return, but the walk is steep – allow 50 minutes for the trip. Keep your eyes peeled for bats sleeping in dark crevices. Notify the ranger before you head in, and bring a torch. Can be accessed from Donna Cave car park.
Bauhinia Cave (Grade: difficult)
This is one of the caves that can be explored on a self-guided tour. The Bauhinia cave is just 300 metres return, but the hiking grade is difficult. Make sure you notify the ranger before entering the cave and bring a torch, and exercise care. Can be accessed from Donna Cave car park.
Donna, Trezkinn and Royal Arch caves can only be accessed with a ranger-guided tour. You’ll need to book in advance with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service staff based at The Hub in Chillagoe. You can go on a single cave tour or they have package deals if you want to explore two or more caves. Prices start at $73.35 for a family for a single cave tour. Check out the ranger-guided cave tours information and booking details on the Parks and Forests website.
Because Chillagoe is in such a remote location, it makes it ideal for stargazing. If you’re planning to stay the night, stargazing should definitely be one of your planned activities. You can also visit the Chillagoe Observatory for an even better experience, although it’s at a cost.
Indigenous Rock Art
Indigenous people have been living in the Chillagoe area for an estimated 37,000 years. You can see art at both Mungana and Wullumba. Mungana is located 15km out of town and Wullumba close to the Balancing Rock. Just remember to enjoy the art with your eyes only; no touching.
Fun fact: It’s thought the origin of the town’s name is from an old sea shanty which went “Hikey, Tikey, Psychey, Crikey, Chillagoe, Walabadorie.”
Feature image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.