Chillagoe in northern Queensland, Australia, was once a thriving mining town for a range of minerals, but is now reduced to a small zinc mine and some marble quarries. Just out of town is the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park containing limestone caves.
Chillagoe is sometimes remembered for its involvement in the Mungana affair.
140 kilometres west of Mareeba, the former mining town of Chillagoe is one of the favoured haunts of mining buffs tracing the heady days of the 1870’s to the 1920’s mining boom. It’s easy to see why. The town is a stunning mix of outback landscape, mining heritage, aboriginal art sites and fantastic limestone caves.
The old township is still dominated by the Chillagoe smelters, which were built at the turn of the century by miners and speculators convinced the region was set to become the next Broken Hill. The rail link followed and the town grew to 10,000. The region however failed to live up to its promise and millions were lost in the inevitable bust. The smelter staggered on until the 1940’s when it was abandoned.
Mining is not the only option however and it would a shame to leave without sampling some of the other Chillagoe attractions. Chief amongst them are the substantial systems of limestone caves at the Chillagoe-Montana National Park, about one kilometre from the main town site. The caves feature spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites (which is which!). They can only be entered as part of a tour, which are well managed and very informative. From the caves there’s a walking track to the nearby Balancing Rock formation and some Aboriginal rock art.