Chillagoe Outback North Queensland

  • Population: 251 population (census 2016)
  • Area: 2206 km²
  • Elevation 357 metres
  • Postcode: 4871
  • Distance from Cairns 203.8 kilometres from Cairns via Kuranda range and 135 kilometres via Gillies Highway.  Drive time is two hours and forty-one minutes from Cairns and 150 kilometres west of Mareeba.

Chillagoe was once a thriving mining town for a range of minerals first established by William Atherton.

This is a great start if you dream of exploring the Australian outback.

This heritage town is maintained by companies that now operate small zinc mines and marble quarries.

The rugged limestone landscape of the remote area is a sharp contrast to the rolling green hills of the distant Central Tablelands.

Chillagoe Caves

Chillagoe’s  400 million-year-old cave system, some of which run for 11 kilometres.  Spectacular limestone caverns in over 700 caves are waiting to be explored.

Here you may discover astounding beauty in the natural wonders of the limestone caves. The caves formed due to an ancient coral reef eroding over centuries.

This underground world is navigated along iron walkways and is spectacularly illuminated by spotlights.

The beautiful cave features include stalactites, stalagmites and cave coral. Your guide will help you to understand how this fascinating hidden world was formed.

There are many caves with shadowy tunnels and underground chambers around this area. Some of these can be safe to explore on your own.

During your visit, you can stop by the Hub Visitor Centre, Queen Steet, Chillagoe if you need any local advice.

Discover more in Chillagoe

If the thought of tunnels and underground caverns is not to your liking, there are above-ground attractions worth a look at.  Make your way to Royal Arch.

Next, watch for wallabies and wallaroos in the open woodland on the journey to Chillagoe. Also impressive is the limestone bulge of Balancing Rock. Marvel at the Aboriginal rock art shelters at Mungana or Wullumba.

This town’s mining heritage includes the Chillagoe Smelters. Featuring relics dating back to the 1890s along its walking tracks.

Chillagoe Map

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Chillagoe Smelters

Chillagoe Smelters

From 1901 to 1943, the Chillagoe Smelters and ancillary industries.  Although the smelters never made a profit, they did provide thousands of jobs and railway transport over giant distances.

In days, there was a thriving mining town with over 400 employees.  The main office and a strong room were used to hold gold and payroll.

Chillagoe smelters produced

  • 60,000 tonnes of copper
  • 1,250,000 tonnes of Ore
  • 6,400,000 ounces of Silver
  • 175,000 ounces of gold
  • 50,000 tonnes of lead

This site is restricted, and there are toxic contaminants best viewed from the viewing area.

From the viewing area, visitors can see three chimneys

The Slag heap is where the horse-drawn trollies pulled tonnes of slag along tram lines.  The top of the trollies could be rotated so both slag pots could be emptied.

What is Slag?

Slag is a stony waste matter separated from metals during ore refining.

Things to do at Chillagoe

starting from the car park take the walking track one kilometre to Balancing Rock car park. Then follow 500 metre long loop track to Balancing Rock and back to the car park.  Along the way there are views of the old Chillagoe Smellter chimney stack.  Then continue towards the Royal Arch Cave 3.5 kilometres along the way visit the Wullumba Aboriginal rock art site.  Keep following the orange markers which lead past pinnacles and over a stile.


Nearby places to visit