Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park Tropical North Queensland

Photo credit: © Tourism and Events Qld

About Chillagoe

    Park features

    Limestone has been weathered, dissolved and re-formed by water to create spectacular caverns and passages, decorated by stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones.

    Scientists believe the landscape around Chillagoe began to form about 400 million years ago, when limestone was deposited as calcareous mud and coral reefs on the bed of a shallow sea where Chillagoe is today. Subsequent tilting, folding and erosion exposed and weathered the limestone that today towers over the surrounding plains. Fluctuating groundwater levels slowly dissolved some of the limestone, creating caverns and passages, some of which have since been decorated by calcite stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones, deposited by surface waters penetrating through the rock.

    Several bat species roost and breed in the dark caves. Chillagoe is one of five known nesting sites for the white-rumped swiftlet Aerodramus terraereginae. The caves are also home to spotted pythons Antaresia maculosa and a variety of insects and spiders. Fossilised bones of many animals, including those of the extinct giant kangaroo, have been found in the caves.

    Aboriginal paintings are protected in the park. The Chillagoe Smelters site preserves relics of the State's mining and industrial heritage dating back to the 1890s.

    Read more about the nature, culture and history of Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park.

    Video transcript

    Discover Chillagoe, a region rich in geological wonders, colourful history and natural beauty. Located just west of the Atherton Tablelands, it is a picturesque three hour drive from Cairns and easily accessible via conventional vehicle. Or, for the more adventurous, longer routes via Undara or Herberton, offer more intimate experiences of the outback for four-wheel drive owners.

    Originally settled as a prosperous mining community in the early 1900s, Chillagoe is now best known as the home to some of the most iconic and breathtaking limestone cave systems in Australia. Informative ranger guided tours operate daily all year round with the school holidays being particularly busy, so booking early with “The Hub”, Chillagoe’s informative visitor centre, is advisable.

    Formed from ancient seabeds and coral reefs, 400 million years ago, Chillagoe’s limestone now stands tall as distinctively weathered bluffs, or towers, in the timeless and haunting landscape.

    Below ground, the slowly dissolving limestone has created spectacular caverns and passages, decorated with stalagmites, stalactites and other fascinating formations that have to be seen to be believed. The caving experience has been further enhanced with artistic lighting and sophisticated walkways to create an ambience and emotional inspiration that will last a lifetime.

    Exploring the limestone landscapes above ground offers an easy but memorable hiking experience for those wishing to take a short, but rugged walking track to the dramatic Balancing Rock. This vista offers a perfect photo opportunity, and a chance to closely experience the flora and fauna with a remarkable range of inland birdlife, including blue-winged kookaburras, red-tailed black cockatoos and blue-faced honeyeaters.

    Before you leave Chillagoe, make sure you stop at the historic Chillagoe Smelter ruins, a significant part of early Northern Queensland’s thriving development and prosperity. There are self-guided walking tracks with informative signs, along with perfectly placed viewing sites. And while you are there, if you have the time, don’t miss the chance to experience an outback sunset, with all the colour, grandeur and epic panorama the Chillagoe region has to offer…

    Looking after the park

    • Visit respectfully. Rock art sites are irreplaceable and easily damaged. Please avoid raising dust and never touch the rock imagery.
    • Never touch cave formations. Natural acids in your skin damage the cave decorations.
    • Place rubbish in the bins provided. Where there are no bins, please take your rubbish with you.
    • Avoid interfering with or feeding native animals—it can affect their health.
    • Domestic animals are not permitted in national parks.
    • Keep on the walking tracks at all times.
    • Everything in the park is protected. Please leave everything as you found it.

    See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

    Park management

    Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park is managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for the enjoyment of visitors and the conservation of our natural and cultural heritage. Cave tours are operated by rangers to help visitors understand and appreciate the spectacular cave systems protected within the park.

    The Chillagoe Smelters are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register, representing the themes of ‘Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land' and 'Building settlements, towns, cities and dwellings’. A restricted access area (PDF, 2.0MB) has been declared over the Chillagoe Smelters to protect public safety.

    Tourism information links

    Chillagoe Hub Information Centre
    21–23 Queen Street, Chillagoe QLD 4871
    Ph: (07) 4094 7111
    Email: ChillagoeCaveBooking@des.qld.gov.au

    Opening hours: 8:00am to 3:30pm every day except Christmas Day.

    For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

    • The natural, cultural and historical significance of Chillagoe

    • The Chillagoe Smelters is located about 2.3km from Chillagoe. Information includes historical and technical information about aspects of the smelter, safety and a self-guided map.

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.