Chillagoe & Dimbulah
Limestone Caves | Historic Sites | The Wheelbarrow Way
- Chillagoe Limestone Caves
- Mungana Ruins & Self Guided Caves
- Walsh River
- Crystalbrook Lodge
Chillagoe is a genuine Outback town with fascinating attractions and abundant wildlife and is easily accessed by conventional vehicles via the Wheelbarrow Way which starts at Mareeba. This route was named after the gold mining pioneers who trudged out bearing their worldly goods in a wheelbarrow. An annual footrace with wheelbarrows commemorates this along the Way each May.
When you arrive in town you will instantly notice the tall chimney at the ruins of the old smelter which is iconic to Chillagoe. Entry is free and there is a Viewing Platform and car park on a high vantage point with informative plaques. A great photo shoot opportunity and fascinating information is revealed on how the pioneers toiled it in those days.
Today there are many historic surviving points of interest to be explored at your own leisure. See the Railway Station, Bank Vault, Court House, Police Museum, Post Office & Post Office Hotel.
There is so much to see and do that to fully experience, go back in time and immerse yourself in the history of Chillagoe a two nights stay is recommended. See Where to Stay | Chillagoe
AVIS and Budget car rental allow their conventional vehicles to drive to Chillagoe – but not further westward beyond Chillagoe.
After the goldrush, Chillagoe’s population grew to thousands in a new mining boom however the much anticipated mother load of copper did not materialise and the state government took control of the smelter until production ceased in 1943. The ore smelter was never reused and is now a drive-around museum complete with interpretive storyboards. The town fell into a state of decline and would have surely vanished if it were not for the employment created by the caves and cattle.
Geology and Caves
Chillagoe was once the site of an ancient coral reef but today the coral has been transformed into massive limestone bluffs containing over 560 known caves, the largest having over 11kms of passages. Caves range from open and airy to dark and scary and are heavily decorated with stalactites and stalagmites. At the extremities of these bluffs, volcanic activity has created colourful marble and rich mineral deposits.
Dimbulah, the gateway to the goldfields, sprang up on the Walsh River to service the ore trains. Once mining faded, cropping became the focus and today you’ll see lush sugar cane, mango and lychee plantations here. Follow the signs from here to the fascinating experience of Tyrconnell Historic Gold Mine. Almaden, Petford and Emuford are all linked by the Etheridge railway line which welcomes the Savannahlander train on its weekly run from Cairns via Almaden and Mt Surprise to Forsayth.
Petford, the junction of the road from Herberton, was originally called Wadetown and known widely as a watering hole for the miners of the day. Climb the range to the remains of the 100 year old Lappa Pub, another famed stopover of old! On entering the Chillagoe region, a dramatic landscape created by massive limestone bluffs and rock formations greets travelers.
Crystalbrook Lodge is in remote outback bush 100klms west of Mareeba and is part of the 85,000 arce Crystalbrook Station. This oasis of luxury is perched over a 300 acre lake, home to waterbirds, freshwater crocodiles and fish. For more information, visit www.crystalbrooklodge.com.au