- Getting there and getting around
- Park features
- Camping and accommodation
- Things to do
- Things to know before you go
- Staying safe
- Looking after the park
- Park management
- Tourism information links
- Further information
Cave decorations in Donna Cave. Photo: Queensland Government.
Chillagoe Smelters. Photo: Queensland Government.
Chillagoe is 215km west of Cairns, around 3hrs drive. It can be accessed from the northern end of the Atherton Tableland via Mareeba and Dimbulah. The road is sealed to Almaden. Over the final 32km of road there are both sealed and unsealed sections. Chillagoe can also be accessed from the southern end of the Atherton Tableland via Herberton, although there are more unsealed sections along this route. Conventional vehicle access is possible in dry weather but roads may be impassable in the summer wet season.
Another route to Chillagoe leads from Undara National Park. From Undara drive west along the Gulf Developmental Road for 30km towards Mount Surprise, then follow the narrow and unsealed Ootaan Road for 140km to its junction with the Bourke Developmental Road, near Almaden. This route takes about 3hrs and four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended. See the Department of Transport and Main Roads website for information about road and travel conditions.
A bus service operates from Cairns and Mareeba to Chillagoe and charter flights operate from Cairns.
Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park is spread over the Chillagoe area with five main access points (see below). All distances are from The Hub Information Centre in Chillagoe.
Royal Arch Cave car park
The Royal Arch Cave car park is about 6km from Chillagoe. Follow Queen Street across Chillagoe Creek before turning left where signposted onto Bolwarra Road. Travel a further 4.3km along a gravel road to the car park.
Donna Cave car park
Donna, Trezkinn, Pompeii and Bauhinia caves can be accessed from the Donna Cave car park, 1.8km from Chillagoe. Follow Frew Street to the edge of town before crossing a cattle grid near Chillagoe Cattle Station. Follow the signs to the car park.
Mungana Archways car park
The Archways is located near Mungana, 17km west of Chillagoe. From Chillagoe, follow Queen Street across Chillagoe Creek and continue on the Burke Developmental Road. Travel 15km and turn right again where signposted. Drive a further 2km along a gravel track to reach the car park. The road will pass the Mungana Aboriginal art site along the way.
Balancing Rock car park
Balancing Rock car park is 2.5km from Chillagoe. Drive along Frew Street to the edge of town before crossing a cattle grid near Chillagoe Cattle Station. From here the route is well signposted.
The Chillagoe Smelters are 2.3km from town. Follow Queen Street across Chillagoe Creek before turning right where signposted. Discover the history of the smelters by following the road to the elevated viewing area that overlooks the historic site. No facilities are provided at this site.
The Chillagoe Smelters is a restricted access area and entry is prohibited. This is a former industrial site—the area is unstable and contains asbestos and other toxic contaminants. Serious injury, disease or death could result from entering this area.
No wheelchair-accessible facilities are provided in Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park.
Decorations in Trezkinn Cave. Photo: Tamara Vallance.
Limestone has been weathered, dissolved and re-formed by water to create spectacular caverns and passages, decorated by stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones.
Some 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.
Camping is not permitted in Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park.
Motel, hotel, caravan park and camping accommodation is available in the Chillagoe township. A range of accommodation and camping is also available on the Atherton Tableland (about 110km east of Chillagoe). For more information see the tourism information links.
Enjoy a walk to Balancing Rock. Photo: Queensland Government.
View the cave decoration in the form of the Madonna in Donna Cave. Photo: Queensland Government.
The 'chandelier' is a feature of Trezkinn Cave. Photo: Tamara Vallance.
Bats can be seen in the caves. Photo: Frank Harrison.
Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park offers walking opportunities ranging from 440m to 9km. The times are calculated for people of average fitness who are wearing the correct footwear. If you are walking with young children or have below average fitness, allow more time. Carry a water container, especially in the summer time.
Balancing Rock track (Grade: moderate)
Distance: 440m return
Details: From the Balancing Rock car park a rough track climbs up a rock formation, providing views of Balancing Rock—a spectacular limestone outcrop. Take a moment to enjoy the view and photograph the surrounding open woodlands.
Donna car park to Balancing Rock car park (Grade: easy)
Distance: 2km return
Details: The Balancing Rock track can also be accessed from the Donna Cave car park, 1.8km from Chillagoe. Meander through open woodland featuring eucalypts and ironwoods. Listen for the 'kook-kook-kook' as kookaburras 'laugh' from above and look for agile wallabies and wallaroos seeking shelter from the heat.
Royal Arch track (Grade: easy)
Distance: 9km return
Details: From Balancing Rock car park, 2.5km south of Chillagoe, the Royal Arch track passes the Wullumba Aboriginal rock art site. This pleasant walk then winds past several striking limestone outcrops called tower karsts—features of world scientific interest.
As you cross Chillagoe Creek, notice the huge paperbark trees lining its banks. The track continues through open woodland featuring bloodwoods, Cooktown ironwoods, tea-trees and grevilleas.
At the Royal Arch bluff—an imposing jagged limestone outcrop rising abruptly from the surrounding woodland—the vegetation changes again. Here you will find scrubby deciduous plants such as native bauhinias and helicopter trees.
Exploring the caves
Visitors can explore the caves on ranger-guided cave tours or through self-guided cave tours.
- Find out more about ranger-guided cave tours.
To ensure a safe visit to the self-guided caves, visitors must be well prepared and responsible for their own safety.
The Archways (Grade: easy)
Distance: 220m return
Details: This self-guided cave commences at the Mungana Archways car park. Follow the rock-strewn track through deciduous vine thicket as you explore this semi-open cave. Skinks (small lizards) dart across open spaces to find refuge in the rocks. Common crow butterflies flutter in the shade of the rock walls. Torches are required.
Pompeii Cave (Grade: difficult)
Distance: 600m return
Details: Pompeii Cave can be accessed from the Donna Cave car park, 1.8km south of Chillagoe. From the car park, a well-formed track with many steps leads through deciduous vine forest to Pompeii Cave—a cleft in the rock filled with large boulders, the remnants of a previous collapse.
Inside this small cave, look for bats sleeping high in dark crevices and rock-wallabies hopping from boulder to boulder. A short but steep climb to the bottom reveals a dark passage and some attractive formations. Be careful not to walk on or touch cave decorations such as flowstone or cave coral. Torches are required.
Bauhinia Cave (Grade: difficult)
Distance: 300m return
Details: Bauhinia Cave is accessed from the Donna Cave car park, 1.8km south of Chillagoe. From the car park a short walk brings you to the entrance of Bauhinia Cave. You enter the cave via a dark, narrow crevice requiring a steep scramble down large boulders. In this small cave, look for interesting cave decorations such as cave coral—be careful not to damage these brittle formations. Torches are required.
Picnic and day use areas
Picnic tables are provided at Donna Cave, Royal Arch Cave and Balancing Rock car parks, and at the Mungana Aboriginal art site.
More than 75 bird species have been recorded around Chillagoe including pale-headed rosellas Platycercus adscitus, apostle birds Struthidea cinerea and blue-faced honeyeaters Entomyzon cyanotis. Listen for the Torresian crow's Corvus orru raucous call drifting across the woodland in the heat of the day.
Many agile wallabies Macropus agilis live in the surrounding woodland and can easily be seen along the walking track, especially around dusk. The larger wallaroos are also common. Look for rock-wallabies around rocky outcrops.
In the caves, look for several types of insectivorous bats including eastern bent-wing bats Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis and the common sheathtail bats Taphozous georgianus. White-rumped swiftlets Aerodramus terraereginae can be seen circling over the limestone towers. Similar in appearance to swallows, they nest in the complete darkness of the caves in colonies of about 50, between November and February. Swiftlets use echolocation to navigate in the darkness. They are very sensitive to disturbance in their nesting chambers. Avoid disturbing bat and swiftlet colonies at all times.
- See the description of the park's natural environment for more details about Chillagoe-Mungana's diverse wildlife.
Other things to do
Drive to the visitor viewing area which overlooks this historical site. Discover the highly colourful mining history of the area. Copper, lead, silver and gold were extracted here for a period of more than 40 years—the site preserves relics of the State's mining and industrial heritage dating back to the 1890s. This industrial site includes pits, tanks and contaminants. The Chillagoe Smelters site has been declared a restricted access area and entry is prohibited. Keep within the elevated viewing area and car park and stay on the walking tracks at all times. Read more about visiting the Chillagoe Smelters.
View Aboriginal rock art
There are some Aboriginal rock art galleries found in the area but most are accessible only on foot. At Mungana, a small gallery is located 1.2km along the gravel road to The Archways. Another gallery, the Wullumba art site, is a short walk from the Balancing Rock car park, 2.5km from Chillagoe.
Essentials to bring
Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit. Make sure that you bring:
- sturdy non-slip shoes for walking on rough or slippery surfaces
- a hat and sunscreen
- insect repellent
- water container
- torches for exploring the self-guided caves
- protective clothing—the limestone rock has sharp edges, so protective clothing is advisable. Cave temperatures are approximately 22°C, so warm clothing is not necessary while in the caves.
Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park is open year-round, although roads may be impassable in the wet season (December to March). Ranger-guided cave tours to Donna, Trezkinn and Royal Arch caves operate daily—except Christmas Day. Access to these three caves is only possible on a ranger-guided cave tour.
A restricted access area has been declared over the Chillagoe Smelters site; access beyond the fenced area is prohibited.
Fees apply to ranger-guided cave tours—see ranger-guided cave tours.
Permits are required for commercial or organised group activities. See park permits and policies web pages for further information.
Domestic animals are not permitted in Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park.
Climate and weather
There are two seasons in the Chillagoe area—the wet season from December to the end of March, and the dry season from April until November. The mean annual rainfall is 850mm. Summer (wet season) temperatures usually range from 25°C to 35°C. October and November can be very hot and dry while the winter months from May until August can be cool at night. Thunderstorms and rain depressions at the end of November usually herald the approaching wet season. For more information see the tourism information links.
Fuel and supplies
Fuel, mechanical repairs and supplies are available at Chillagoe. For more information see the tourism information links.
To enjoy a safe visit to Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, visitors must be well prepared and responsible for their own safety.
- Always take at least two torches when visiting self-guided caves and never cave alone.
- Inform someone of your itinerary including starting and finishing times.
- Take care on loose, uneven and steep sections of tracks and caves, especially when wet.
- Always carry water, wear a hat and sturdy footwear and try to walk in the cooler part of the day.
- Supervise children closely.
- Wear protective clothing and insect repellent to protect yourself from stings, scratches and bites.
- Observe the Chillagoe Smelters site from the viewing area—do not enter the restricted access area.
For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.
- 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.
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 has been declared over the Chillagoe Smelters to protect public safety.
Opening hours: 8:00am to 3:30pm every day except Christmas Day.
For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.