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. 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 inhabitants. The region however failed to live up to its promise and millions were lost in the inevitable bust. The smelter staggered on until the 1940s when it was abandoned.
Today the town is based on tourism. If it’s the mining history that brought you out, head for the museum. Wander through well interpreted sites and don’t forget to include the town cemetery in your walks.
Mining is not the only option, 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 town. The caves feature spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites. 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.
If you have transport, head west out of town for 14 kilometres and you’ll find The Archways, another stunning limestone feature.
The best source of up to date information about tours, sites and walks is The Hub in Chillagoe.
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