Chillagoe - Mungana Caves National Park
We had multiple Aussies tell us there’s nothing in Chillagoe. If by nothing you mean epic rock formations, gorgeous desert sunsets, spelunking, and a turquoise swimming hole, then yeah, there’s nothing here... Luckily our road trip buddy Rocky flagged this spot after seeing it on Instagram, so we knew there was something worth visiting in this Outback Queensland town!
We got to Chillagoe in the early afternoon and had a picnic at Bogey Hole, a swimming area just outside of town (see below). Rocky recommended we explore Balanced Rock at sunset, and so far these photos are some of our favourites from the entire trip! I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
If you're in need of a cool-down in Chillagoe (which you will be, even in winter it was hot!), take the 2 minute drive off the main road to Bogey Hole. This little oasis looks small but has enough waterfalls and Tarzan ropes to entertain everyone. There's a picnic table in the parking lot and another next to the water, but bring your mosquito repellent!
There are 3 self-guided caves in the park. 2 of them are right by the ranger-guided caves, perfect to kill some time while you wait. Drive to the Donna Cave car park, and follow the paved sidewalk until it ends. Don't forget your headlamps!
The furthest cave is Pompeii, with a short scramble into a large cavern full of boulders.
Climb to the bottom and into a low squeeze if you dare!
Bauhinia Cave is a steep, slippery scramble down a narrow chute with a few large caverns below.
The 3rd self-guided cave is a bit further out of town, so we didn't stop by this time around.
Ranger-Guided Cave Tours
Ranger-guided cave tours run daily to Donna, Trezkinn and Royal Arch caves. Tickets must be purchased from The Hub in the Chillagoe township. It's about $30 for adult entry to one of the caves. We arrived the day before and were only able to book Trezkinn. If you're coming during the busy season, we'd recommend calling ahead. Collect your tickets at The Hub and arrive on time to meet your ranger.
No headlamps are necessary, as the caves are lit by electrical lighting. Trezkinn went down a steep, narrow shaft with quite a few steps before opening up into a large cavern with intricate formations.
The ranger gave us some background on the cave. To be honest, the narrative wasn't the best but seeing the cave was worth the money.
We'd recommend booking at least one guided tour while you're here, because everything else is free!
Getting to Chillagoe
A little under 3 hours from Cairns, Chillagoe is the perfect detour if you're looking to spend a few days in Outback Queensland. The tropical scenery turns to dry brush before Mareeba. There's not a lot out this way, but make sure if you do take the trip, stop at Granite Gorge, a private nature park with a swimming hole and the cutest little rock wallabies you've ever had the pleasure of meeting!
Admission is $12 for adults, and camping is an additional $6. Stop at the camp office to sign in, and they'll give you a trail map.
Be warned that the road out to Chillagoe is not entirely sealed. We did fine in our big RV, but a ute would be recommended. There's not much in Chillagoe itself, but there are 2 general stores and a few pubs. Definitely visit if you're in Cairns and looking for a taste of Outback Queensland!