The story of Chillagoe starts a very long time ago, 400 million years ago in fact. Limestone was deposited as calcareous mud and coral reefs on a shallow sea bed that covered the Chillagoe area. Over time, the limestone was folded and tilted by movements in the Earth’s crust and eroded by water to form grand vertical formations called karsts. The underground limestone was slowly dissolved away to form underground caverns and tunnels and redeposited to form cave decorations such as stalactites and stalagmites.
Evidence suggests that the Aboriginal people first inhabited Chillagoe about 37,000 years ago. The rock art of the Aboriginal people adorns the Chillagoe-Mungana caves and, through extensive research, suggests that four Indigenous groups occupied the area and that cultural and trade ties existed within the region.
European settlement occurred during the mid-1800’s. William Atherton, son of the famous North Queensland pioneer, John Atherton established a cattle station in the area in the 1870’s. He was inspired to name the town Chillagoe from an old sea shanty “ikey, cryke, psyke, mikey, Chillagoe wallabodorie”. Having one of the most diverse geologies in the world, Chillagoe’s modern history was shaped by the extraction and processing of various minerals such as gold, silver, copper and lead. To this day marble and zinc continued to be mined.
The Chillagoe landscape is covered in dry tropical woodland scattered with islands of deciduous vine thicket clinging to limestone outcrops. A variety of extraordinary fauna reside in the woodlands including kangaroos, wallabies, blue-face honeyeaters, blue-winged kookaburras, red-winged parrots, red-tailed black cockatoos and tommy roundhead lizards. The limestone caves are home to an array of bat species, swiftlets, pythons and snails.
So if you wish to get a taste of the outback and to spur your sense of exploration and discovery, all within a short drive from Cairns, then Chillagoe is your destination. Although small in size and population, Chillagoe is not short of a character and boasts a plethora of geological landscapes, flora and fauna as well as indigenous and heritage mining sites steeped with stories of days gone past. To find out more about all the things to see & do in Chillagoe