Chillagoe; a hugely under rated town

Some destinations have to be seen to be believed, and although we had a number of recommendations to head out to Chillagoe, we still very nearly didn’t go, and we’d have missed out on a location that was nothing short of staggering.

Chillagoe Archways Cave
Chillagoe blew us away on so many different levels, starting with the Archways Cave
Chillagoe Weir
Then, the water holes that are incredibly picturesque and clear

We’d just come back from the top of Cape York, and had spent a couple of nights around Mareeba, enjoying the many attractions. We were either going to continue south, or take a decent detour out to Chillagoe, and with the extra drive, limited free camping options there and back, we were questioning whether it was worth it.

We decided to head out anyway, and as it turns out, Chillagoe is one of the most under-rated places I’ve ever been to.

Chillagoe Paradise Pool
Chillagoe is such an under-rated location

Where is Chillagoe?

You’ll find this small town around 140km West of Mareeba, along the Burke Developmental Road. There are a couple of places you can camp along the way, but the first free camp we looked at wasn’t overly amazing, and the second one was beautiful, but taken by other campers.

Clohesy River Road
We left the beautiful Mareeba area to head inland to Chillagoe

Is the road bitumen all the way?

The bitumen road has virtually been finished, with only a short, 2km section of gravel that is in great condition.

Driving to Chillagoe
The newly finished bitumen road is fantastic

What’s at Chillagoe?

The most well known attraction is the Chillagoe Caves, and for good reason. There’s a substantial number of them, with some being open to the public for viewing at your leisure, and others open only for ranger, guided tours.

The Archways Cave
Chillagoe is most well known for its caves, and they’re magnificent
Guided ranger tour at Chillagoe
Some of the caves, like Donna are only done with ranger guided tours
Pompeii Cave at Chillagoe
Others are self guided, and you’ll need a sense of adventure and a head torch

There’s a heap of history here, with an old mine and smelter, and the water holes are nothing short of spectacular. We’ve been to some truly magic places to swim in Australia, and the Chillagoe Weir, Paradise Pool and Bogey Hole are up there with the best.

Chillagoe Smelter remains
The remains of a once booming mining town
Paradise Pool at Chillagoe was unreal
The creek at Chillagoe was astoundingly beautiful and the perfect swimming place

Chillagoe is a small town, with two caravan parks, a hotel, pub and a few other small shops. There is a mining camp out of town that is active, but other than this is a really quiet country town, and I can’t believe there aren’t more tourists visiting.

Chillagoe is a small town
This is a peaceful, quiet and beautiful country town

Where can you camp?

One of the reasons we were apprehensive about visiting Chillagoe was the limited options for camping. There are two caravan parks, and no other camping options nearby excluding the Chillagoe Cockatoo Hotel (where you can camp out the back for free, but need to be self contained).

We spent a night at the Chillagoe Tourist Park, which was reasonable, but $42 for our small family. We then moved to the Chillagoe Cockatoo Hotel, which was fantastic, and we enjoyed a great meal to support their endeavours. The other caravan park got a call, but the lady who answered wasn’t overly friendly, so we gave them a miss.

Camped at Chillagoe Tourist Park
We spent a night at Chillagoe Tourist Park before going to the Chillagoe Cockatoo Hotel

How long do you need?

There’s a lot to see around Chillagoe, but its all very close together. You could drive out for the day, but you’d miss a heap, and I reckon 2 nights is probably good for most travellers. We did 3, just to slow things down a bit and really enjoy ourselves, and were pretty happy with the timeframe.

Chillagoe Caves sign
There’s a lot to see around Chillagoe, but its pretty close together
Balancing Rock at Chillagoe
The Balancing Rock at Chillagoe, which is quite well known

Take a visit to Chillagoe

I love being surprised in a good way, and Chillagoe exceeded my expectations so many times over. The archways Cave is truly phenomenal, and the river around the Chillagoe Weir are so clear, picturesque and beautiful that I was actually shocked.

Enjoying the Archways Cave
The Archways Cave was truly fantastic
Great swimming at the Chillagoe Weir
The Chillagoe Weir is one of the nicest places we’ve swum

Paradise pool reminds me so much of Running Waters, which is one of the most beautiful places to swim in WA, and if you are wondering whether you should visit Chillagoe or not, absolutely put it on the list. I said to Sarah I’d visit just for the water holes that are magic, but the caves are nothing short of staggering, and you are mad if you skip this place.

Country towns that are inland often get missed, and we were guilty of considering skipping it, but I’m so glad we didn’t. 

Paradise Pool is beautiful
Paradise Pool is so similar to Running Waters in the Pilbara
Chillagoe views from the Slag Pile Lookout
Do yourself a favour, and head to Chillagoe

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Hey Alex,

    We were so pleased we made the effort. It well and truly exceeded our expectations, and we feel like we should spend more time in less well known spots.

    I’d be keen to see more of the remote spots, and we’re considering doing the inland part of the East Coast next year

    Cheers, and take care

  2. Alex Langley says:

    Great that you got to Chillagoe. Couldn’t agree more that it is an absolutely fantastic destination with a fascinating, visible and accessible history. You can easily spend an extended period there. The caves, and the outcropping fossil reefs are, as you say, very special (I can watch the butterflies that are sometimes around the cave mouths for ages). It is also a great jump off point for some truly remote exploration.