Meg Forbes is a mum, freelance writer, and photographer living in the Redlands, South of Brisbane.
Published May 25th 2020
Explore caves formed from ancient coral reefs
Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, less than 3 hours drive west of Cairns in Far North Queensland, includes limestone bluffs, spectacular caves, fossils, Aboriginal cultural heritage such as rock art, and settler heritage such as historic mining smelters.
A limestone bluff in Chillagoe-Mungana National Park
We found the road from Cairns to Chillagoe to be excellent and included a drive over the beautiful Atherton Tablelands. As we approached, we were awed to see the limestone bluffs begin to appear along the side of the road.
A limestone bluff creating a cave in Chillagoe-Mungana National Park
These limestone bluffs are in fact ancient coral reefs, although they are constantly being eroded by rain. This creates beautiful fluting on the outside and this curly "cave coral" on cave walls and overhangs.
At one of the carparks for a self-guided cave walk, there is even a rock being polished by car tyres that has fossils visible on it! The natural history of the entire area was fascinating, and our kids came away from the trip with volumes of new knowledge.
Self-guided cave walk with a rock with fossils in the carpark foreground
In addition to self-guided walks, visitors can usually book ranger guided tours, although a date for these resuming after the Covid-19 pandemic has yet to be announced. Guided tours can be booked for Donna, Trezkinn, and Royal Arch caves through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service's Hub in the town of Chillagoe. These tours are excellent, and we also found the Hub worth visiting in its own right with loads of interesting displays about the formation and history of the Mungana Caves area.
While the caves may be the stars of the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, there are a number of other aspects of natural beauty for visitors to look out for. Wildlife such as blue-winged kookaburras can be seen here, as well as fresh water crocodiles. Locals told us that this waterway named "Bogey Hole" was ideal for cooling off in, before telling us in the next breath that a woman had recently been nipped on the legby a "freshie". As inviting as the pools looked, we decided to give swimming in them a miss.
Bogey Hole, a favourite swimming spot for local people and freshwater crocodiles alike
If you intend visiting the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, it is best to visit after the summer wet season when it is hot, humid, and apparently, saltwater crocodiles may also be seen. Camping, guest house, and hotel accommodation are available in Chillagoe, so the town is a perfect base to explore the national park from.
As always when travelling through remote regions, it is a good idea to let someone know that you are travelling and when they should expect to hear from you by, as well as to carry more drinking water than you expect to need for the trip. With Queensland slowly opening up again to tourism, and Queenslanders being asked to support the tourism industry in our own state, it may soon be the ideal time to visit this beautiful and remote national park.
Keep safe when visiting the beautiful Chillagoe-Mungana National Park