Where to Go?
More in our Where to Go Series.
This time we headed out to Chillagoe to explore the caves
So we packed up this weekend and went camping with some family friends. We went out to Chillagoe and checked out the caves, the Ford Museum and Balancing Rock.
Day 1 – We spent getting ready for our trip. Most of our stuff lives in the camper full time but we still had to clean out the fridge in the back of Doug’s car, buy some food, find some camp chairs (Doug’s broke on the last trip) and just grab some of the other things we had run out of. So we left just after lunch and got to the caravan park at about 4pm ish… Our friends had been there since about lunch time so had spent the afternoon exploring the surrounding area. Once we got the camper set up we took the kids for a swim in the caravan park and then headed out for tea. We had tea at the pub on the main street in town and as its not high tourist season there was a limited menu but we all found something to eat quite easily and the kids had a great time playing on the playground while we waited. Man it is flaming hot in Chillagoe the temperatures while we were here were highs of about 39 with lows overnight of around 20. It certainly made us glad we went with the air conditioned model. We only use the air con during the night, and this weekend we ran it at around the 18 degree mark so that everyone got a good nights sleep. The kids also liked to play in the camper while we were cooking dinner etc with the air con on. But we generally don’t let that happen too often.
Day 2 – saw us do the National Parks cave tours. First up was Donna Cave (1hr), this was the kids first experience at caving and after a few minor melt downs we had 2 very excited explorers. The ranger suggests that the cave got its name from one of the formations in the caves that looks like the Madonna. You will also see the fairy grotto in the Donna Cave. There are many steep ramps and steep flights of stairs (about 440 steps in total) on the Donna Cave tour, including 52 steps to climb from the car park to the meeting point at the Donna Cave shelter shed. Inside the cave, about half of the 283 steps are steep, including 33 very steep ladder-type steps where most people choose to turn around and descend backwards, and a steep 34-step spiral staircase to climb at the exit that may be challenging to those afraid of heights. There are several low overhangs including a section where visitors need to walk crouched for about 12 metres (1.1m at the lowest point). The National Parks have some amazing guides that seem to know everything that there is to know about the cave systems around Chillagoe. After we finished the first tour we did some self guided tours of the other 2 caves in the area both the Pompeii and Bauhinia. We had a lot more success with the Pompeii Cave as it is quite light and easy to see where you are going. The kids got all the way to the bottom and felt very proud of themselves for achieving this.
Guided tour number 2 was of the Trezkinn Cave (30-45mins) it has around 520 steps for this one Inside the cave, nearly all of the 272 steps are steep, including 46 very steep ladder-type steps where most people choose to turn around and descend backwards. The start of the tour includes descending 83 almost continuous steep steps, including 18 steps which are in a 40cm narrow passage with no hand rails. On the way back out of the cave, these 83 steps have to be climbed without much of a break in between flights of stairs. There are two low overhangs where visitors must duck to go under, and a place where the wall juts out above the path. Taller people might bump their heads on these overhangs. In my opinion this is the prettiest of the caves with some of the nicer formations of cave coral and the beautiful chandelier formation.
After we finished the tour of the Trezkinn cave we headed back to the caravan park for some lunch. The Chillagoe Tourist Village is very basic. It has your choice of caravan and camper sites both powered and non powered. It also has tent sites, air conditioned cabins and 4 family style ensuite units. There is a bush style fully licensed restaurant which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The park is clean and tidy it has a pool but no playground. It is a great little outback park.
After lunch we headed out to our last tour of the day the Royal Arch Cave (1.5hrs). There are about 385 steps in this one and inside there are about 23 steep ladder style steps. The Royal Arch takes you through passages and 11 chambers in one of the largest cave systems in the area. This cave has some of the largest chambers in all of the cave tours. It also has a section called weight watchers as it is very narrow and a small area called the laundry chute where you need to crawl trough on your belly turn around in the middle and descend a 1m drop out of the other end. This is optional and everyone but myself went through this bit including all the kids.
After we finished the cave tour the kids were all busting for a swim so we popped on back to the caravan park and jumped
in the water for a swim.
Day 3 was pack up day. We got out of bed relatively early had pancakes for breakfast and packed up the camper. First stop today was the Tom Prior Ford Museum. Tom has quite a number of Ford cars and Trucks on his property that he lets you have a look at for a $5 donation per adult. He has a wealth of knowledge on the cars and trucks he owns. The highlight of the museum for most is the Mustang or the 1970 XW GT Falcon Sedan. You can see a short ABC Landline video of his museum here – https://www.facebook.com/LandlineABC/videos/10160191102675411/
The next stop for the day was out to the Chillagoe Smelter where you can see the ruins of the Smelter from a lookout and read the information boards that they have set up. On to the last of our self guided cave tours. The Archways, we spent a bit of time exploring this cave system. A lot of which is very open and easily accessible. There are some areas where a torch comes in handy if you want to get more adventurous but you can easily keep to where it is light and open. The kids loved choosing which way to go and crawling through the spots mum and dad were to big to fit through. Once we had finished exploring the Archways we popped back to the caravan park for an ice cream and then headed out to our last stop to have a look at the Balancing rock. The kids took some photos where they were pretending to try and push it over and we were then destined for home. We did drive past the weir and stopped to have a look at the Aboriginal rock art near the Balancing rock and near the Archways caves. Then once we had done all of those things we were headed for home. We had a great trip home and arrived in Cairns at about 5pm. All in all a great weekend!