MAREEBA to CHILLAGOE
Mareeba Shire is the second largest and most varied shire in the State, with pristine rainforests at Kuranda meeting rich fertile plains above the coastal ranges. From Mareeba, the historic 'Wheelbarrow Way' winds through the area's pioneering goldrush towns to Chillagoe. This fascinating drive is a mere 140 kilometres, but you will find yourself on the sunburnt edge of Australia's arid Northern Outback.
FOR ALL THE BEST LOCAL ATTRACTIONS, ACCOMMODATION AND DINING AREAS IN THIS REGION, USE THE LINKS ABOVE OR SCROLL DOWN. TO OPEN AN INTERACTIVE MAP OF THE ATHERTON TABLELANDS IN A SEPARATE SMALLER WINDOW, CLICK HERE.
MAREEBAMareeba itself is a hub for travellers heading north to Cooktown and Cape York, west to the Outback or south to explore the towns, villages and hamlets of the Atherton Tablelands. The town's name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning 'meeting of the waters', since it is here that the mighty Barron River meets Emerald and Granite Creeks.
Mareeba's distinctive flavour is due in part to a rich multicultural heritage. Prior to European settlement, Mareeba was a meeting place for the Kuku Muluridji Aboriginal people. When gold was discovered on the Palmer River, a great population boom followed, including a large percentage of Chinese miners. In fact, on many of the goldfields around the Atherton Tablelands region, also known as the Cairns Highlands, Chinese outnumbered Caucasians. In 1877 a pastoralist named John Atherton arrived with his herds of cattle to take up land in the area. John Atherton is revered as the founder of Mareeba. At that time, Mareeba was fast becoming a busy crossroads for coach transport between the coastal towns and the tin mines at Herberton. But it was when the railway reached the town in 1893 that Mareeba really flourished.
In the early 1900's, Mareeba attracted a large number of European migrant farmers, particularly Italians, who found the fertile soil perfect for growing high quality tobacco. At its peak, there were 800 growers in the area, producing over 8,000 tonnes of tobacco a year, sixty percent of the country's total yield. From 1942 to 1945 up to 10,000 Australian and US servicemen used Mareeba Airfield as a staging post for battles in New Guinea and the Pacific. Demand for tobacco was never higher, but changes in government policy in the 1990's caused the demise of the once thriving tobacco industry, and in order to survive, farmers have diversified into other crops such as tea trees, navy beans, sugar cane, cashews, vegetables and assorted tropical fruits. Modern day Mareeba has a population of approximately 8 000. Interestingly, Mareeba is also home to one of the oldest surviving continually used mosques in Queensland, built by Albanian immigrant farmers.
The fertile district around the town has gained a reputation as a food lovers' paradise, thanks to early migrant farmers who, in the 1950's, began channelling water from Lake Tinaroo, 37 kilometres away. Visitors have ample opportunity to sightsee nearby plantations, farms, wineries and distilleries as part of what has become known as the 'food trail'. The area is now responsible for 90% of Australia's coffee production, and visitors can sample some of the local brews, including macadamia flavoured coffee, right on the plantation. Also, there are wineries that make wines and liqueurs from banana, coffee, mango, lychee, jaboticaba, bush cherry, mulberry, star apple and passionfruit... just to name a few. You can visit Australia's largest mango plantation or taste the world's lowest acid, highest flavour pineapples, the 'Mareeba Gold', famous around the country. And if you fancy something a bit more substantial than fruit and coffee, you can sample the famous local freshwater crayfish or lobsters, known locally as 'red claw'.
Through its ideal climate of cool evenings, fine days (300 sunny days a year!) and clear mountain air, Mareeba has become the hot air ballooning capital of Australia. Every morning a colourful array of balloons rise above the landscape and then drift away with the breeze. If ballooning isn't exciting enough for you, there's scenic flights, helicopter tours, charter flights, and skydiving are all easily arranged.
But not only is Mareeba Australia's hot air ballooning capital, but also the coffee growing capital of Australia, with more than a dozen plantations in the area. Mareeba, thanks to its ideal climate conditions, produces more than 80 per cent of the nation's commercial coffee crop. And it has by far the most diverse collection of coffee harvesters anywhere in the world, many of which can be seen on display at the coffee plantations themselves.
SERVICES: Mareeba has a number of petrol stations in and around the town, two pubs, a supermarket, and numerous restaurants offering a range of cuisines. There is a local police station in town, a doctors surgery and pharmacies, a post office, public telephones, a bank with an ATM, and a public toilet at the Information Centre.
"Dad pushed a wheelbarrow in which were stacked all our belongings. A few pieces of iron which would be used as a shelter, maybe some hessian, a spade, a lantern, a few kitchen things and very little else. Mum and the children walked behind, Mum usually with babe in arms". Mr.Peel, an early settler in the Chillagoe region.
The 140 kilometre outback road that links Mareeba with Chillagoe is called the "Wheelbarrow Way". It was named in tribute to the pioneers who trudged the dusty track to Chillagoe in the late 1800's, after discoveries of gold were reported.
If you follow the Wheelbarrow Way inland from Mareeba to Chillagoe, you'll pass through a handful of tiny towns, barely dots on the map, but for the visitor these towns can provide a fascinating insight into rural life, and the history of the region. Mutchilba, just 34 kilometres west of Mareeba, is nothing more than a few homesteads, a shop, school, church and playground. But this is the heart of mango country, and every November the tiny township hosts the Mango Madness Mardi Gras.
A little further west is Dimbulah, once famous for tobacco growing and now for its teatree oil and mangoes. The area around Dimbulah was originally home to the Djankun and Kuku Djungan Aboriginal tribe. During the 1920's the Queensland government FORCIBLY REMOVED most of their children, forcing the tribe to scatter.
Now, you're in goldrush country, and if you have time to venture off the Wheelbarrow Way a little, the area to the north can be an enthralling trip into the history books, as well as offering some stunning natural scenery.
SERVICES: Dimbulah has three petrol stations, a pub, a supermarket, takeaway food, a butcher, baker, and candlestick-maker (just kidding). There is a hospital in town, and a post office. Public toilets are in the park opposite the supermerket.At the Hodgkinson goldfields, 27 kilometres north of Dimbulah, Tyrconnell Gold Mine has been lovingly restored and offers overnight accommodation in heritage cabins. You can tour the mine, and witness the 120-year-old quartz-crushing machine spring back to life. Panning for your own gold adds to the excitement of this trip. Take home a tiny bottle of colour, flecks, flakes and wee nuggets of gold gouged out of the ground, panned with your own bare hands. Station stays on the mammoth Mt Mulligan Station makes a fascinating holiday alternative, here horseback riding and bushwalking combine with your opportunity to evolve from a city slicker to cowboy and help with the cattle round-up, droving, drenching and branding.
A further 20 kilometres along the unsealed road will bring you to the ghost town of Mount Mulligan. Mount Mulligan was the scene of Queensland's worst MINING DISASTER, in 1921, when a series of explosions in the newly opened coal mine killed 75 men, rocking the close knit township. The local cemetery remains a poignant reminder of the disaster, as gravestones show fathers buried next to their sons, date of death 19/09/1921. The landscape around the town is dominated by the massive escarpment of Mt Mulligan, an 18 kilometre long sandstone monolith that rises to almost ten times the height of Uluru.
Back on the Wheelbarrow Way, about 40 kilometres past Dimbulah, is the single-digit-population settlement of Petford. Petford was a watering hole for miners during the boom, but all that remains now is a general store. Petford is however, home to famous authoress Mrs Doreen McGrath. Doreen's home is by the old Petford railway siding, and it is said that she welcomes visitors for a chat.
A few kilometres past Petford is Lappa Junction, famous as the home of Queensland's only PUB WITH NO BEER. The century old corrugated iron Espanol Hotel owes its existence to the railroad, which brought civilisation to the remote outback towns in the early 1900's when gold, copper and tin mining boomed. But the pub closed its doors when the railway was closed in 1965. It was restored in 1990, and these days operates strictly as a BYO (bring your own) establishment, also housing a collection of railway and mining equipment, old bottles and minerals, riding gear and household items.
The sealed road runs out at Almaden, thirty kilometres short of Chillagoe. Like so many other towns in the area, Almaden was established as a railway workers town in the late 1800's or early 1900's. The difference is that Almaden still boasts a pub, offering weary travellers a cold beer and a home made meat pie.
From Almaden, the road is unsealed. Although it is quite well formed and generally suitable for travel in conventional vehicles, we remind you that many car rental companies restrict the use of their vehicles to sealed roads. Check your contract, as you will not be covered by insurance if you breach your agreement.
The first sign of Chillagoe on the horizon will be the massive chimney of the now abandoned smelter. The smelter operated from the early 1900's and until it closed in 1943, treated 1.25 million tonnes of ore, yielding 60,000 tonnes of copper, 50,000 tonnes of lead, 181 tons of silver and 5 tonnes of gold. By World War One, Chillagoe was one of the largest metallurgical developments in Queensland, and at its peak in 1917, Chillagoe had a population of about 10,000 and boasted 13 hotels, two newspapers, and a hospital. But when the smelters closed, Chillagoe plunged into a decline from which it is only now starting to recover. Today the population fluctuates around 350 people, with a further 400 projected workers due to provide labour for the massive Kagarra Zinc mine.
But the big attraction in Chillagoe is the caves; a massive system of more than 600 caves, the only place in North Queensland that offers this kind of caving experience. The limestone bluffs and massive underground cave system are known as the "Reef of the Outback". The caves are the remains of coral that lived in the inland sea covering this area about 450 million years ago. The National Parks Authority conduct tours with experienced guides many times daily. The caves are always much cooler than the outside air temperature, remaining at a constant 23 degrees Celsius.
SERVICES: Chillagoe has a range of restaurants, cafes and takeaways, a general store and a pub. There is a police station in town, and a hospital and post office. Public toilets are located at the Hub information centre (see listing below) and at the Town Hall.Sadly, Chillagoe is still largely remembered for its involvement in the MUNGANA AFFAIR
ATTRACTIONS AND THINGS TO DO - MAREEBA TO CHILLAGOE
BILLY TEA SAFARIS
Phone (07) 4032 0077
Fax (07) 4032 0055
We carry travellers..... not tourists!!
Billy Tea Safaris is an Advanced Eco Accredited Operator specialising in small tours *maximum SIXTEEN passengers* per custom built high clearance 4WD vehicle with extra-large viewing windows.
Family owned business for 36 years which runs 4WD personalised day tours to the World Heritage Rainforest of Cape Tribulation, Daintree and part of the Bloomfield 4WD Track. Enjoy a one hour Daintree River Cruise, guided Board Walk, BBQ lunch, hand feed wallabies, a refreshing freshwater swim, tropical fruits and Billy Tea and Damper, ancient forest and flora and fauna. Visit Cape Tribulation Beach.
Billy Tea Safaris also operates an Outback tour to the town of Chillagoe, this historical tour will step back in time to explore the 400 million years old Chillagoe Caves on a 1.5 hour tour with your National Park Ranger. Including a cruise at Mareeba Wetlands, Aussie Pub Lunch, agriculture land, historic mining towns, and viewing of Aboriginal rock art, flora and fauna.
THE BEST OF THE CAIRNS TABLELANDS - BY BILLY TEA SAFARIS
Phone (07) 4032 0077
Fax (07) 4032 0055
We carry travellers..... not tourists!!
Tropical North Queensland is undeniably one of the most exciting and diverse regions to visit in Australia and the Cairns Tablelands sits at the very heart of it. With its breathtaking waterfalls, scenic vistas at every turn, impressive lakes, lush rainforest and rugged outback, a visit to this region promises to be one of great contrast, beauty and exploration.
Billy Tea Safaris is a small locally owned Advanced Eco Accredited Tour Operator, which operates small personalised tours with custom built 4WD vehicles, maximum 16/20 passengers per vehicle, and your naturalist guides have extensive knowledge of flora, fauna, history of the area, together with experiencing the local lifestyle and culture of the people in the Tablelands. Your 'Best of the Cairns Tablelands' full day tour includes:
* Unlimited Coffee and Chocolate tasting for morning tea
* Herberton Historic Village
* Tropical fruit and local cheese tasting platter
* Smokehouse platter featuring a selection of handcrafted smoke meats including crocodile and Barramundi
* A main course lunch selection
* Sample locally crafted beer and wines from the region
* Visit the 500-year-old Curtain Fig Tree
* Millaa Millaa Falls
THE HUB CHILLAGOE
Queen Street, Chillagoe (MAP)
Phone (07) 4094 7111 / Fax (07) 4094 7122
Home of the ancient reefs of the Outback.
The first stop for any visitor to Chillagoe intent on experiencing all that the area has to offer is the Hub. The interior walls of the Hub are home to an amazing interpretive display where the story of Chillagoe's amazing past comes to life. Enter and an astounding geological story unfolds, one that tells of long lost seas and ancient coral reefs which teemed with fabulous creatures that have long since passed into oblivion. Remarkably, the remnants of this ancient Great Barrier Reef have been preserved in the form of the countless limestone bluffs which surround Chillagoe.
The Hub is the Central co-ordinating office for the National Park Cave Tours and is a one stop shop for interpretation of the area and the sale of Cave Tour Tickets to the 3 World Class Cave Tours:- Donna Cave 9.00am, Trezkinn Cave 11.00am, and the Royal Arch Cave 1.30pm. Bookings are essential.
CHILLAGOE-MUNGANA CAVES NATIONAL PARK
MOUNT UNCLE DISTILLERY
BECKS AVIATION AND MILITARY MUSEUM
CHILLAGOE BP FUEL DEPOT AND VINTAGE FORD DISPLAY
The area north of Mareeba is the premier birdwatching region in Australia! Mareeba Wetlands is one of Australia's premium conservation and wildlife reserves. The Reserve is located in the 'golden triangle' of birding in Far North Queensland and presently features more than 204 different species. Due to its location on the East Asian/Australasian flyway, the Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetland Reserve provides a unique environment where Australia's tropical wetland and savanna birds can be enjoyed like nowhere else. Thanks to the twelve inter connected lagoons, creeks and channels that weave their way acroos the 2 000 hectare Reserve, the birdlife is rich and diverse and almost all of Australia's tropical waterbirds can be seen here.
Some species of birds the Mareeba Wetlands is home to are the Pink-eared Duck, the Grebe, the Whistling Duck, the Magpie Goose, the Green and Cotton Pygmy-goose, the Jacana, and many more. For more information about the Mareeba Wetlands, click here.
Julatten, a 45 minutes drive north of Mareeba, is home to dozens of species. Staying at any of the acommodation which specialises in birdwatchers will reward you with a birdlife as you have never seen before. Australian Owlet-nightjars, Grey-headed Robins, Pied Moarchs, Barn Owls, Double-eyed Fig-Parrots, Masked Owls, Macleay's Honeyeaters, Papuan Frogmouths, Noisy Pittas, Cicadabirds, Large-Billed Scruben and Little Shrike-thrust are just some of the birds which can be spotted. For more information about Julatten, please visit our JULATTEN page.
ABBATOIR ENVIRONMENTAL AND BIRD HIDE
Close by is the Abattoir Environmental and Bird Hide, with a bird hide that provides a perfect vantage point and has information on local bird species, and the Euluma Creek Road Circuit, with its many cascades and swimming holes.
Mount Carbine, north-west of Julatten, lists 190 species, including a large population of Australian Bustards, Apostlebirds, Galahs and Red-winged Parrots. Mount Carbine is a drier open woodland habitat, fantastic for many species of waterfowl and dry country species such as the Rufous Owl or the Wedge-tailed Eagle. Very close by, Maryfarms has a stable population of Australian Bustard. And Mount Molloy, only ten kilometres away, is renowned for its Great Bowerbird, but it is also a good spot for the Pale-heade Rosella, the Squatter Pigeon and the Red-winged Parrot among nearly 300 species.
The Atherton Tablelands, and especially Mareeba, is one of the best places in Australia to enjoy a hot air ballooning tour thanks to its perfect weather conditions nearly all year round.
A few companies offer hot air ballooning tours. Don't miss such an experience!!!
Mareeba, Phone (07) 4030 7900, Fax (07) 4030 7911.
Let Raging Thunder introduce you to the safe and exciting sport of ballooning, in a spectacular dawn trip which highlights the diverse eco-culture of the Cairns region.
CHAMPAGNE BALLOON FLIGHTS
One of the best known rodeos in the country, the Mareeba Rodeo guarantees top level competion and entertainment for all visitors. Besides the usual rodeo events, the Mareeba Rodeo includes bull ride, steer wrestling, ladies and junior events, saddle bronc and much more to ensure two days full of action from 7:30am every day. Other evens that will take place during the Mareeba Rodeo are a beaut ute muster, woodchops, stud beef cattle show, big al comedy clown, sideshows, etc. Food and drinks will be available in many food stalls.
WALKAMIN COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL
A weekend packed with all types of music, from country to rock and blues and much more. The festival features country wide known performers as well as local talents and the entertainment and the activities are designed so all visitors have a great time.
MAREEBA MULTICULTURAL FESTIVAL
The Mareeba Multicultural Festival celebrates the shire's miscellaneous cultural heritage. Every August, the city of Mareeba gets ready to welcome all the visitors who want to join in. With lots of different activities including a parade along the main street to Arnold Park, performers from many different nationalities, food and craft stalls, the Mareeba Multicultural Festival is a must for everybody.
LADY OF THE CHAIN
The community of Mareeba has been celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of the Chain since 1961. After the Mass, that takes place at 2:30pm at St Thomas's Church, the procession will travel across the streets of Mareeba. A barbecue, refreshments and entertainment will follow the procession. And the grand final will be the spectacular fireworks displays.
MAREEBA ART SHOW
With a display of many diverse styles of art, the Mareeba Art Show celebrates its 44th edition. The opening night there will be a celebration with prizes given out.
MAREEBA TO CHILLAGOE WHEELBARROW RACE
This race, apart from being a tribute to the area's mining pioneers who travelled from Mareeba to Chillagoe with all their possessions in wheelbarrows, is the largest wheelbarrow race in the world.
The race consists of different teams who have to get from Mareeba to Chillagoe, a distance of 149 kilometres, running wheelbarrows. Prize money for those who make it to Chillagoe within the three days of the event. And lots of fun for those who want to have a good time.
MAREEBA SHIRE PIONEER FESTIVAL
Two weeks of events to cater for everyone. Including the Chillagoe Country Music Festival, Far North gold panning and bush poetry competitions, craft displays, markets, Mareeba Heritage Museum open day, antiques and collectables, there will be something for every single person. Historic walks, scary ghost trails or the discovery of your family tree are other activities you will enjoy.
For more information about these and other events in the area, please visit our TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND'S EVENTS CALENDAR.
For a comprehensive list of all the hotels and other types of holiday accommodation in Mareeba and Chillagoe, please visit our MAREEBA TO CHILLAGOE ACCOMMODATION section.
MAREEBA RSL SERVICE CLUB
HONG KONG CHINESE TAKE AWAY RESTAURANT
Public transport is quite limited throughout the region and it is generally recommended that visitors who do not have their own vehicle should rent a car. Why don't you let us sort out this for you and save yourself the hassle? Visit our CAR HIRE page and we will do all the hard work for you. After all, you are coming to Tropical North Queenland to relax, aren't you?
The bitumen road extends from Mareeba as far as Almaden, but from there it is unsealed. Although it is passable during the dry season (May to October), a four wheel drive is essential during the wet season. For current road conditions in the area, CLICK HERE.
IMPORTANT: Most car rental companies don't allow their cars to be driven on unsealed roads. Make sure you double check your rental agreement, as you will not be covered by insurance if you are in breach of your contract.
Trans North Coaches services the Atherton region, and connects the Tablelands with Cairns, operating a number of daily services on the Cairns - Kuranda - Mareeba - Atherton route. Connections are available with Kerry's Bus Service from Atherton to Ravenshoe and Herberton from Monday to Friday, and with Chillagoe Bus Service along the Wheelbarrow Way to Chillagoe. In Mareeba, the Trans North agent is Mareeba News. Catch the bus at the Old Railway Station. In Cairns, the route begins/ends at 46 Spence Street, but passengers can also also hail the bus at bus stops along Sheridan Street, or anywhere else along the route, provided it is safe for the driver to stop.
Details of Trans North Coaches latest timetable can be found on their website.
Chillagoe Bus Service connects with Trans North Coaches in Mareeba, with departures to Chillagoe three times a week - Mondays and Fridays at 1:00pm, and 11:30am Wednesdays. Returning to Mareeba from Chillagoe, the bus departs from Chillagoe at 7:30am Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Find Chillagoe Bus Service on Hospital Road, in Chillagoe. Phone (07) 4094 7155 or mobile 0414 947 155. Chillagoe Bus Service does not operate on public holidays.
Mareeba has a taxi service, located at 1 McLeod Street. Phone (07) 4092 1178
Phone (07) 4053 6848 / Fax (07) 4053 6818
The Savannahlander stops at Mareeba and Dimbulah on its way to/from Cairns, on the Cairns-Almaden route. Leaving Cairns at 6:30am on Wednesdays, the train stops at Mareeba at 9:15am and at Dimbulah 45 minutes later. The train departs Almaden at 8.30am on Saturdays, stopping at Mareeba at 4:00pm.
- MT. MOLLOY - JULATTEN
- MAREEBA - CHILLAGOE
- ATHERTON - LAKE TINAROO
- YUNGABURRA-CRATER LAKES
- MALANDA - MILLAA MILLAA
- RAVENSHOE - MT. GARNET
- HERBERTON - IRVINEBANK
In case of emergency only, dial 000. In all other cases, phone the local service :
Ambulance (07) 4092 4500
Hospital (07) 4092 2322
Police (07) 4092 1200
EMERGENCY SERVICESIn case of emergency only, dial 000. In all other cases, phone the local service :
Ambulance (07) 4092 4500
Hospital (07) 4092 2322
Police (07) 4092 1200
Internet access is available at:
Chillagoe Tourist Village
Mareeba Public Library
Chillagoe Tourist Village
Mareeba Public Library