A bit further along the Burke Developmental Road from the Chillagoe Caves is The Archways, in the Mungana Caves section of the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park and part of a long day trip from Cairns. Just after turning off the highway is a spectacular Aboriginal rock art site. As you approach the tall limestone cliffs, you can see the paintings on the wall of the shelter at the base of the rock.
As you get closer, you can see the full extent of the artwork, along multiple walls of the low shelter. The Mungana Rock Art site has paintings in white and red oche, with a number of snakes or serpents, as well as many interminate figures. What makes this site so impressive is not just the art, but the location: the high cliffs form a natural amphitheatre, with the temperature as you stand under the imposing cliffs being several degrees cooler than the nearby carpark.
Another few minutes drive from here along the dirt road takes you The Archways, which I think is the highlight of the Chillagoe-Mungana national park. Under another imposing limestone outcrop is a maze of caverns and passages.
Unlike the other Chillage Caves, The Archways is a semi-open cave system, so you don’t really need a torch.
After passing through a few tunnels through the cliffs and crossing a small clearing, the path (if you can call it that) re-enters some narrow cracks in the rock.
Although the rock formations are not as impressive as those in the other caves, there are some large stalactites hanging from some of the chambers.
Weathering of the limestone has created the spectacular caverns and passages, and it’s these narrow passages you squeeze (and in one case crawl) through between the light-filled chambers that make this such a fascinating place.
Although there isn’t a really a path through the passages and caverns, it’s not big enough to get lost, and eventually you emerge at the other side of the rock outcrop. The entire “bushwalk” is about 300m, and on a hot day you’ll want take your time and enjoy the much lower temperature as you wnder through The Archways!
How to get to The Archways (Mungana)
The Archways is within the Chillagoe – Mungana Caves National Park, which is around 215km (about a three hour drive) west of Cairns. Access is via the National Route 1 and State Route 27 (Burke Development Road) – between Mareeba and Chillagoe the Burke Development Road is also called the Wheelbarrow Way, named after the pioneers who wheeled their belongings through the area in the 1800s. This section of the route is mostly sealed, but has some gravel sections which are a bit rough, but suitable for 2WD vehicles.
To get to The Archways, which is in the Mungana section of the park, continue another 15km west along the Burke Development Road, and look for a turn-off on the right onto the Mungana-Caves Road. The Mungana Aboriginal Art Site is the first carpark along the Mungana-Caves Road, and another 1.5km further is The Archways carpark.
More information on Chillagoe Caves
- Qld Parks – Chillagoe Discovery Guide [PDF
- Nicola Bliss Winn, Boundaries, Connections and Cultural Heritage Management, Challenges: The Rock Art of the Chillagoe – Mungana Limestone Belt, Queensland, Australia – PhD thesis [PDF]
This attraction is part of Waterfalls, Caves and Aboriginal Rock Art – the best day trips from Cairns