For many years the dirt road to Chillagoe has thought to have been off-limits for rental cars, but tourism operators are leading the push to dispel this long thought myth.
Chillagoe Guesthouse owner Eugene Miglas said a lot of reeducation was needed as many still believed no rental cars were authorised to make the journey west due to a 32km section of sealed and unsealed roads.
“It is recommended to look very closely at the terms and conditions of hire, but certainly AVIS and Budget have both confirmed they allow travel to Chillagoe but not beyond,” he said.
Chillagoe is located west of Mareeba and is easily accessed by conventional vehicles via the Wheelbarrow Way.
The small town has a rich mining history dating back to the turn of the century, however today it is its famous Chillagoe Caves, in the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park that keep people coming back.
The site of the old mining smelter is also of interest for visitors who can view the tall brick chimney set high on the hill overlooking the town.
North Queensland state manager for the Avis / Budget Group Jason Schrijvers said allowing its vehicles to go as far west as Chillagoe on Highway 27, was due to overwhelming consumer demand by the free independent traveller (FIT) market looking for new and authentic experiences.
“At Avis and Budget we allow our vehicles to go to Chillagoe as it’s such an authentic must see North Queensland destination, conveniently located on the Atherton Tablelands. In my opinion it is one place that definitely needs to be experienced.
“We do not allow our vehicles to travel further West on Highway 27 than Chillagoe due to the road conditions but we feel allowing our customers the ability to experience highlights like the Chillagoe Limestone Caves, Mungana Ruins and the beautiful Walsh river is another way we can showcase all the Tropical North has to offer to our customers,” he said.
Tropical Tablelands Tourism chair Michael Trout said it was now about spreading the word to visitor information centres and tour desks.
“We have this amazing destination right on our doorstep and for many years a lot of travellers have thought it has been off limits.
“It is wonderful to see AVIS and Budget supporting tourism and putting Chillagoe back on the map for FITs.”
Mr Trout said a dedicated “Geological Wonders” trail, which is available at VICs, tour desks and other prominent locations, was a great travel tool FITs, helping them navigate their way around the region’s key attractions with a highlight stop at Chillagoe.