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Chillagoe, Julatten...
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Recommended Motorcycle Rides - From the Ulysses Motocycle Club Cairns

Chillagoe, Julatten and Palmer River

From Mareeba we have access to one of the most historical mining areas in Far North Queensland. This is the area around Chillagoe. It was once famous for copper but now has a gold mine nearby. Along the way are four interesting places.

Firstly Dimbulah. The Mareeba/Dimbulah district was the largest tobacco growing area in Australia. However, with the decline in smoking, this area is looking for alternate crops. Petford, Lappa and Almaden are also along the way and a worth a brief stop. The ruins of the old hotel at Lappa are eerie and there is a railway station at Lappa that still has a genuine bush dunny on the platform for those who wish to indulge in the experience of sitting on a wooden seat.

Chillagoe is also famous for its limestone caves. The Chillagoe - Mungana Caves National Park protects a number of limestone caves. Guided tours to three caves leave at times listed at the National Park Office daily (usually 9am and 1.30pm). Torches (bring your own) add to the excitement of exploration as do unexpected shafts of light. Your own torches are essential for unguided tours of Pompeii and Bauhinia caves but not The Archways which is an open daylight cave. Further information can be obtained from the Ranger at Chillagoe when you get to Cairns. The distance from Cairns to Chillagoe is 232 km so it can be easily done in one day. However if you wish to overnight there is a caravan park plus two hotels etc. Bookings would be advisable.

At Mareeba, the Peninsula Development Road starts. This road is a well formed two-lane bitumen road which now goes right through to about 25 kilometres short of Lakeland Downs. The first town you will encounter after Mareeba is Mount Molloy. Late last century and early this century this area was thriving. The sea port for this area was Port Douglas. A track ran from there through Craiglee and up through Julatten to Mount Molloy. Cobb & Co ran coaches through this area to Atherton and the southern part of the tableland. The climb from Craiglee to Julatten was very steep and was known locally as the Bump. I have ridden this track on a trail bike and I had enough trouble with modern day brakes etc so it must have been hair raising in a stagecoach. An extra team of horses was added at Craiglee to the front of the existing team for the ascent and a team at the rear was added at Julatten for the descent.

The road did not go through to Palmer River and Cooktown originally as it does now. The Palmer River area was opened by a gold rush. Hopeful diggers, merchants etc. landed in Cooktown and made their way to the Palmer gold fields by any means available, mostly by foot. Two of the towns established during the gold rush were Palmerville and Maytown. None of the towns exist in the area any more and to visit the ruins you would be advised to use a dirt bike or a four-wheel drive. There is a roadhouse on the main road about 100 kms north of Mount Molloy and a small museum is attached. It is well worth the visit and it is a good day ride. By way of warning, there are unfenced parts of the road north of Mount Molloy and riders should be careful of cattle on the road.

The total distance from Cairns to Palmer Road house is approximately 230 kms. Fuel is available at Mount Molloy and Palmer roadhouse. It is an easy trip to do in a day.

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