Mt Surprise .. A pleasant Surprise.
Take the time to stay a while and you will be pleasantly surprised at Mt Surprise. The town’s name came from an early incident with the first pastoralist settlers and the local nomadic aborigines who happened to be in the area following available food and water supplies, when the Firth family first saw them on a hill, the aboriginals ran away, it was difficult to tell who was the most surprised the settlers or the aborigines, the surprise was mutual to both parties, the nomadic indigenous people had rarely seen a white man and with only a few encounters with early explorers, Leichardt and the Jardine Brothers in the mid-19th century, change was rare for them as they knew the land extremely well, after thousands of years’ experience and knowledge of the area, they knew what to expect and when confronted with the new settlers they were taken by surprise , imagine seeing a horse, a cow, sheep and white people for the first time. Located 285 klms west of Cairns on the Gulf Development Road, the town was founded by Ezra and Eliza Firth. The Firths took the slow route and started their journey from the state capitol Brisbane, herding their sheep 1,725 klms north-west, across rugged, little known country and finally reached Mt Surprise six years later, they settled in the area in 1864. As pastoralists, their property struggled at first, relations with the indigenous inhabitants of the country were hostile and the area was not suited for wool growing, as the seeds of the spear grass growing in the area reduced the value of the fleece. In the 1880’s gold was discovered and the subsequent gold rush allowed Firth to sell his sheep to the miners and convert his holdings to cattle, combined with his business as a supplier of goods to the miners Firth became a wealthy man.
In 1908 the railway reached Mt Surprise, today the Savannahlander operates a weekly service on Thursdays from the city of Cairns; the station was once the main livestock trucking yard for the district that supplied beef to the Etheridge and Chillagoe Mining settlements. The town is close to the Undara Volcanic National Park and the Forty Mile Scrub National Park. Jan Hopkins the owner and publican of the Mt Surprise Hotel operates her hotel as a traditional outback pub with great food and friendly service high on her priority list, enjoy a coldie at the bar and a chat with the locals, on occasions there is even a little orphaned Joey (Baby grey kangaroo) in a homemade pouch to be seen and petted. It is easy to fill in a few relaxed hours, have a game of pool and enjoy the laid back pace of country life. Accommodation is also available at the hotel.
Mt Surprise has two petrol stations, a shop, café, school, police station, several gem shops, and three trailer/caravan parks. Eager gem fossickers from all over Australia try their luck in the nearby gem fields as the area is known for its Topaz, Garnets, Smokey Quartz, Aquamarine, and other gem stones, with one lucky fossicker uncovering a diamond nearby at O’Brian’s Creek. A great place to stop, stay a while, soak in the outback hospitality and visit the nearby Undara Lava Tubes and see one of the Earths longest lava flows from a single volcano in modern geological time.
At Planet Earth Adventures visitors are treated
to a live snake show, there is a museum, pool table and pets are welcome. Watch a flock of galahs take flight, displaying a screeching mass of pink and white feathers, and be amused by the antics of the Apostle birds locally known as happy families or happy jacks, black cockatoos, whistling kites and other bird life. Wild rabbits run through the camping ground and agile wallabies feed in the park at night, great for the children to observe as they are very tame. Any tyre problems can be repaired will little fuss and there is the markets for a bargain. A BYO café/restaurant is beside the camping grounds or you can cook up a storm on the bicycle mobile kitchen.
Bedrock Village Caravan Park and Tours (RACQ rated AAA 4 stars) operates several guided tours, choose the tour that suits you best from a unique nature tour of the fascinating landscape and geological wonders of the region, taking in the local fauna and flora, to a guided tour of Undara Volcanic National Park, or be escorted on a Savannahlander train tour of nearby Einasleigh to take in the spectacular Copperfield Gorge, try a true blue Cattle Station experience on a local property.
The park has lush green lawns, drive through bays and native tree screenings and air-conditioned cabins, some are self-contained, and one is suitable for disabled guests, a TV Room, 11 meter swimming pool and a 9 hole mini golf course, camp fire activities and a spring fed creek, free gas BBQ’s a well equipped kitchen and a small shop with a basic range of groceries and souvenirs. If you are experiencing vehicle problems Joe and Toby are available to fix all mechanical needs in a new fully equipped workshop. Pets are welcome and there is a free pet minding service for those who join one of their unique tours.
Mt Surprise Tourist Park and BP Roadhouse has many bird species and the owners breed birds, there is a large bird aviary that is open and free to the public. This park has modern motel style accommodation as well as caravan and camping with powered and unpowered sites, a great little stay for the family.
Mt Surprise hosts the Mt Surprise Rodeo and the Mt Surprise Camp Draft and Horse Sports organises events regularly with riders from the district and afar competing and camping at the grounds.
Stay a while in Mt Surprise and enjoy true country hospitality in a Jewel of a Town in the Queensland Outback.