In the 2006 census, Mount Surprise and the surrounding area had a population of 162. The town remains small; it relies heavily on tourism and contains a pub, a cafe, two petrol stations/stores, a gem-shop, a police station and three caravan parks. The Mt Surprise area was taken up in 1861 as a sheep station before the grazier switched to cattle. The township was not established until 1910 when the government resumed land to establish the township on the newly built railway line to Einasleigh and Forsyth. Mt Surprise initially developed as a cattle trucking centre and telegraph station with varying fortunes. Reconditioning the railway in 1951 and sealing the Gulf Developmental Road in the 1960s restored Mt Surprise as a cattle trucking centre and later, as a tourist destination. Mt Surprise is now a centre for access to the Undara Lava Tubes and to gem fossicking fields at O’Brien’s Creek 37km from town. The town is also an overnight stop for the Savannahland tourist train on the line from Cairns to Forsyth.