Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
26-31 July 2011 - Mount Surprise
Mount Surprise is a very small village (official population 162 in the 2006 census) on the Gulf Developmental Road. Census employment information indicates most people are employed in agriculture and some residents of the village regularly work on surrounding cattle stations, but a traveller arriving in Mount Surprise sees a tourist oriented village. There are three caravan parks, one hotel and one motel almost side-by-side with a general store (also selling fuel) and a service station.

At least two businesses provide assistance, including equipment on hire, for travellers wishing to fossick for gemstones. O'Brien's Creek Gemfields (less than 40 kilometres from Mount Surprise) yields a variety of gemstones and at least one business sells bags of grit and pebbles which may, or may not, contain gemstones. The equipment needed to process gemstones is also sold there.

Mount Surprise businesses also provide guided tours to the Lava Tubes at nearby Undara Volcanic Complex. To protect the tubes and surroundings, access is permitted only to groups with approved guides.

Opposite the general store and hotel, in the middle of the township, is Mount Surprise Railway Station on the line from Cairns to Forsayth via Mount Surprise and Einasleigh. The railway line was opened by a mining company in 1910 to carry ore from a copper mine at Einasleigh to processors at Chillago but mine trains stopped running years ago and the line is now used by the Savannahlander rail-motor carrying tourists between various points on the line.

Weather during our stay in Mount Surprise was typical Dry Season/Winter with cold and clear night; temperature down to about 10° C followed by bright and sunny days when the temperature rose to the high twenties or low thirties. Often a cool breeze reduced the apparent temperature. Stronger winds blew on a couple of days.

Mt Surprise Street The Gulf Development Road passing through Mount Surprise and the pub and the BP service station.

Mt Surprise railwaystation Mount Surprise railway station. The platform reaches just over half-way up to the floor of the Savanahlander train so passengers have to climb in and out even when using the platform.

Travelling Australia - Mount Surprise - page 2
Shops in Mount Surprise provide basic goods and services and vehicle fuel is available at two places. There is a manned police station; the medical clinic opens twice a week and emergency medical assistance is available from the Flying Doctor, initially by telephone consultation but air-evacuation is available when required. The township is a popular place for caravans; many vans not using one of the caravan parks stop outside for a while and ten or more caravans parked along the street is not unusual.

Mount Surprise relies on bore water. This is filtered through sand then reticulated; officially this is classified as non-potable water but locals have been drinking and cooking with it for over 100 years so those same locals regard official classifications with derision.

Bedrock Village Sign Entrance sign at Bedrock Village caravan park in Mount Surprise

In Mount Surprise we stayed at Bedrock Village caravan park. This park has large, well-spaced, drive-through sites, many with excellent vegetation in dividing gardens. Amenities are excellent. They have an unusual way to get messages across; for example the request to turn the lights off in the amenities when not in use explains that lights attract insects and insects attract frogs to eat them and frogs attract snakes to eat the frogs and they really don't want guests to share a shower with snakes.

Most unusually, this park has a bakery and coffee-shop open Sunday to Thursday; as well, pizzas are cooked on many evenings and a camp-fire meal is available most nights. Bedrock runs tours to the Undara Lava Tubes as well as trips on the Savannahlander train. The park is close enough to Mount Surprise to walk easily to the general store or pub if required. Bedrock has a weekly rate and seniors discount.
Elizabeth Creek Elizabeth Creek, running past Bedrock Village, is a permanent stream fed by a spring. Permanent availability of water leads to a streamside plant community dominated by paperbark trees, mainly Melaleuca leucadendra - Weeping River Teatree, which occupy the place of River Red Gum or Coolabah along streams with less reliable water.