MOUNT SURPRISE TO GEORGETOWN


Recognised as the centre of some of the best gemfields in Queensland, Georgetown owes its existence to gold which was found on the Etheridge goldfields in 1870. Nowadays, Georgetown is a sleepy little town but still is well serviced and a major point for visitors taking in the spectacular scenery and history of Australia's northern outback.

NOTE: THE MAIN ROADS THROUGH THE OUTBACK ARE SEALED. ONCE YOU LEAVE THIS MAIN ROAD, CONDITIONS DEPRECIATE QUICKLY, AND YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF ON A GRAVEL TRACK. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT OUR SAFE DRIVING SECTION.

If coming from the Atherton Tablelands, you will pass through Mount Surprise on Highway 1. Mount Surprise is an old railway town on the Cairns to Forsayth line. It sits aside an immense lava flow from an ancient volcano, and signals the beginning (or the end, if you're coming the other way) of the Gulf Savannah. The historic SAVANNAHLANDER train still passes through Mount Surprise bound for Einasleigh and Forsayth once a week.

Map of the routes to Mount Surprise and Georgetown. Ninety two kilometres west of Mount Surprise, on the far side of the Newcastle Range - and about 400 kilometres inland of Cairns - is Georgetown, these days a sleepy little place. In the late 1800's, the town was a flourishing gold mining town, the centre of the famous Etheridge goldfield. Georgetown owes its name to the goldfields, named after the then assistant gold commissioner in Gilberton, Mr. H. Saint George. Even the main street is called Saint George Street. But mining started to wane by the 1900's, and these days the population of Georgetown is around 300.

The town's decline from its once prosperous gold mining days is evident by the number of unoccupied buildings in the main street. Still, Georgetown is a pleasant outback town, and a great base from which to do a little exploration of the surrounding area. Despite its small population, Georgetown is well serviced and is a major point for visitors taking in the spectacular scenery and history of Australia's northern outback.

Underlying the Mount Surprise and Georgetown area is a vast formation of mineral rich pre-Cambrian rock, dating back more than 500 million years. Even today, this region is recognized as the centre of some of the best gemfields in Queensland; topaz, quartz, spinel, garnet, caringorn, aquamarine and sapphires are found by amateur prospectors, along with, of course, gold. It is advisable to check with the Mining Registrar at Georgetown or Etheridge Shire Council regarding regulations and licensing requirements for fossicking. You can also obtain licences from Mount Surprise Tourist Van Park and Motel as well as Mount Surprise Gems.

Agate Creek, 120 kilometres south of the town, is one of the popular places for gem fossickers. The agate in the area comes in every colour of the rainbow, and is most popular in the form known as 'thunder eggs'.

Birdwatchers will enjoy the wide variety of birdlife to be found in the area around Georgetown. The friendly staff at the information centre will give you more details about the varieties of birdlife present, and the best places to spot them.

One peculiarity that you may notice about Georgetown (remember, population 300) is the presence of not one, but two Shire Office buildings. The explanation is simple: since the new office was constructed, the old building still serves as a centre for local functions, meetings and even the occasional ball!

ATTRACTIONS AND THINGS TO DO - MOUNT SURPRISE TO GEORGETOWN

TERRESTRIAL
Low Street, Georgetown
Phone (07) 4079 9027
www.terrestrialgeorgetown.com.au

The Ted Elliott Mineral Collection!

Opened in 2003, the accredited Visitor Information Centre can help with all your information needs on what to see and do in our beautiful shire. The centre also houses the local library with many historical photographs of an era gone by, a small art gallery with works for sale by locals photographers, free WiFi available and the acclaimed Ted Elliott Mineral Collection.

Displayed in nine themed rooms and over 4500 specimens, this collection is world class, one of the best in Australia and is what can only be described as stunning.


A must see and worth the drive to Georgetown, North Queensland!
THE SAVANNAHLANDER
Phone (07) 4053 6848 / Fax (07) 4053 6818
Tollfree 1800 793 848
website link coming soon

The Outback rail experience!

The Savannahlander is a great way to get to Mt Surprise and the Undara Lava Tubes. The train departs Cairns on Wednesday and reaches Mt Surprise on Thursday after overnighting in Almaden (Chillagoe). For those wishing to spend plenty of time at Undara a transfer in available from Mt Surprise on Thursday which allows passengers to spend two nights exploring the tubes before returning by train on Saturday morning. Passengers who wish to enjoy the full Savannahlander experience can do a tour of the lava tubes on Friday afternoon.

Those with their own transport in Mt Surprise don't need to miss out on a trip on the Savannahlander. There are a number of options for half-day or overnight tours leaving from Mt Surprise. The Savannahlander departs Cairns for Mt Surprise on Wednesday at 6.30am and arrives on Thursday at 11.45am. The train departs Mt Surprise for Cairns at 12.15pm on Saturday.
MOUNT SURPRISE GEMS
Garland Street, Mount Surprise
website link coming soon

Stop awhile and have some fun!

Relax unwind and enjoy...

See how semi-precious gems are made to sparkle, and check out the jewellery and gifts for purchase in the shop. The cafe is renowned for its snacks, meals and home-made treats served from breakfast to dinner. There is plenty to do around the native gardens with giant games to test your skills. Experience fossicking at its best. Buckets of wash available at the shop, or hire some gear, buy some gear and go it alone. The choice is yours. Mount Surprise Gems can:

Hire you the equipment
Issue you a licence
Give you a mudmap of the fossicking area
Give you lots of information about the minerals of the area and tell you how to go about finding them. Then you pack your own food and drinks etc and head out on the 45K gravel road to have a fun day.

It's a great experience and who knows what you might dig up. On your return Mount Surprise Gems are happy to appraise any of your treasures and suggest how to use them.

COBBOLD GORGE TOURS
Cobbold Gorge, Forsayth
90 kilometres south of Georgetown
Phone (07) 4062 5470 / Fax (07) 4062 5453
Five Cobbold Gorge tours operate daily from the village and range from pure relaxation to soft adventure. Cobbold Gorge is a Savannah Guide Station and visits to the gorge are by guided tour only.

HISTORICAL SITES

GHOST TOWNS
The Etheridge Goldfield was once populated with many small communities set up around gold strikes. It was known as the 'poor man's goldfield' because of its ability to produce nugget gold that could be surface collected. Scattered here and there are now the remains of these temporary settlements. One of the more famous is the Gilberton area.

CUMBERLAND CHIMNEY
The Cumberland Chimney, built by Cornish masons, is all that remains of a crushing plant that once crushed the gold bearing ore for surrounding mines. It sits next to a lagoon, which is rich in bird life. The Cumberland Chimney is approximately 25 kilometres along on the left hand side of the road going west towards Croydon. Part of the site is contaminated so care should be taken and signs observed.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS

SWIMMING POOL
The town's public swimming pool is open all year during daylight hours. Gate tokens are available from the BP and Ampol Service Stations. The recently developed Etheridge Heritage Park in the centre of the town boasts a free electric barbecue amongst shaded trees and modern public toilets including a baby change station.

HISTORIC WALK
There is a signed walk that takes you down the river on one side of the town and along Sandy Creek on the other side of the town. There are 14 entrance gates, rest areas are strategically placed and it is ideal for birdwatchers. There are many interesting historical features in Georgetown from the restored Shire Hall in Saint George Street (built in 1908 and restored in 1998), the restored ex-Clerk of the Court dwelling in the same street, the Masonic Temple on the corner of Haldane and Cumberland Streets, The Catholic Church in High Street (established 1913), the cemetery (past the Golf Course on the northern end of Saint George Street).

EVENTS

GEORGETOWN RODEO
For two days you can enjoy lots of activities suitable for people of all ages. Starting with the Battle of the Bulls on Friday night, the weekend goes on with a mini rodeo for kids up to 12 years. And Sunday comes with the Open Rodeo, where cowboys from as far as New South Wells compete to be the best one. Calf wrestling, calf roping, saddle bronc with bucking horsing, the activities are numerous.

See our TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND EVENTS CALENDAR for details of these and other regular events in the region.

ACCOMMODATION - MOUNT SURPRISE TO GEORGETOWN

Georgetown holiday accommodation includes traditional pub style lodging, a resort motel and caravan parks, some with self contained and ensuite cabins. Mount Surprise has a couple of caravan parks, with a choice of cabins and units, as well as caravan sites and camping. Scroll down or use the buttons in the right hand column to choose your style of Georgetown and Mount Surprise accommodation.

HOTELS AND MOTELS

GEORGETOWN WENARU HOTEL
Saint George Street, Georgetown
Phone (07) 4062 1208 / Fax (07) 4062 1271
Wenaru Hotel offers budget accommodation and home made meals.

CARAVAN PARKS AND CAMPGROUNDS

BEDROCK VILLAGE
Garnet Street, Mount Surprise
Phone (07) 4062 3193 / Fax (07) 4062 3166
Bedrock Village is a beautifully landscaped park with 9 acres of lawns and gardens. All powered and unpowered sites are large and drive through with shady trees on either side of the bays.

COBBOLD GORGE TOURS
Cobbold Gorge, Forsayth
90 kilometres south of Georgetown
Phone (07) 4062 5470 / Fax (07) 4062 5453
A range of accommodation is on offer from comfortable air-conditioned cabins to bush camping. Cobbold Village offers a level soft camp ground with lots of trees.

GOLDFIELDS CARAVAN PARK
George Street, Georgetown
Phone (07) 4062 1269
Goldfields is a quiet caravan park, located in a big neat parkland and featuring many shady areas to fight the heat. As well as air-conditioned ensuite units with kitchenettes, the caravan park offers drive-throguh large powered sites.

MIDWAY CARAVAN PARK
North Street, Georgetown
Phone (07) 40621 219

GETTING TO MOUNT SURPRISE AND GEORGETOWN

Georgetown is an easy five or six hours drive along Highway 1 from Cairns. Of course, it would be a shame to do this drive without exploring a little along the way. We especially recommend a stop at the unique UNDARA LAVA TUBES and of course take your time and enjoy the diverse nature and typical North Queensland atmosphere of the ATHERTON TABLELANDS. Not everybody will be up for the challenge - and this part of the country does provide its share of challenges - but we believe that the grandeur and vastness of the Northern Outback can be best experienced form behind the wheel of your own vehicle. For the freedom and flexibility to explore at your own pace, please visit our CAR HIRE page. Simply fill out our obligation free enquiry form, and we will get back to you - usually the next working day - with the best deal on a a rental car, four wheel drive or campervan to suit your needs.

Major roads in the region are sealed, but there are a number of unsealed roads. Before travelling, be sure to check CURRENT ROAD CONDITIONS. Care should be taken when travelling on roads within this remote region of the Northern Outback, as numerous ROAD TRAINS ply the highways.
Georgetown and Mount Surprise are also serviced by local tour operators, as part of a longer outback experience. To view the range of tours available, please visit our OUTBACK TOURS page.