HEADING south and inland from Cooktown down to Mt Surprise was, well, a bit of a surprise – a pleasant one.

Definitely take the short-cut and head along the top of the Atherton Tablelands, and cut out going back through Cairns. It’s a great drive that’s fairly easy until you reach Rolleston. From then on its only bitumen for the width of one car, down the middle of the road, so drive your campervan and carry your load carefully especially on corners, as chances are others coming towards you are using the middle of the road too! The other half of your lane is orange dirt and badly corrugated, so it’s slow going. Every now and then you will get a double land of bitumen, but not often, and no there’s no phone reception from thereafter either.

It feels like the road is never ending, but it’s because of the slow going and the frequent pull-offs you have to make. But once you enter Mt Surprise, this little town never fails to surprise! It’s a tiny town with a pub built in the back of someone’s barn, a petrol station, post office, fish and chips shop and café. Just remember there’s not much phone reception here but there is a pay phone out the front of the petrol station.

We stayed at Bedrock Caravan Village and we can’t recommend it highly enough and you needn’t worry about staying anywhere else but there. It’s awesome! Fantastic hosts Joe & Jo bend over backwards to make your stay totally and utterly unforgettable, with singalongs around the camp fire, camp dinners and the best part is that they also own the local tours company out to the Lava Tubes and Volcano Rim. The Lava Tubes are amazing, still in their pristine, natural state, including the bones of many dead animals littering the floors of the tubes. It’s grea to see they haven’t commercialised it and it really hits home about how often we have ruined national treasures through tourism. You will not be dissapointed, not for a second. Joe is full of knowledge and has a great relationship with the local elders, which only lends charm to a very memorable experience.

Make sure you stay at least three or four days in Mount Surprise. You definitely will not regret it.

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