The Etheridge region to the west of the Atherton Tablelands still echoes with the romance of the famous gold rush days that drew thousands of miners to try their luck at a series of sites from the mid-1860s. Relics of those days can still be found throughout the district and around the settlements of Mount Surprise, Einasleigh, Forsayth and Georgetown. Several goldfields, base metal fields and gem fields still excite fossickers today. The “poor man’s” Etheridge goldfield, so-called because you don’t need expensive equipment, has never been worked out. Modern day prospectors with metal detectors and hand tools find specimens such as coloured topaz, agates, sapphires, smoky quartz and other precious stones and gold nuggets. Visitors to the region will enjoy getting off the beaten track, camping in remote locales by waterholes with giant paperbarks, bird watching, visiting historic ghost towns and simply enjoying the tranquillity amid the region’s wooded savannah grasslands. swim in the Einasleigh River, especially in the early part of the year after the storms. Here you can see a wide range of gem stones and learn how faceting is done, join a dig at a local claim with expert guides or explore by yourself with hire equipment, mud map, fossicking licence and advice. The O’Brien’s Creek designated fossicking area, 37km north of Mt Surprise, is a wellknown topaz area and yields gorgeous stones. The Undara lava fields west of Mt Surprise is the toe of the lava flow that originated from the 164 craters of the McBride Plateau. There are basalt tunnels, which run for some 100 miles underground and can be accessed only through the Savannah Guide Post located at the Undara Lava Lodge on the edge of the Undara Volcanic National Park. You can take local day tours or take advantage of the camping and accommodation on offer. Guided tours can be organised either by Undara Experience or Bedrock Village. Walk the path of an ancient volcano during the day then sleep cocooned in an antique railway carriage. Check the Undara Experience website for details of the famous Undara Opera in the Outback and the Undara Outback Rock and Blues events.
MT SURPRISE is the first town encountered within the Gulf Savannah when travelling from the East. This railway town on the old Cairns to Forsayth line is an ideal area to fossick for gemstones, explore the Forty Mile Scrub National Park, cool off at Junction Creek just a few miles west, or