You might not be aware but Australia has many gemstone riches other than opals. And of course, gold is always a welcome find. In past depressions in Australia both the 1890s and the 1930s, many unemployed people (mainly men) hit the road in search of gold and gems. (This writer has a sapphire ring and opals found by a great-grandfather and great-uncles in the 1930s.)
If you’ve made the move to a land lease or other lifestyle community, you might be using your time to travel around Australia, joining the growing number of grey nomads. In some coastal towns, it’s hard to get a spot, especially in winter when the nomads head north. So you might want to change your focus; head inland and possibly make some money (or have some fun) while you’re there. How? Well, many gold-mining areas retain gold but have been abandoned as commercial mining became unviable. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a nugget or pan for gold and gather some gold dust. And if you do your homework and travel to likely locations, you could find gemstones such as sapphire, zircon, gold, diamond, topaz, garnet, aquamarine, smoky quartz, peridot and moonstone.
Where to find gemstones in Australia
The list below is by no means comprehensive but it should spark your curiosity and get you on the road.
NSW: Lightning Ridge (home of black opals)
South Australia: Coober Pedy, Andamooka, Mintabie
Queensland: Opalton, Yowah
Queensland: Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire, Glenalva, The Willows
NSW: Inverell, Glen Innes
Western Australia: Ashburton River
NSW: New England plateau, Broken Hill
Queensland: Mt Surprise, O'Briens Creek
New South Wales: Torrington
Northern Territory: Harts Range
Queensland: Fullarton River
Queensland: The Mud Tank, Sapphire
New South Wales: Mt Hope, Inverell
Victoria: Beechworth, Mooralla
Western Australia: Yellowdine Lake
Northern Territory: Wave Hill
Queensland: Chudleigh Park
Queensland: Moonstone Hill
Prehnite (good if you’re into crystals and healing
Northern Territory: Wave Hill
Where to fossick for gold in Australia
As for some gem fields, commercial production of gold may have ceased but the areas previously mined can yield gold to patient fossickers. So where can you go to have the best chance of finding gold?
The Golden Triangle, Victoria (covering Ballarat, Bendigo, Ararat and Maryborough), from where came the largest nugget ever found in Australia, is still yielding gold. In 2020, two Bendigo prospectors found two nuggets with a total of $350,000.
Gympie, Queensland, home of Queensland’s first gold rush, still has gold to be found in shale rock mounds in Deep Creek.
Echunga, South Australia, just 35 km from Adelaide, retains alluvial deposits so get out your panning equipment.
Do I need a permit to fossick for gold or gemstones?
In some states, you do but not in others.
Note that, for those states that don’t require you to have a permit, you will need a landowner’s permission if you are on private land and you might need permission to fossick in a state forest. You do not have permission, though, to fossick on an existing mining lease.
Ready to hit the road to go fossicking?
Enjoy your travels but be aware of your own and others’ safety. Coober Pedy locals have many stories of fossickers who disappeared after falling down disused mine shafts. And beware of local wildlife, both for your benefit and theirs.
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