Travel 45 minutes west from Emerald in Queensland’s Central Highlands, and you’ll find yourself in the heart of The Gemfields, one of the largest sapphire-bearing areas of the world. Encompassing almost 900 square kilometres, The Gemfields includes the townships of Rubyvale, Sapphire, Anakie, and Willows. A visit here is like turning back the hands of time to Australia’s early pioneering days. There’s one major reason people come to The Gemfields: the lure of sapphires and precious gemstones. Visitors from across the world come to try their hand at fossicking. For some, it’s a novelty and a way of gaining an insight into the mining lifestyle. For others, it's a place that draws you in with the promise of unearthing the ultimate gem. Attracting treasure hunters since the 1870s, The Gemfields calls to all adventure seekers who aren’t afraid of a little hard work as they try their luck to uncover the big one.
While there are plenty of things to do in The Gemfields, fossicking is number one on the list with nine areas designated for recreational and tourist fossicking. You’ll need a fossicking licence, hand tools, and mining equipment; these are all available in town. If you’re not confident to go it alone, you can join a Tag-Along Fossicking Tour or visit one of several fossicking parks where the hard work has been done for you. Buy a bag of wash, follow the staff’s expert advice on how to sieve and sort sapphires, and start searching.
If you’re not lucky enough to unearth your own stone, numerous gem shops offer cut sapphires and quality sapphire jewellery. You can also present your prize find at many shops where gem cutters can cut and set your stone.
No visit to The Gemfields is complete without a tour at Miners Heritage Walk-In Mine, Australia's largest walk-in sapphire mine. Head underground with a guide, enjoy the cool respite, and learn about the industry and significant local finds.
Back above ground, you can follow the 30-stop Sapphire Gemfields Treasure Trail and wander through the Sapphire Gemfields Wetland Reserve.
If you’re keen to meet some local characters, head to the New Royal Hotel for a bite to eat. There aren’t many places to eat in The Gemfields, but the food here is hearty and the company is friendly. Pull a stool up to the bar, and you never know who you might meet or what adventures they might have had.
The Gemfields are primarily known for the presence of sapphires, particularly blue sapphires. However, various other gemstones can also be found in the area, including fancy-coloured sapphires (such as yellow, green, and pink), zircon, spinel, topaz, and more. The Gemfields offer a unique opportunity for visitors to mine their own gemstones or purchase them from local miners and gem shops.
You can visit The Gemfields at any time of year, but winter is preferable for most, with humid and hot summers on the cards. You won’t find a five-star hotel in The Gemfields. But you will find warm, welcoming budget accommodation that befits the pioneering spirit of this region. There are several caravan parks in and around Rubyvale, Sapphire and Anakie. Cabins can be found at the New Royal Hotel and Rubyvale Gem Gallery in Rubyvale and Pat’s Gems Tourist Park in Sapphire.
Located in central Queensland, the most common way to reach The Gemfields area is by road. If travelling from Rockhampton, it’s approximately a 4-hour drive to Rubyvale, which is one of the main towns within The Gemfields. It's recommended to have a car or join a tour to explore the various mining areas and towns within The Gemfields.
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