Gem fossicking is a fantastic way to see our unique country while also unearthing beautiful keepsakes in the form of precious stones and minerals. Whether you want to go opal fossicking in the outback or sapphire fossicking in Queensland around the Gemfields, this instalment of destination inspiration looks at the best places to go digging (or “noodling”) for gems across Australia.
Lightning Ridge, New South Wales
Known for its brilliant opals, Lightning Ridge is a fantastic place to go opal fossicking. The town is located in the northern reaches of outback NSW, where you’ll likely dig up a type of opal known as a nobby in the remains of mining operations.
Inverell, New South Wales
On the western edge of the New England tablelands lies Inverell, where a number of private dig sites offer advice and equipment for diggers – plus the opportunity to dig up some sapphires. Known as the sapphire capital of Australia, you’ll likely dig up a few blue beauties while sapphire fossicking in Inverell.
The Gemfields, Queensland
They’re called “The Gemfields” for a reason! The Gemfields are located in the Central Highlands of Queensland and offer up a cornucopia of sapphires, quartz and other precious and semi-precious stones. If you obtain a fossicking permit and hire the right tools, you can go digging in designated fossicking sites such as Reward, Middle Ridge, Scrub Head, Divide and Tomahawk Creek.
An ideal spot for gem fossicking in Victoria, the area centred on Reedy Creek between Eldorado and Beechworth has some good-quality topaz, citrine and clear quartz among the creek banks. Before you go, check whether rain has fallen in the area recently – you’ll need it to wash soil and gravel into the area’s creeks.
Harts Range, Northern Territory
Starting at the Spotted Tiger campgrounds is a great way to begin your fossicking in Harts Range, located 125km from Alice Springs. In the remains of old mining operations, you can find garnets, smoky quartz, biotite, rose quartz, kyanite and aquamarine.
If you’re a fan of peridots, Mortlake is where you should head. A great place for peridot and olivine gem fossicking in Victoria, Mortlake is around 150km west of Geelong. The peridots will be contained in ‘olivine bombs’, found at Scoria Quarry. Breaking these open will reveal the famous transparent green crystals, some of which are good for faceting.
Killiecrankie Bay, Tasmania
Known as “Killiecrankie diamonds”, fossickers and keen-eyed beachgoers may find topaz at low tide at Killiecrankie Bay by sieving through the sand. Situated on the northern end of Flinders Island, there are some outstanding crystals to be found here.
Mount Surprise, Queensland
We’ve featured sapphires quite a bit on this list, so let’s shift focus. Mount Surprise, located 280km north-west of Townsville, is a great place to fossick for topaz, aquamarine and smoky quartz in old mine sites close to the banks of the Elizabeth and O’Briens creeks. You can take a guided tour or, if you’re experienced, make use of mud maps. You’ll need a 4x4 to get up there as access via conventional vehicles is quite limited.
There are many other places in Australia where natural beauties can be dug up – and many of them are located in the outback. If you’re planning a fossicking journey in your 4x4, be sure to check out our Outback Travel Essentials guide to make sure you’re prepared for the road ahead.