You’re sure to catch gem fever when you visit the Sapphire Gemfields, one of the largest sapphire bearing areas of the world. Taking in the townships of Rubyvale, Sapphire, Anakie and Willows, the Sapphire Gemfields are only a 45-minute drive west of Emerald and cover almost 900 square kilometres. People from all over the world descend on the Sapphire Gemfields each year to experience fossicking firsthand, trying their luck to uncover the ultimate gem.
Things to Experience
Gemshops and Galleries There’s no better place to purchase an Australian-mined and cut sapphire or quality sapphire jewellery. Gemcutters are available to facet your very own find and jewellers will set them into a piece of jewellery that could become a valuable family heirloom to be treasured forever.
Fossicking Try your hand at finding a fortune by purchasing a fossicking licence then choosing from the nine locations ( called ‘areas’ and ‘lands’) designated for recreational and tourist fossicking.
- Buy a fossicking licence online here or by phoning MyMines (07) 3199 8133 (have your email address handy when you call)
- Download or print the licence before heading to the fossicking areas because reception can be patchy.
- The licences are inexpensive and come with a set of maps and rules.
- Camping is allowed at some of the designated fossicking areas but you need a permit (not the same as a fossicking licence!). Buy a permit online here or phone My Mines (07) 3199 8133.
- Hand tools and mining equipment are available for sale or hire from local businesses.
For more info, click here.
Tag Along Fossicking Tours Take a tag along fossicking tour to dig, sieve, wash and inspect your very own diggings under guidance from an experienced miner. All equipment is supplied.
Fossicking Parks enable people of all ages and fitness to join the fun of finding a sapphire. With the digging work already done, visitors can buy a bag of wash and start searching straight away. Friendly staff are on hand to provide advice and guidance on how to sieve and sort sapphires and zircons.
Point of Interest: The world’s largest black sapphire was discovered in the Gemfields in the 1930s by a 12-year-old boy, who’d simply kicked what he thought was a large rock. His family used it as a doorstop for 10 years before his father scraped away the edge and noticed the star shape. The Black Star of Queensland is currently worth about $100 million and is overseas. Source: ABC, State Library of Queensland.
The Sapphire Gemfields Treasure Trail is a comprehensive guide to the area, including:
- The Sapphire Gemfields Interpretive Trail. Begin the trail at Sapphire Reflections, a 12-metre-tall artwork, adorned with sparkling glass panels, located at the Anakie Crossroads. The trail takes visitors throughout the Gemfields, stopping at five interpretive panels and 30 place markers. The trail tells the stories of the characters, capers, history and boom or bust nature of the local gem industry.
- The Sapphire Gemfields Wetland Reserve. This consists of 3.6 km of gravel walking trails, with accompanying educational and directional signage, and two viewing areas.
Geo-Caching Discover 19 hidden gems on the Sapphire Gemfields geo-cache trail. Grab your GPS and a treasure map from the Central Highlands Visitor Information Centre, and hit the trail for fun and adventure.
Four-wheel-drive tracks are everywhere. Try a day out to Tomahawk Creek fossicking area with its 2,500 hectares of bush tracks.
Miners Common Be ready to give way to cattle, horses and camels. Officially proclaimed in November 1914 and known as the heart and soul of the Gemfields, the Miners Common covers 4,500 hectares. On the last remaining miners common in Australia, residents have the right to graze a few head of livestock in unfenced areas including the town centres of Sapphire and Rubyvale.
Gemfields Architecture Pioneers of the Sapphire Gemfields built their homes or shacks out of a wide range of unique materials. From billy boulders to bush timber, corrugated iron and even glass bottles.
Local Characters Meet the friendly locals and characters called the Gemmies. Many of the residents today were once tourists who came to visit and never left.