Emerald is a large, modern country town that was established in 1879 as a base for the building of the western railway. The town is named after 'Emerald Downs Hill', a lush emerald green hill located just north of town. Emerald is now considered the hub for the Central Highlands and the gateway to the Sapphire Gemfields: the largest, and one of the richest sapphire fields in the southern hemisphere.
In 1972, the construction of Fairbairn Dam and the Emerald Irrigation Scheme allowed for the significant development and expansion of agriculture across the region. The dam construction, and its associated Lake Maraboon, also initiated large-scale coal mining within the Bowen Basin in 1977, which at present, produces a significant proportion of Queensland's total coal exports.
Fairbairn Dam is a holiday destination in itself with a selection of cabin, caravan and camping accommodation. The lake is stocked with eight different kinds of fish including barramundi, but is famous for the Red Claw Crayfish. Relax by the lake or take a swim. Picnic tables and free electric and wood barbecues are available.
Once famous for its reputation as a major sunflower producer, Emerald is now home to the world's biggest Van Gogh sunflower painting on an easel located in Morton Park at the western end of Clermont Street (Capricorn Highway). The superstructure is 25 metres high with approximately 13.6 tonnes of steel involved in its construction. Adjacent you'll find the 'straw bale' Visitor Information Centre where the friendly volunteer staff can provide information on exploring Emerald and the surrounding Central Highlands.