Central Queensland's Sapphire Gemfields
You are sure to catch gem fever when you visit the towns of Rubyvale, Sapphire, Anakie and Willows Gemfields. Hear tales of the famous sapphires found by local miners and fossickers at one of the world’s most significant sapphire bearing grounds.
The Central Queensland Sapphire Gemfields are only a 45 minute drive west of Emerald (four hours west of Rockhampton) on the Capricorn Highway and cover almost 900 square kilometres. People from all over the world descend on the Sapphire Gemfields each year to experience fossicking firsthand and try their luck to find the ultimate gem discovery. If it’s treasure that you’re seeking or the opportunity to experience a real-life mining town, the Sapphire Gemfields has it all with its array of gemshops, galleries, jewellers, underground mines and digging areas.
Exploring the Sapphire Gem fields
There are many ways to explore the Sapphire Gemfields. Why not take a guided tour of a walk-in underground mine or go on a tag-along digging tour? Book a self-drive fossicking tour with maps and all the necessary equipment, so that you can explore the back tracks of the mining areas in your own vehicle. Visit a fossicking park, where you can learn all about fossicking. There you can buy a bucket of sapphire ‘wash’, learn to seive it, and recognise sapphires in the rough. It’s enjoyable, educational, and you can even take home bags of sapphire wash to extend your holiday experience.
Gemshops & Galleries
Gemshops, galleries, jewellers and locally created cottage industries are abundant in the area. There’s no better place to purchase an Australian-mined and cut sapphire or quality sapphire jewellery. Gem-cutters are available to facet your very own find, and jewellers will set them into valuable family heirlooms to be treasured forever.
The area is rich in history, character and charm, and just like digging for buried treasure, if you look beyond the surface, you’ll be surprised what you can find. Many of the residents today were once tourists that came here and never left. The lifestyle of the Sapphire Gemfields today is very laid back and peaceful, and visitors are always made to feel welcome. A visit to the Sapphire Gemfields is sure to be an experience you will never forget.
With a name like Sapphire, it’s not hard to guess what can be found here. There is a sense of fun and adventure fossicking for your own sapphires. Mined since the late 1800s, the moon-like landscape is as much a part of the lifeblood of Sapphire as the rich treasures in the earth. Be sure to visit the historic Piano Tuners Grave at Retreat Creek. Fossicking areas in Sapphire (where you are allowed to camp and dig) include ‘Graves Hill’ and ‘Big Bessie’.
If you love a photo opportunity, then ‘The Big Ring’, ‘Big Spanner’ and ‘Big Pick and Shovel’ can all be found in and around Sapphire, so keep an eye out for these fun icons. Sapphire, which was originally called Sapphiretown, has developed into the services hub of the Sapphire Gemfields.
The quaint town of Rubyvale offers comfortable accommodation within a hotel or cabin as well as holiday units and caravan parks. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the gem and jewellery shops, and refresh at the cafe or pub. The Australian Miners Historic Museum houses relics from the Sapphire Gemfields’ colourful history.
The Gem Gallery, the Cafe, and the Hotel are all pure Gemfields architecture, made of “billy boulders”, ironbark logs, and locally crafted wrought-iron. Step into another world on a walk-in mine tour where the underground temperature sits at a cool 24 to 27 degrees Celsius. Tours take visitors through the network of tunnels, providing insight into the process of underground sapphire mining.
Marvel at the tiny tunnels, called “tummy tunnels” used by the pioneer miners. Middle Ridge is the closest fossicking area to the township, plus there are numerous fossicking parks. Fossicking parks allow people of all ages and fitness to join the fun of finding a sapphire. With the digging work already done, visitors can buy a bucket of wash and start searching straight away. Friendly staff are on hand to provide advice and guidance on how to sieve and sort for sapphires. If you don’t find your own gem, the local gem galleries and shops offer stunning sapphire jewellery for sale. A new observatory offers visitors the chance to view the beautiful galaxy of stars in the outback night sky. Rubyvale also has a post office, laundromat, and a general store with fuel.
Anakie is positioned at the Sapphire Gemfields ‘crossroads’ along the Capricorn Highway, 44 kilometres west of Emerald. Visit the historic Anakie Hotel which had to be partially rebuilt in 1971 after a disgruntled patron blew out the front section with gelignite. The local primary school and police station are in Anakie as well as a bed and breakfast, caravan park, and hotel/motel. Anakie also hosts the annual ‘Gemfest – Festival of Gems’ every year in August.
The Willows Gem fields
The Willows Gemfields is 11 kilometres off the Capricorn Highway. The turnoff is 24 kilometres west of the Anakie/Sapphire crossroads and about a 45 minute drive west of Emerald. The Willows Gemfields is a popular fossicking spot as very little machinery was ever used there, and it is known for its green sapphires and particularly large yellow sapphires. Some of the world’s most famous sapphires have been found on The Willows Gemfields, including a 332 carat rough yellow, aptly named the “Golden Willow”. The Willows Gemfields has two caravan parks which offer limited supplies in the tourist season. Glen Alva is a fossicking area of shallow digging near The Willows Gemfields.