RUBYVALE & SAPPHIRE GEMFIELDS, CENTRAL QUEENSLAND. AUSTRALIA

Encompassing around 900 square kilometres of irresistible gem fossicking opportunities, while in Emerald we couldn’t miss the Central highland gem fields. This was quite an experience. We left Lake Maraboon for a short drive to the mining towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire, and embarked on a guided tour of an underground mine.




Kim Caught gem fever as see discovered the famous jewels of the Central Highlands, and explored the famous gem shops, galleries, jewellers and locally created cottage industries that are the lifeblood of the Sapphire Gemfields.
We first stopped for a big brekkie at the Rubyvale Café and browse the adjacent Gem Gallery where Peter Brown, pioneering miner turned gem cutter and jeweller, showed us his collection of rainbow sapphires.
If you’re Kim and get seduced by all the bling you can buy a readymade piece or choose a loose sapphire and commission a special piece of jewellery.



Given the sheer vastness of Australia, it isn’t surprising to learn that the country comprises many natural resources and numerous gold rushes from as early as 1851 onwards. This has contributed to a maintained interest in fossicking activity, which still lives on to this day, especially in the Gemfields townships of Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire and The Willows which annually host GemFest, a celebration of jewels.




Many Australians and tourists alike still enjoy the rather unique activity of panning for jewels and who can blame them? It yields an unmatched experience which is rather different from retail ventures in the big cities or lazing on New South Wales beaches, revealing more about themes of culture while for those lucky enough; they’ll be able to take away a shiny souvenir.
The pioneering spirit is alive and well in the Sapphire Gemfields around Emerald. Treasure seekers have been coming here since the seventies, searching for precious stones. It’s a magnet for free spirits and adventure seekers who want to experience the real Australian outback and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.



It’s hot, dusty work fossicking for sapphires, you have been warned! But it could be worth it. After all, you’ll hit pay dirt if you find a big old sapphire in your sieve. Stranger things have happened in the gemfields around Emerald and all the locals have a story or two to tell about sapphires they’ve unearthed.

We escaped the heat and went gem crazy with a Mine Tour at Miners Heritage. If you can’t take the heat, this is a great option because no matter how hot it is outside, it’s always cool underground.
Miners Heritage is Australia’s largest underground walk-in sapphire mine tour so you can experience what it’s like to be a miner. The short tour is fun for all the family and the sapphires sparkling in the walls will get you fired up for more fossicking later.




There’s an underground museum where you can read about some of the sapphires that have been found over the years, and after the tour, you can buy a bucket of ‘wash’ (the leftover dirt from commercial mines) and fossick for your own gem.

While we were visiting the area a grey nomad picked an eight-carat yellow sapphire out of a $8 bag of wash. You never know what you’ll find!

MITCHELL, QUEENSLAND. AUSTRALIA

Mitchell was one of our stops in our adventure in Outback Queensland.
Soaking in the soothing mineral springs at Mitchell is just one of the surprises that awaits you in this quaint town on the edge of the outback.





Just 87 kilometres west of Roma via the Warrego Highway, Mitchell sits peacefully on the banks of the Maranoa River. It lies in the westerly-most reaches of Southern Queensland Country and services the adjoining communities of Amby, Muckadilla and Mungallala.




We pulled up out our first stop where many a sun-scorched traveller has found bliss floating in the thermal mineralised waters of the Great Artesian Spa. It’s relaxing for the body and therapeutic for the soul, and a precious natural resource that the locals proudly share. Located in Mitchell’s aquatic centre, the Spa offers two large pools, one warm and one cool, of natural artesian water. It has been designed for easy access, with a hydro chair for those with restricted mobility.

Another exciting venture can be to explore is the magnificent sandstone formations and pristine native ecosystems and take in magnificent panoramic vistas at numerous sites throughout the area. Accessing the Mt Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park is easy from Mitchell. Nature lovers will be impressed with the abundance of wildlife including over 250 bird species living in and visiting the area. We didn’t venture the 6 hour drive north because we were heading to Charleville next.

Mitchell’s active community is keen to preserve the treasures and lessons from the past and have created a range of heritage and cultural displays covering its local indigenous cultural heritage, early explorers and pioneers, bushranging past and social history. So our next stop was making our way to the Heritage Museum, which was packed full of local history.



Before camp we dropped into Major Mitchell’s Campsite, established in 1846 on his fourth expedition to map an overland route from Sydney to Darwin.

For a taste of the town’s chequered past take in the history make sure you check out Kenniff Court House, which is the original courthouse where local bushrangers, the Kenniff Brothers, were committed to stand trial in 1902.




Just outside of town is the Neil Turner Weir, a free campsite beside the river with fresh water available, toilets and apparently, good fishing. We also had some internet access. There were a number of other free campers at the site, not as many or as close together as the previous spot and quiet and peaceful.




There is something wonderful about sitting in a spot beside the water, watching the sun go down with nothing else to do BUT watch the sun go down. It’s also wonderful to watch Kim enjoying herslf fishing (not catching mind you). We settled in for the night and the next day we took a quick trip up the road to Morven for another overnighter.



//s7.addthis.com/js/300/addthis_widget.js#pubid=ra-59a0a83bbefaf8c1

LONGREACH, QUEENSLAND OUTBACK. THINGS TO DO.

Longreach is a small town of about 4,200 people in central western Queensland.  The drive is about 12.5 hours from Brisbane and is completely on tar sealed roads. The outback town of Longreach, Australia gained its name after its positioning on the ‘long reach’ of the Thomson River.



The friendly outback town makes for an excellent holiday destination or stopping point on your Queensland road trip. You’ll find natural beauty as well as fascinating tourist attractions in this friendly town, where you can experience life in the Aussie outback and learn about the region’s important role in Australian history.


Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame.

First stop on your list will be the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame which pays tribute to Australia’s pioneering legends and outlines our Outback history. There are six galleries to explore in the Hall of Fame, starting with a short video of interviews with different stockmen in the Longreach region (including women, Aboriginal, and young stockmen too).  This helps set the scene to learn about the rich history of outback families and to consider the changing reality for stockmen today. 



Remember to join experienced Head Stockman John Hawkes for an informative insight and tribute to the skills of all stockmen past and present. Horse Kenny and Olly the Steer are but a small part of the lunch and night show of horsemanship and the showcasing of traditional Australian Stockman skills that are still used today. You’ll be entertained, captivated and leave having a sense of pride in being a part of keeping the spirit of the outback alive.




Qantas Founders Museum

The award-winning museum tells the story of Qantas Airways through interpretive displays, interactive exhibits, aircraft and an impressive collection of artefacts. If you’ve ever wanted to see inside a heritage hangar, explore a Boeing 747 and 707, go inside the cockpit, learn how to ‘arm the doors’, see the black box recorder, go inside a luxury jet, fly a fighter plane simulator, or walk on the wing of an aircraft, then the Qantas Founders Museum is for you.


Cruises & Outback Shows



We loved the Outback Pioneers Cruise Experience which was an evening on the Thomson River complete with entertainment by Heartland Theatre. Heartland Theatre is the Outback’s premiere musical experience and a unique evening’s entertainment with a intimate candlelit bush dinner.  Award winning yet humble local musicians entertained all with the personalized combination of songs, bush poems and jokes while we enjoyed a country home cooked style meal.

Camden Park Station Tour

We got to meet the Walker family on their property as you experience a working sheep and cattle station. We meet Outback Dan, fifth generation farmer, who will guide us through his family’s historical homestead, cattle yards, shearing shed and took us for a walk down the “Queen’s Path”, in honour of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s 1970 visit. We waked through the historical Homestead Gardens, Shearing Shed and Cattle Yards then tour the farm after a scrumptious smoko.



Kinnon & Co



Cobb and Co were the pioneers of stagecoach travel and mail services throughout Australia. On their Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience we traveled in a restored stagecoach on their award-winning tour – first at a leisurely pace through town and then full-tilt along a stretch of the original Longreach-Windorah mail route. You get to hear the pounding hooves of the magnificent horses on the outback dirt road. Hear the rattle and creak of the coach. Hold on to your hat for the only stagecoach gallop in Australia! It’s exhilarating. It’s entertaining. And it’s the closest you can get to feeling what it would have been like in the pioneer past. After the 45 minute stagecoach ride and photos, we slowed down with a traditional smoko (the original Aussie tea break), a classic 

Australian movie in retro cinema seats for the Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show, which has fun for all the family in a tribute to the old travelling shows.




First and foremost, when travelling in Outback Queensland you are asked to please acknowledge and respect the values and beliefs of Indigenous Australians as they have a long standing view that the landscape is the very core of all spirituality!

Road hazards such as livestock (think city traffic jam), long distances on flat terrain can take some getting used to.  This goes without saying, but OBEY the speed limit – it’s there for a reason.

While travelling on the major highways, fuel stops are rarely more than 200km apart, so it may not be necessary to carry spare fuel…but if you happen to come across a “no fuel” sign…that’s exactly what it means.  Ensure you always travel with extra water, first aid kit, spares for tyres (with the correct pressure), radiator hoses, fan belts and not to mention a good tool kit!
When driving in the Outback be mindful you are sharing the space with our stock, kangaroo and emu friends.  Kangaroos tend to be more active during sunrise and sunset (so stay vigilant).

Check the mobile coverage areas while planning your trip.  Both Telstra and Optus networks are covered in Longreach, Mount Isa, Charleville and Birdsville(Telstra Next G network will still be available within a 20km radius of most other towns), but you will find limited coverage in the far South West corner of Queensland.  If you’re planning that Outback adventure, then perhaps invest in a satellite phone.


//www.powr.io/powr.js

//s7.addthis.com/js/300/addthis_widget.js#pubid=ra-59a0a83bbefaf8c1