Fossicking is an ideal activity for families. You get to spend time together out in the open air and everyone can take part (even our family dog was welcome at all the below locations!).
Our kids love digging, rocks, getting dirty and climbing mountains so they had great fun searching for precious gems and ancient fossils around some beautiful destinations.
Here are some top tips on what to find and where:
- Fossick for Opals in Yowah, Western QLD
- Dig for dinosaur fossils in Richmond on the Dinosaur Trail
- Search for Sapphires in Emerald in the Central Highlands
- Pan for gold in Gympie near the Sunshine Coast
- Discover thundereggs in Mt Hay near Rockhampton
- Uncover petrified wood in Chinchilla in the Western Downs Region
Family Fossicking for Opals in Yowah
We stayed for a while in Cunnamulla and during our stay headed out to Eulo for a couple of nights (a must visit destination – home of the once famous lizard races, where you can have an outdoor, luxury mud bath in the bush!) From Eulo we drove out to Yowah for the day (all sealed roads) – where we wished we had also stayed for a night – there is lots to see and do and apparently the sunsets are amazing!
Yowah is world famous for their unique type of opal – the Yowah Nut – an ironstone formation that when cracked open can either contain a load of powder or a beautiful opal! Our first stop when we arrived in town was the Yowah Nut Cafe where we hired our fossicking equipment for the day (buckets, picks and hammers) and where we also met the lovely owner who cooked us a delicious lunch and gave us lots of tips on where to find opals and what to do in town.
The public fossicking area is just a few minutes down the road and we managed to find some lovely little opals and also one Yowah nut – which we haven’t opened yet! There are also hot artesian pools here which are perfect after a long day digging in the dirt!
Digging for Dinosaur Fossils in Richmond
Richmond is a part of the magnificent dinosaur triangle which also includes Winton and Hughenden, where you can fossick for your very own dinosaur bones! As the area was under the ocean millions of years ago, you can also find fossilised shells and fish – in fact an extremely rare ancient swordfish was dug up in Richmond not long ago.
It’s definitely worth spending some time in Richmond itself too – there’s a great museum and lots of historical spots in town – as well as a lovely lake you can walk, cycle or scoot around with a playpark and a free splash park.
There are 2 sites where you can fossick – here’s a link to a handy map – we chose site number one and it was great for the whole family and there are toilets there too. Note! If travelling with your pet keep them close at hand – there are dingo baits set outside the fossicking area so don’t let them wander off.
Panning for Gold in Gympie
We loved Gympie – there is so much to do with kids (post coming soon!) – one of the highlights for us was the Gympie Gold Mining and Historical Museum where we spent a fun afternoon exploring and learning. At the entrance to the museum there is a gold panning area where you can learn the techniques and search for your fortune!
You can also learn why Gympie is the town that saved Queensland, experience a historic classroom and see lots of old machinery and displays – and once a month there is a historical re-enactment with firing of the cannon.
Discovering the magic of Thundereggs in Mt Hay
Located a short 30-minute drive from Rockhampton we definitely recommend staying overnight at this one if you have your own caravan, trailer or motorhome. At Mt Hay you can fossick for 120,000,000-year-old thundereggs – a remnant of volcanic activity buried deep in the earth and brought up from the mines for visitors to fossick through.
It is very family friendly here – the kids get their own tools to use and the fossicking area is safe and all ages.
Read our full review of Mt Hay on this link.
Uncovering Petrified Wood in Chinchilla
Chinchilla is a fascinating place! Start with a visit to the visitor info centre where you can get all the info you need on the town and the lovely staff will give you maps and a fossicking license if you don’t already have one. You can also buy pieces of petrified wood in the shop from $1 upwards if you have no luck at the fossicking site!
The petrified wood in Chinchilla dates back to the Jurassic period (140-180 million years ago) – and the process is thought to occur when the trees are covered by massive amounts of volcanic ash and buried in a lava or mud flow.
There are 2 privately owned properties – Gaske and Bell – where you can fossick – but you do need a QLD fossickers license (available for $11 at the visitor centre – valid for all of QLD). You also pay $5 at the visitor centre for admission to either site. You need to bring your own equipment.
Chinchilla petrified wood is world renowned for its colour and hardness – you can also see some beautiful products created from local wood at the visitor centre.
There is a great museum in Chinchilla too, as well as a huge watermelon festival (celebrating the local watermelon industry not giant fruit!) every 2 years, and don’t miss the chance to see the monument dedicated to a moth (must be a unique attraction in the world!) and the fascinating story behind the cactoblastis cactorum.
Discovering Sapphires in Rubyvale
Don’t be confused by the town names in the Gem Fields – although you will pass through Rubyvale (named after a school) and Emerald (named after the lush green fields surrounding the town) – the real treasure here is Sapphires.
We found an absolute gem (excuse the pun!) of a fossicking park in Rubyvale – The Miner’s Cottage – where we found some incredible sapphires of all different colours.
We had bought a few buckets of ‘wash’ (the term used for the sapphire bearing gravel) as we had driven through the gem fields – and also one at our caravan park – but there was absolutely no comparison to the quality of stones we found at the Miner’s Cottage.
As well as being set in beautiful surroundings, you are also welcomed with a cup of tea and home made scones included in your entry price – as well as the friendly and expert guiding hand of the owner Gae – who takes time to show all her customers how to find the stones and then to examine them all under the light at the end.
You can find The Miner’s Cottage on Goanna Flats Road in Rubyvale – call them on 07 49895 4531. Check before visiting this region as a lot of the businesses close for low season during the hot Summer months.
Family Fossicking Tips
Make sure you wear sunscreen and hats and take lots of water as fortune hunting is thirsty work! Try and go early in the morning or later on in the afternoon – outside the full heat of the day. Read all safety signs carefully as each area will differ in rules and warnings – we kept to designated tourist areas which are well regulated and safe for all ages. Check with local visitor info centres for maps and any licenses that might be needed. Take along kids buckets and spades so they can have fun digging in the dirt while you search – we brought our own hammers along too to break up the dirt.
Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any great spots and watch our video below for some more pics.