In the heart of gemstone country in the New England High Country of NSW, you’ll find the charming town of Inverell. People have been seeking their fossicking fortune in the Inverell region since at least 1875, when diamonds were found in the alluvium of Copes Creek close to the junction of the Gwydir River. This led to the discovery of what was once the richest diamond field in NSW in 1883.
So you see, there’s not only gold in them there hills here, but also diamonds. And if that wasn’t enough to make you squat down and hunch over your latest find, mumbling the words ‘my precious’, you can also find black tourmaline, topaz, gold, quartz and sapphires. In fact, the sapphires you can find fossicking here are so blue and so plentiful that the town of Inverell is actually known as “The Sapphire City”.
Where to stay in Inverell for your fossicking adventure
With a capacity of nearly three times the size of Sydney Harbour when full, Copeton Dam, just 30 minutes from Inverell, is our top pick of where to stay for a fossicking adventure. Right on its shores, you’ll find Reflections Holiday Park Copeton Waters. This place is a boatie’s paradise, with more than enough room for jet skis and towables, and a plentiful supply of yellow belly, murray cod, catfish and silver perch.
With generous powered and non-powered sites, cabins, wide open spaces, a water breeze, facilities, a playground and a splash park, this holiday park is a safe bet. Wake up to kangaroos and farewell the sun with deer. But more importantly, you can get fuel and lunch here, too.
Where to go fossicking for sapphires in the Inverell region
The Visitor Information Centre in Inverell is where to head to get up-to-date information on where you can look for sapphires in the region. Hire some fossicking equipment from here if you don’t have your own. In the same building is Billabong Blue Sapphire, in which you’ll find the owners of Billabong Blue Sapphire Fossicking Park, a privately owned property around 22 kilometres from Inverell where you can learn the ropes for a fee of $25 per adult.
If you’d like to go it alone here with your own equipment, it’s only $10 per adult for the day. Besides, if your efforts fall by the wayside like mine did, you can always come back here and buy yourself a pretty blue gem already cut and set in jewellery. I won’t tell anyone, I promise.
Find free sapphire fossicking close to Inverell at Swanbrook Creek Bridge, 12.5km northeast of Inverell or Frazers Creek at Nullamanna, 20km north of Inverell.
In search of diamonds, topaz, black tourmaline and quartz?
Close to the blue waters of Copeton Dam and the Reflections Holiday Park is the Staggy Creek Fossicking Area (28 kilometres from Inverell), where you can go in search of not only diamonds, but topaz, black tourmaline and quartz. For those in the know, this is a dry sieve area, but depending on the season, there may be a small seasonal waterhole here. And while I can’t guarantee you’ll find anything of monetary value, it’s virtually impossible to walk away without a pocket full of pretty quartz.
Fix your gold fever at Bingara
For those of you with gold fever, a day trip to nearby Bingara on the Gwydir River is a top choice, not just for the opportunity to strike it rich, but because Bingara itself boasts some geological wonders, including the Rocky Creek Glacial Area, Sawn Rocks, and the discovery of a unique fossil, a large Leptophloeum sample with a trilobite attached. While more exploratory work has to be done, where there is one trilobite, there’s more.
Leptophloeum was a giant Lycopod, or scale tree, from the Devonian Period of Australia, around 416 – 359 million years ago. Trilobites are even more interesting, numbered among the early arthropods which are now extinct. They were one of the first creatures to climb from the primordial ooze.
Enough of the history lesson though, let’s go back to fixing your gold fever. The best way to cure it is to head to Three Creeks Gold Mine for a spot of fossicking around an hour south west of Inverell in the Upper Bingara region.
Here you’ll find legendary hospitality, an undercover area to pan for gold and the advice of expert fossickers to show you how to perfect your technique. If you’ve dragged kids or grandkids along for the ride, they’ll be pretty occupied finding quartz crystals here as well. Just don’t make eye contact with the resident rooster, he has a bit of a ‘what are you looking at’ attitude.
What else is there to do in Inverell?
Don’t have any more room in your pockets for sapphires and diamonds? Looking for somewhere else to play? Here’s what else you can do besides fossicking in the Inverell region.
The great outdoors
Head to Lake Inverell, a wildlife refuge and recreation reserve popular with kayakers, fishers and twitchers. Stroll the boardwalk and pontoon for picturesque views. You’ll find it around two kilometres from the town centre on Lake Inverell Drive.
McIlveen Park Lookout can be found around four kilometres west of the Inverell Central Business District. Here you can see wind turbines off in the distance, and views back across the township and ranges further east.
The WWII Remembrance Riverwalk hugs the Macintyre River and as the walking path is around five kilometres, it’s a great opportunity to get your daily steps in while taking in the natural surroundings of Inverell.
History buffs should head to the Inverell Pioneer Village, National Transport Museum and Wing Hing Long Museum. You can also drop in the Inverell Visitor Information Centre to pick up the “Heritage Walk in Inverell” booklet which is a great way to learn about the town’s heritage while checking out the place.
Nearby National Parks include Kwiambal National Park, where you’ll discover the Limestone Caves and Macintyre Falls, Barayamal National Park, Kings Plains National Park and Goonoowigall State Conservation Area.
Arts and Culture
Operated by the Inverell Art Society, the Inverell Art Galley is a community gallery open six days a week. Outside of the gallery, you’ll find the Meandering Macintyre footpath mosaic. Measuring 90cm across and 94m long, it represents the flow of the Macintyre River.
But for something a little different, check out the Goonoowigall Soundtrail, an interactive experience that serves to celebrate indigenous culture and educate through the telling of stories. Simply download the free soundtrails app from the App Store or Google Play, then download the Goonoowigall Soundtrail. When you visit each point, the stories will automatically start using the GPS on your device.
Where is Inverell?
Find Inverell in the New England High Country 431 kilometres southwest of Brisbane and 578 kilometres northwest of Sydney. As part of the Fossickers Way, this charming town has everything you need and offers much for the RV traveller.