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Awesome Spots For Fossicking In Australia and Where To Camp Nearby

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Fossicking in Australia and where to camp nearby

Fossicking in Australia goes by a few different names depending on what exactly you are hoping to find. So whether you call it prospecting, rockhounding, fossicking, specking or noodling… it’s a fun and addictive hobby!

From blue and green sapphires to red garnets through to rainbow opals and quirky thundereggs, here are some awesome spots for fossicking in Australia where you can camp nearby.

Noodle for boulder opals at Opalton in Outback QLD

Located around 100km southwest of Winton in QLD’s outback, Opalton is a simple campsite and public fossicking area. 

Fossicking for opals is called noodling and is easy once you learn how.  Bring along a spray bottle filled with water and stroll among the pickings left behind from miners. When you see anything vaguely sparkly, give it a spray with your bottle. If you see a flicker of colour when the water hits it, you’ve found yourself a boulder opal!

Where to stay

Opalton Bush Park is located right next to the opal fossicking fields and works on an honesty box system. It only cost a few dollars per adult and a donation for WiFi. The ground is barren and rocky so it’s possible to stub your toe on an opal around the campsite. Opalton features a toilet, shower, closed-in eating area and you can camp where you please. The best part about this campsite is having a chat with the regulars who lay up here for a few months during the cooler months.

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fossicking in australia
Boulder Opal
Photo – Tourism & Events QLD

Fossick for red garnets and zircons at Gemtree in Central Australia

Located on the Plenty Highway, 140km northeast of Alice Springs in the NT, Gemtree Caravan Park is the place to head for red garnets and sparkly zircons.  Out of all the top spots for fossicking in Australia, this one provided me with the most loot!

Join in a tag-along tour with all equipment supplied in search of bright red garnets or sparkly zircons. We were fortunate enough to visit right after a spat of rain so although we were taught how to use a sieve to find them, many were just sitting on the surface.

Where to stay

Gemtree Caravan Park of course! Campsites are spacious in a natural setting and the showers and toilets are both clean and spacious.  If you order a burger from the reception cafe they will even deliver it to your campsite on a quad bike. I loved this place so much we stayed an extra night. 

Alternatively, a 4WD only free camp with no facilities can be found at the Mud Tank Zircon Field around 17km southeast of Gemtree. 

fossicking in australia
Fossicking for red garnets on a Gemtree tag-a-long tour
Photo – Jessica Palmer

Dig up thundereggs in the Gold Coast Hinterlands

Having nothing to do with both thunder and eggs, thundereggs are a 200 million-year-old mystery. The theory is that millions of years ago, a volcanic upheaval occurred in which bubbles formed in the silica-rich rock. As it cooled off, the materials shrank thus producing a star-shaped cavity that eventually filled with colourful minerals such as jasper, quartz, agate and more.

Thunderbird Park in the Gold Coast Hinterlands is a great spot for thunderegg fossicking in Australia as it’s home to the world’s largest thunderegg mine. In fact, it’s hard not to find a thunderegg here. Rent your equipment from the Thunderegg Mine Shop and staff will explain what you need to do.

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Where to stay

Thunderbird Park has camping facilities nestled right up alongside the Tamborine National Park. The campsites are in a natural setting and the beautiful Cedar Creek flows through the property.

Example of a Thunderegg
Image License –  Some rights reserved by James St. John

Fossick for sapphires and zircons at Oberon in NSW

Nestled in the shadows of the Blue Mountains around 150km west of Sydney, Oberon has five fossicking sites opened to the public. There is the possibility of finding sapphires, zircon, gold and diamond here! This is an amazing spot for fossicking in Australia.

Dreaming of gold? Many of the techniques you will use to fossick for gold are the same used over a century ago.  Buy or rent a gold pan, fill it three quarters with dirt, lower it in the water and swirl the dish around a little. Okay so this is a simple explanation, but you can get better guidance from the Visitor Information Centre at 48 Ross St in Oberon. Make sure to practice your skills at the ‘’Beginner’s Luck Patch” out the back.

Dreaming of Sapphires and Zircons? Use the double sieve method to find Sapphire and Zircons here.  It’s really easy to learn. Just ask at the visitor centre where you can also rent the equipment you need for the day. 

Where to stay 

Jenolan Holiday Park is located in Oberon itself but if National Park style camping is more your style, check out Kanangra-Boyd National Park

Speck for opals at Coober Pedy in South Australia

Around 750km northwest of Adelaide in South Australia, Coober Pedy is well known for opals. Head to the Jewell Box, an area that is still used as a mine dump, and noodle through the tailing in the hope of finding small opals or pieces of colourful potch (low-quality opal). 

Bring along a spray bottle and a small pick or shovel to move the stones around and spray them with water. If you’re lucky, you’ll see some sparkly colours when you spray the rocks. Given that this could be one of the hottest places for fossicking in Australia, visiting in the summer months is not recommended.

Where to stay

Try Riba’s Underground Camping for a unique underground camping experience. Alternatively, there is a free camp next to the Old Timers Museum and other caravan parks in Coober Pedy itself. 

fossicking in australia
Noodling at Coober Pedy
Photo – South Australian Tourism Commission

Search for rock crystals at Mt Hope in New South Wales

Around 600km west of Sydney, Mount Hope is where to head for beautiful rock crystals. Find them around 30cm – 50cm below the surface by dry sieving the dirt.  With a population of around 50 people, there is not a whole lot to do at Mount Hope but it’s worth a stop at the charming country-style pub and to try your luck finding crystals. 

Where to stay

Camping is available 45 minutes south of Mt Hope at the Billabourie Riverside Tourist Park.

Fossick for sapphires in the Queensland Gemfields

Around 332km west of Rockhampton are the small towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire. Although you don’t actually have to leave the towns to discover sapphires, there are 11 local fossicking areas nearby in the Queensland Gemfields in what is one of the most well-known spots for sapphire fossicking in Australia.  

Beginners can head out on a tag-a-long tour with Fascination Gems and once you learn the basics, come back and try on your own. 

Where to Stay

Blue Gem Tourist Park is a quiet caravan park with a well-stocked shop that sells fuel and food. Try your luck finding sapphires in the creek behind the park.  Alternatively, self-sufficient camping is available in a few designated spots for a small fee.

fossicking in australia
Sapphire fossicking
Photo – Tourism & Events QLD

Noodle opals at Lightning Ridge in NSW

Around 720 km north-west of Sydney and the same distance south-west of the Gold Coast, Lightning Ridge needs no introduction when it comes to opals.  Here is where you will find the world-famous black opal and the largest opal-producing fields in Australia. 

The Walk-in Mine is a fun attraction but make sure to drive out to the Grawin opal fields where there are three public dump sites, each about the size of a football field. 

Where to Stay

Campers and caravans can get comfortable at Opal Caravan Park or Lorne Station

Rockhound for royal blue sapphires at Glen Innes in NSW

Found on the northern border of New South Wales, Glen Innes is a well-known site for stunning blue sapphires.

Head to the Glen Innes Highlands Visitor Information Centre on the New England Highway to hire tools, grab the fossicking brochure and ask any questions you may have. If you already know what you’re doing, make your way to Yarrow Creek Bridge where you may also find topaz, garnet and zircon. Kookabookra, an old mining settlement area, is another great option with over 500m of river access at Sara River Bridge.

Where to stay

Both the Fossicker Caravan Park and Glen Rest Tourist Park provide beginner lessons.

Fossicking for gemstones at Fossicker Caravan Park
Photo – Destination NSW

Important information for fossicking in Australia

A permit for fossicking is required in many areas of Australia.  Click on the below links for more information relevant to each state or territory:

Pssst – If you like the idea of looking for treasure closer to home, you might like our article on Geocaching in Australia.

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