Where to find things that sparkle
It was gold miners who first explored the Etheridge Shire in Tropical North Queensland, but today it is gem hunters who are more likely to unearth treasure worth taking home. Try your hand at fossicking and you might find yourself a yellow topaz or a remarkable thunder egg. Fossicking licenses are needed to fossick at the many sites across the region and you can also purchase them online. Head to the Agate Creek area to hunt for beautifully banded agates, search for topaz at O’Brien’s Creek, or go for gold at the Etheridge Goldfields.
Don’t feel like getting your hands dirty? Head to the Gold Rush settlement of Georgetown, with its historic buildings and the TerrEstrial Centre. The centre’s displays include more than 4500 gemstones and minerals from around the world, as well as the Providence Nugget, a huge hunk of crystallised gold. Also worth a visit: the lovely Cobbold Gorge, where you can take a boat tour beneath the sandstone cliffs, and the town of Einasleigh, with a dramatic setting amid flat-topped mesas and a lively rodeo held every Easter.
If time isn’t on your side, head to the Crystal Caves in Atherton to crack a geode or two. Built from one man’s passion, René Boissevain travelled to every corner of the globe to source some of the most extraordinary, valuable and rare gems. His collection of crystallised mineral specimens, gemstones, fossils and rocks are now on display in a man-made cave in the main street of Atherton.