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.
Start your adventures at Mount Surprise Gem Den, where you can pick up all the equipment you will need. They will even issue you with a fossicking license and a map of the diggings at O’Briens Creek. At Flat Creek you can go gold-prospecting, while at Agate Creek you may find yourself a thunder egg, an agate sphere that reveals beautiful patterns when cut and polished.
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.