Towns of the Sapphire Gemfields – Anakie, Sapphire, Rubyvale, Willows Gemfields
Covering almost 900 square kilometres, the Sapphire Gemfields is one of the world’s largest sapphire fields, and takes in the townships of Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire and Willows Gemfields. The sapphire fields date back to 1875 when the first gem was found by a Railway Surveyor. Visitors now come from all over the world to search for the blue, green, yellow, parti-coloured and star sapphires. See map and directions at the bottom of the page.
Located just south of the Capricorn Highway, Anakie is the service town of the Sapphire Gemfields with the regional school and police station. I August Anakie becomes a hive of activity, as thousands arrive for Gemfest Festival Of Gems, Australia’s premier gem show. Visit the historic Anakie Hotel which had to be partially rebuilt in 1971 after a disgruntled patron blew out the front section with gelignite.
10 kilometres north of the Capricorn Highway is the small township of Sapphire. Mined since the late 1800s, many fortunes have been made and lost, many treasures found, and many people have been hooked on the laidback lifestyle and casual charm of the area.
If you are keen to see what fossicking fever is all about, permits are required to fossick on any public sites. Permits can be purchased for a small monthly fee, and are available from numerous small businesses and licence agents throughout the region. Visit www.qld.gov.au/recreation/activities/fossicking/licences-permits/purchase/ for details.
Visit the many gem stores or the local markets to see examples of the beautiful and varied stones that can be found.
8 kilometres drive from Sapphire, Rubyvale offers a fascinating insight into the history and colourful stories of the region. Take a walk-in mine tour and experience the process of underground sapphire mining, as your guide points out the tiny tunnels dug with pick and shovel by the pioneer miners, to those dug by machines today.
There are many fossicking areas nearby if you are keen to unearth your own treasures. The digging work is already done, so visitors can buy a bucket of wash and start searching straight away. Friendly staff will provide advice and guidance on how to sieve and sort for sapphires; but if you’re unsuccessful finding your own gem, there are sapphires for sale in all sizes, shapes and colours, and to suit every budget.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the gem and jewellery shops, and refresh at one of the cafes. Rubyvale has unique local architecture, with ‘billy boulders’ and ironbark logs.
The Willows Gemfields is a popular fossicking spot as very little machinery and no corporate mining was permitted in the past. Some of the world’s most famous sapphires have been found here including a 332 carat rough yellow, aptly named the ‘Golden Willow’.
To fossick visit the Glenalva and Willows shallow digging areas or the fossicking park.