At a number of sites, such as Gemtree north of Alice Springs,
you can even get your 'booty' cut and set into a very personal
piece of jewellery.
You'll be dazzled by more than just your earthly finds. The fossicking
areas are also full of stories and characters from the Territory's
colourful pioneering past. Legends live on in the names of former
mine sites such as Billy Hughes Mine, Caruso Mine, Spotted Dog
Mine and Disputed Mine.
The main gem fossicking areas in the Territory are centred east
of Alice Springs in the Harts Range with places like Gemtree providing
a dedicated service centre for gem hunters. Key areas for gold
panning are around Arltunga east of Alice Springs as well as Tennant
Creek, just over 500 km to the north of Alice Springs and in the
Top End around the old historic gold mine township of Pine Creek,
224 km south of Darwin.
Visitors have the option of joining one of a number of organised
fossicking day trips or go independently and either hire the equipment
on site or bring your own. Many of the fossicking areas, even
those in remote areas, have nearby camping sites which make fossicking
an ideal inclusion on any 4x4 touring adventure or camping holiday
with the family. The only thing that is required to be able to
fossick for recreation in the Northern Territory is a Fossickers
Permit. They are free of charge and readily available along with
detailed maps and local information either off the web or from
a variety of agents in the local area (see fact file for details).
Those who take guided day trips don't require a permit as it is
included in the fee along with necessary equipment and the services
of a guide.
Central Australia is a natural hub of gem hunters. The mineral
rich Harts Range east of Alice Springs includes a fossicking area
that encompasses the abandoned mica mines of Mount Palmer. Gemtree,
situated 140 km north east of Alice Springs on the sealed section
of the Plenty Highway, makes an ideal base for any fossicking
expedition into the Harts Range. Go it alone or join in one of
the tag along tours that depart daily to the surrounding gem fields.
Gemtree also has fuel and camping facilities as well as gem displays
and a cutting room. Other activities on offer include a 9 hole
par 34 bush golf course, scenic drives, a 2.5 km nature walk and
opportunities to try your hand at Paddy Melon bowls, a unique
Gemtree sport offered every Saturday night May to September.
Alice Springs based tour operators such as Terri's Outback Tours
also offer fossicking day trips with both passenger and tag along
tour options to the rich gemfields of the Harts Range or the old
goldfields of Arltunga.
Garnets and zircons are the two most collectable gems of the
Harts Range region. The blood red garnets of the Centre were often
mistaken for rubies when first discovered in the late 1800's,
however they still make stunning jewellery pieces when cut and
set. Zircons have almost as much brilliance as diamonds and are
often confused with the man-made zirconias. The natural Zircons
of Central Australia come in a wide variety of colours (similar
to Argyle diamonds) and are a thrill to find and own.
If the glint of gold is your passion then you can head out by
4x4 to the Arltunga Historical Reserve, just over 100 km east
of Alice Springs off the Ross Highway. While camping is not permitted
at the fossicking reserve, the nearby Arltunga Bush Hotel and
Camp ground makes an ideal base camp for any expedition in the
area and the full details on the area are available from the NT
Parks and Wildlife Commission Visitors' Centre at the Reserve.
The main gold prospecting areas in Central Australia are around
Tennant Creek, which is known as the Golden Heart of the Territory.
Keen fossickers can take a tag along tour with local miner Paul
Holewa, or head out to the old Warrego Mine site around 60 km
from the town centre where you can dry pan or use metal detectors
in the designated public fossicking areas. Tennant Creek has a
number of caravan and camping grounds that make for an ideal base
camp for any stay in the area and allows visitors to take in the
region's other attractions such as the Battery Hill Mining Centre,
Mary Ann Dam Recreation Lake, Tennant Creek telegraph station
and the famous Devils Marbles.
In the Top End, fossickers and gold panners head for the historic
gold mining township of Pine Creek, 224 km south of Darwin, which
was the centre of the region's heady 1870's gold rush days. You
can tour the many historic mine sites and displays as well as
try your hand at gold panning at Gun Alley. Each year in early
May, Pine Creek hosts the annual Gold Rush Festival, which includes
the popular NT Gold Panning Championships. The nearby Goldfields
Loop Heritage Trail will delight history buffs and you can camp
overnight at the quirky Grove Hill Heritage Hotel, which includes
a fascinating array of gold mining memorabilia and colourful locals.
Fossicking and gold panning are fascinating pastimes and if you
and your family and friends want to experience a truly memorable
adventure holiday, head to the Northern Territory because you
will never never know if you never never go!!
- The official NT Department of Business, Industry and Resource
Development website. Find Fossicking under the Minerals and Energy
section, then Licences, Titles & Permits sub section. Includes
practical information and site maps, exclusion areas, dictionary
of gems and minerals and safety tips.
- Gemtree makes a great base for any fossicking in the Harts Ranges.
Camping facilities, tours, cutting room, gear to hire and information
are all available.
NT Fossicking Permits and Information Kits available from the
· Central Australian Tourism Industry Assoc. Inc. 60 Gregory
Terrace, Tel: 08 8952 5800, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Tennant Creek Regional Tourist Assoc Inc. Battery Hill
Regional Centre, Peko Road, Tel: 08 8962 3388, Email: email@example.com
· Katherine Region Tourist Association. Stuart Highway,
Katherine. Tel: 08 8972 2650, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Tourism Top End, Mitchell & Knuckey Streets Darwin.
Tel: 08 89362 2499, Email: email@example.com · Gemtree Caravan
Park, Plenty Highway via Alice Springs. Tel: 08 8956 9855, Fax:
08 8956 9860.
· Outback Gems, Shop 2, Coles Complex, Alice Springs. Tel:
08 8952 9299, Fax: 08 8952 9299.
· Department of Mines and Energy: Alice Springs: 58 Hartley
Street, Tel: 08 8951 5658 Darwin: Centrepoint Building, Smith
Street Mall, Tel: 08 8999 5322
Fossicking permits are also available from Arltunga Bush Hotel
and Campground, Pine Creek Diggers Rest Motel and the Grove Hill
Heritage Hotel and Museum.