In the words of JR Tolkien "Not all those who wander are lost". My passion and loves are my family, travel and writing. I'm fortunate to be able to combine all three for an extraordinary life adventure....
Somewhere between northern NSW and Brisbane, my younger son added gems and stones to his list of collectables and must-have items, which by this stage, already included fossils and bones. Thus began my research into 'fossicking', hoping I could organise something en route as we headed up the coast to North Queensland.
What I discovered was the Mt Hay Gemstone Tourist Park. No fossicking licences required, no confrontations with private land owners in gem rich sites, all tools and equipment provided, open all year round and perfectly located, only 38 kms from Rockhampton on the Capricorn Highway.
Mt Hay Gemstone Park is a privately operated mine which is open to the public. This means you can fossick to your heart's content and will be given lots of helpful advice on how to do it, along the way!
Mt Hay Gemstone Park is located on the 'Dig the Tropic' tourist route which has identified various sites of significance to take you on a fascinating geological journey; from the discovery of precious gems at Sapphire fields all the way to the town of Winton famous for its Dinosaur Digs. However, on our coastal road trip, Mt Hay was the perfect stop a short detour and an easy to get to, location. It is an authentic fossicking experience, both informative and exploratory, with the opportunity to find your own 'volcanic birthstone'.
Our Father's Day this year was unlike previous ones. There would be no last minute rush, scouring the shopping centres to find the right Fathers Day present. This time, my kids (and Dad) were going to do all the hard work and 'discover' their perfect Fathers Day gift while having fun doing it.
So what exactly was this 'gift' going to be? A brilliant Thunder egg, with a unique inside that was awaiting discovery. A practical hands on Fathers Day combining all the right elements of surprise, exploration and good fun!
Before our visit to Mt Hay (an extinct volcano), we didn't know much about this gem of a rock. Thunder eggs are stunning formations in volcanic rock that have occurred approximately 120 million years ago as a result of ancient Rhyolite lava flow. As the lava has cooled, the trapped gas bubbles within the rocks have solidified and become filled with semi precious minerals such as quartz crystals, amethyst, agate and jasper, producing exquisite natural and unique interior designs.
On the day of our visit, we were greeted by Ken, one of the brothers who run the family owned business. We joined some other travellers from NZ keen to learn more about this fascinating gem and its intricate formations. Once we got some background information and a better idea of what to look for in the piles of excavated mounds of dirt, it was off to fossick - armed with a bucket and brush, a bag for our finds and the essential digging tool!
Mt Hay is a lovely pleasant spot with 180-degree views of the bush and the surrounding valley - a nice change from the coastal towns we had visited thus far. There are some shaded picnic tables for lunch, and chairs and/or knee mats are provided for fossicking if required. We found our kids were more than happy to sit and lie in the dirt for a while; scraping and digging away. In fact, by the time we had finished, my sons were straining to carry the load of stones they had collected.
After our fun in the dirt, (me included!), we carried our stones back into the workshop where Ken helped each of us sort out our best thunder eggs for cutting. This is where the real surprise comes in. The plain unassuming round rock shows a spectacular and unique swirl of pattern and colour once cut in half. There is one free cut per person and a small fee for any other additional cuttings of your choice.
There is also a pewter crafting workshop area, where Don or Ken, will happily introduce you to the unique process of pewter casting from raw material through to the finished product. There is an enormous range of pewter items created on site from figurines, teaspoons, coasters, knives and interesting Australiana themed souvenirs. These can all be purchased on site as well as other cool fossils and gems from around the world at affordable prices.
We hung out in the 'rock garden' for a little while admiring and showing our new found rocks to each other. Of course, the boys selected their most special 'rock' for dad.
A great day out and something different and fun to do with the kids at a low key, no frills or fuss sort of place.
Ken, Don or any other staff member are on hand for the day and available to answer anything you've ever wanted to know about this precious find in their backyard!