Gold truly puts the ‘Au’ in Australia. The country is the world’s second-largest gold producer, next only to China. With 7,400 tons in gold reserves, Australia holds around 11 percent of the world’s Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of gold. This is no surprise, considering Australia is where the world’s largest gold nugget on record, the ‘Welcome Stranger,’ was found.
Gold prospecting is a quintessentially Australian pursuit. When Australians are not marvelling at and using the latest metal detectors, they are prospecting for gold the good old way: panning.
Panning is the practice of sifting alluvial gold, i.e. specks and vestiges of gold that are washed with the sediment in rivers and other waterways. Now it may not substitute your day job right away or expound on your investment like a gold bullion trading account, but panning is somehow lucrative, earning you as much as $50 per week on average.
So where to pan for gold in Australia? The following, in random order, are just a few hotspots:
1. Gympie, Queensland
Gympie was “The Town That Saved Queensland from Bankruptcy” for a reason: James Nash unearthed 72 ounces of gold here over just a six-day period in 1867. Today, many Australians are still looking to replicate his success with panning sessions in Gympie’s Mary River. The town hosts several gold panning competitions each year.
2. Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Two-thirds of Australia’s gold production centres on Western Australia. This is the address of the Golden Mile, touted in the 19th century as the most auriferous square mile in the world. Due to its popularity, the Golden Mile has been literally run to the ground by miners: It is now part of the Super Pit, the country’s biggest open-pit mine. You can find panning hopefuls trawling waterways in and around town.
3. Bathurst, New South Wales
Australia’s first gold rush ostensibly started when the 87-pound nugget called the ‘Kerr Hundredweight’ was found in Turon River near Bathurst. A mini gold rush continues today in the affluent streams and creeks throughout the town. Beginners can seek the help of tourist guides on good places to pan.
4. Palmer River, Queensland
Queensland’s Palmer River hides a pirate’s cache of gold. In 1872, a cattle grazier named William Hann discovered notable quantities of the yellow metal in the riverbed. The surrounding region has not been the same since. By 1873, a nearby settlement now known as Maytown had flourished as the prospectors dug and panned upstream. Look deeper; the creeks of Maytown might just yield you your first panned gold.
5. Bendigo, Victoria
Bendigo is the crown city of Victoria’s Goldfields region. In the 19th century, Bendigo was Australia’s most prolific goldfield, attracting migrants from around the world to transform it from a humble shepherd station to a boomtown.
Bendigo’s goldfield spans 360 sq. km. and offers more or less 35 reefs. The area is so auriferous that you could practically pan gold in gutters by the roadside. You could even get lucky when it rains.
6. Ballarat, Victoria
Next on Victoria’s Goldfields circuit is Ballarat, a city whose penchant for gold is enshrined in history. The Eureka Stockade, the only armed civil rebellion against Australia’s colonial government, took place here and was borne out of gold miners’ discontent. You can see a replica of Ballarat as a gold rush town on Sovereign Hill; here you can pan for gold like days of yore.
7. Castlemaine, Victoria
Completing our Victorian Goldfields trifecta is the city of Castlemaine. In 1851, thousands descended upon the then shepherding station when word spread of a rich riverbed near present-day Castlemaine. One of the richer creeks, Forest Creek, is now part of the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park. Bring your pans here and see why the old prospectors called this ‘the bank-till free to all.’
8. Pine Creek, Northern Territory
Every year, Pine Creek celebrates the Gold Rush Festival, the salient events of which are the Gold Panning Championships. Both tourists and natives can participate in the games. Contestants have 10 minutes at most to scour for gold specks in their sieves. More experienced prospectors are given only three minutes!
This list only scrapes the surface of Australia’s rich alluvial crust. To find more gold panning spots in Australia, researching is essential.
If you’re in a state capital, visit the Mines Department for detailed information on good panning locations in the vicinity. Know when the location was gazetted as a goldfield; its future prospects; the type of gold here; and the production statistics. The personnel can equip you with detailed maps of the area. Also, they can inform you about places where it is lawful to do panning and where it is not.