When returning your rental vehicle, please ensure to re-fuel your hire car to the agreed level. Allow an additional 10 to 15 minutes prior to the flight check-in time for car rental and key return.
Welcome to sparkling Emerald! Find this hidden treasure at the heart of the Capricorn Coast hinterland, a three-hour drive from Rockhampton. Situated on the banks of the Nogoa River, Emerald is named for a pastoral run (Emerald Downs) established in 1860 by the area’s first settler, as much for the precious green stone.
Emerald certainly inspires the fortune seeker. The Capricorn Hinterland is home to the most abundant field of sapphires in the southern hemisphere, also one of the largest in the world. Head to the Gemfields west of Emerald, and maybe you’ll strike it lucky unearthing jewels or gold. Tourists and recreational gem hunters come from far and wide trying their hand at digging tours, sieving for a glint through the slurry, armed with a fossicking licence. For others, it’s simply a way of life. Known as ‘Gemmies’, these are folks that came for the thrill and stayed for the long run – many still holding the dream that there’s plenty more from where that came from, since the first sapphire find over a century ago.
As the major hub of the Central Queensland Highlands, Emerald is indeed the crown of the region. Coal, cotton, citrus and fields of sunflowers have helped Emerald prosper to become the thriving town it is today. Along with grapes and grain, mining is a mainstay of Emerald and many travellers fly in and out for work. The Emerald Airport lies sixkilometres south of the centre and offers over 50 return flights to Brisbane weekly, operated by QantasLink, Virgin Australia Regional and Alliance Airlines. Your hire car will help you navigate this charming rural gem and set you touring its wide surroundings. Located just 45-minutes from The Gemfields and its collective townships – Sapphire, Rubyville, Willow and Anakie – consider Emerald the gateway to uncover the district’s many riches.
If you believe diamonds are forever, then you might also want to try your hand at exploring for amethysts, jasper, rubies and topaz too. Besides sapphires, these are some of the gems that you’ll find not only in the field, but also in the jewellery shops and galleries around the area. Expert gem-cutters will facet your Australian-mined quality sapphire, and help you pick out a rock to suit your taste and budget.
If you prefer the excitement of striking your own blue heaven, learn how the digging’s done from an experienced miner. Fossicking parks are a great alternative for those who want to skip the hard work and start sieving and sorting sapphires and zircons straight away. If you’re keen to escape the heat, head underground and check out the cool Miners Heritage Walk-in Sapphire Mine Tour. Walk in the footsteps of miners. Marvel at the glittering gem-studded walls. Buy a bucket of ‘wash’ and try your luck. Discover the stories about sapphires found through the years. Head to the showroom and spoil yourself from a selection of jewellery, gems, pearls, fossils and minerals from the sapphire fields and far beyond.
Wander the buildings dotting Emerald’s Historical Precinct, including a pioneer cottage from 1880 and the Communications Museum. Emerald also boasts a beautifully restored National Trust railway station, built during the Federation era. It remains today a vital hub of Emerald, and an architectural highlight of the town. For a fun slice of history, head west on the Sapphire Gemfields Interpretive Trail. With solar-powered audio and innovative signage (featuring augmented reality), be taken on an immersive journey through the life and times of the Fields. This is an enjoyable way for all the family to be introduced to the townships, stories and characters that lived and mined in the area.
A piece of art you can’t miss stands in the middle of Emerald’s Morton Park: a super-sized easel, 25-metre high, with a Van Gogh sunflower painting resting on its 13-tonne steel frame. Bringing this masterpiece to town was the brainchild of a Canadian public artist. His aspiration, to showcase Van Gogh’s seven sunflower paintings at seven different sites across the world. The sculpture is a celebration of the Central Highlands as a major sunflower producer and forms the centrepiece of the Centenary of Federation Mosaic Pathway. The 21 mosaics were created by ten local artists, each depicting a chapter in the life of the town.
Before you leave Emerald, spend some time relaxing with a riverside picnic at the Botanic Gardens. Twelve themed gardens over 42-hectares feature plant species native to the region. There’s also an historic windmill and a ‘yarn pit’ for those who’d like to chew the cud. Emerald’s character shines through delightfully in its many attractions.