Australia: Emerald QLD

Queenslanders are certainly lucky when it comes to covid restrictions. We can travel freely around our state, which explains why there’s quite a lot of us on the road. There’s also a number of Victorians on QLD roads. They escaped before QLD closed its border and they tell us they’re not returning any time soon. If you have to sit out covid, then travelling around this region of Queensland is not a bad option as we discovered when we left Wowan and headed for Emerald.

Emerald, like the nearby small townships of Rubyvale and Sapphire is so named for the gems found here. Today though, it’s coal that rules the roost. 

With a population of 14,000, Emerald has all the infrastructure you would expect in a town this size that supports very profitable coal, cotton, cattle, citrus and grain industries.

We based ourselves for a few days at Lake Maraboon just outside Emerald. It was a good choice. The facilities are many – shady sites, water sports like kayaking and fishing for red claw (the dam is well stocked with a variety of fish), pool, even a bar and cafe.

Our set up at Lake Maraboon – the weather is on our side

The Fairburn Dam built across the Nogoa River in 1968 created the whopping 150 sq km Maraboon Lake. Explains why water hungry cotton can be grown here.

Lake Maraboon – current capacity is a low 10.6% . Bring on the predicted December deluge.

We did day trips exploring Emerald and the smaller gem towns.

In Emerald, we liked the very attractive train station (in feature photo), noting that The Spirit of Australia passenger train makes a stopover here enroute from Brisbane to Winton.

Downtown Emerald with its shady trees
Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers standing tall and proud on a giant easle in Emerald. Incredible to see.,_Emerald,_Central_Queensland
A blood red Emerald sunset

A drive around the gemfields revealed these top notch places.

Rubyvale – In the 1920s the 12 year old son of the owners of this house found the Black Star of QLD, a hefty 733 carat sapphire worth $9 million today.
Sapphire Showcase – a little oasis in a sea of dust. I bought an uncomplicated pair of sapphire studs from jeweller and designer Jim Nesbitt. His history on the gemfields is interesting, but he tells us his time here has come to an end and hence, his business is for sale.
Beautiful gems from Sapphire, largest  gemfields in the world.
One of the many claims being worked. Dirt mounds are everywhere from where fossickers have dug. To properly fossick, you need to buy a licence. I’m thinking fossicking begins as a hobby, then morphs into a serious, addictive business judging by the number of people who come to try their hand and stay. We met fossickers from interstate who spend 3 months or more on the gemfields before returning home. The returns for their hard work can be feast or famine.
Bobby Dazzler gem shop and cafe owner is crying out for staff. It’s a familiar story in regional QLD. JobKeeper, the government’s $A750 a week payment to unemployed, keeps cropping up in conversations, and not in a positive way.

A side-trip to Mount Morgan, a thriving gold mining town from 1882 for a hundred years yielded these pics.

Mt Morgan
Mt Morgan’s National Hotel. No longer operational but top part served as a lookout for aircraft in WWII
Mt Morgan High School, a solid piece of 1900s architecture

Tomorrow, we are hitting the road and heading to Clermont.

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