Outback ‘opal town’ seeks to capitalise on gem fever

Published: November 5, 2021

Fuelled by popular TV shows and a boom in domestic tourism, gem fossicking areas around the country are seeing a surge in visitor numbers.

Although it’s now late in the season, places like Opalton in Outback Queensland are still pretty busy as grey nomad treasure hunters – and others – stay to dig in the dirt for ‘a few days more’.

Opalton, located almost 1500 kilometres from Brisbane, has featured on the hit television show, Outback Opal Hunters, since 2018 … and the town is keen to capitalise on the opportunity.

A brand new Exhibition and Visitors Centre is in the design phase, and will give future visitors a real sense of the history and geology of the area.

The president of the Queensland Boulder Opal Association (QBOA), James Evert, told the ABC that now was the time is now to capitalise on the tourism boom and immortalise the stories of the past.

“We’ve got to capture this modern history from the 60s, 70s onwards, when a lot’s happened here so the timing is right to grab it while the memories are still here,” he said. “It’s going to be a major attraction for all the tourists that come into the area.”

And he said the town’s growing reputation had sparked many positive changes.

“We’ve had heaps of people coming through, and that means it grows, we get more water tanks, more dongas, more shower and toilet blocks,” Mr Evert told the ABC. “This is a little community way out in the middle of nowhere, so to get people to come and visit is great, it gives miners a chance to sell stones, a bit of socialisation, and people get to enjoy the Outback as it really is.”

And he said there was no reason that the good times couldn’t continue to roll for a while yet.

“We’ve probably only dug about 5% of the known opal reserve here in Opalton, so we’re not going to run out of ground to chase opals in,” he said. “This’ll last 1,000 years.”

Grey nomads are, of course, well represented among those staying at the Opalton Bush Park eager to get their hands dirty in search of a ‘bit of colour’.

And increasing number of grey nomads now travel Australia with a gold detector or a spade and a sieve as the search for ‘treasure’ adds fun (and funds) to the Big Lap.

Listen to the adventures of one treasure seeker by listening to our podcast here. Are you a fossicker or a gold hunter?


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