A FISTFUL OF FOSSICKING WEEKENDS.
For some people, having a 4WD is all about spending a fortune kitting it out and then doing everything you can to break it.
The wise person, on the other hand, will see their vehicle simply as an extension of themself, a rocket to freedom that will take them where they need to go. And where they need to go just happens to be offroad.
Whether it’s chasing big fish, big waves, rare birds, or you want to see what’s on that part of the map that doesn’t quite make sense to you, you have a goal and a challenge for your curiosity.
One challenge that’s had us hooked here at the magazine over the last couple of years is the search for gold. Yep, we’ve joined the growing number of 4WDers who are building occasional driving and camping forays around our new-found hobby.
It’s giving us an end goal for our weekend searches. And, as a result we’ve camped and driven in all sorts of crazy spots. We’ve also occasionally lined the inside of our pockets with actual gold.
Let’s check out five productive spots to get you involved in a pastime that’s about as much fun as you can have with your pants on.
MARY RIVER, Q
Why the area is a goldmine: The Mary starts in the forests of the Blackall Range and dumps into the ocean near Fraser Island. It was home to the Gympie gold rush, and there’s still sparkly dust in them there valleys, awaiting the patient and well-equipped. You can even still fossick in the heart of Gympie at Deep Creek Fossicking Area.
Previous footprints: You’re sweeping and panning on ground as historical as it is stunning. The search for gold here in the 19th Century has imbued the land with tales of chancers, gamblers, bushrangers, foreigners, and dodgy cops.
What you’ll be finding: Golden gravel. Around Imbil, Gympie, Kilkivan, and the Conondale Range. Try your luck with a pan and a detector along the watercourses within the state forests.
Where you’ll be driving: The country that this river winds through is as golden as what lies under the dirt, with the big hitter being Cooloola National Park.
Where you’ll be sleeping: You could try beyond Gympie itself. So many options around Kenilworth, Yabba Creek and Bells Creek. Teewah’s less than an hour away, it’s a good way to wash the salt and sand off your rig’s underbody with a couple of gentle water crossings. Then you’re in the shadiest of camping zones, right on the ford, where you can plan your orienteering and fossicking missions.
What else you’ll be doing: Swimming, kayaking, cooling off, watching goannas and blue tongues lumbering past.
What’ll help you get the job done: Minelab’s GPZ7000 is the failsafe here as you’ll be traipsing through creek beds and eroded ridges, and you’ll want their best selling all-rounder.
Why the area is a goldmine: Heathcote-Greytown National Park sits in the crosshairs of Victoria’s Golden Triangle. Nearby, the idyllic Whroo Historical Reserve seems as nice a focal point as any when it comes to a weekend of metal detection.
Previous footprints: While the driving isn’t going to test the mettle of your truck, you’ll forget all about that when you realise you are looking for gold in the direct footsteps of your forebears. While all of the town’s 140 buildings have now been moved, they’ve been replaced by shady pine trees. You can still check out the old mining tunnels around Balaclava Hill though.
What you’ll be finding: Although heavily mined, both for surface and reef gold back in ye olden days, they didn’t have the metal detection tech that we now have, so you’re still a chance of snavelling something. It’s also a little off the radar these days.
Where you’ll be driving: There’s a network of forestry tracks pretty much everywhere you go, but very little of it is challenging. It’s more a top place to breath some forest air under the canopy.
Where you’ll be sleeping: There are 10 individual campsites at Greens Campground. It’s so picturesque it feels like Yogi Bear himself might come up and politely steal your pic-a-nic basket.
What else you’ll be doing: There’s a couple of prisoner of war camps you can suss out. During the war years, there were two internments, at Tatura and Rushworth, that housed Asian and European “enemies of the state” who were sent all the way back here from the frontlines.
What’ll help you get the job done: The Minelab Go-Find 22 is the well-priced weekend detector that’ll get the whole family frothing, and it’s light enough for the kids to wield.
Why the area is a goldmine: It’s just so well laid out for recreational fossickers, Little River Fossicking Reserve, between the two bridges and opposite junction of Abercrombie and Shooters Hill Roads. You can also give the causeways a crack at Campbells River and Sewells Creek. Last time we were out this way a reader actually took us to Native Dog Creek via some snazzy State Forest tracks.
Previous footprints: This place goes right back to ground zero. Early convicts stumbled on filthy lucre while building the road to Bathurst in 1810. They were threatened with flogging by the authorities if they ever told anyone. These being the early days of settlement, the governor believed a huge gold rush might also see a rush of desperados and the start of a civil war.
What you’ll be finding: Gold particles found in waterways. You can expect coarse grains, irregular masses and strings, and even the occasional nugget. As gold will be the heaviest of the sediment, you’ll be chasing those areas around the lowest points point of the creek or creek-bed.
Where you’ll be driving: The name drive is obviously the Oberon to Colong Stock Route. This track is 60km long and is rated to medium difficulty. It should be all systems go for all 4WDs in dry conditions. If you haven’t done it before it’s definitely worthy of its reputation.
Where you’ll be sleeping: Even though you can’t fossick there, Kanangra Boyd NP is a short ways south and has a couple of epic spots. You can rest your weary panning arms at Boyd River and Dingo Dell campgrounds. We opt for Dingo Dell as it can only be reached by 4WD and it provides pit toilets. We do have to bring our own water in though.
What else you’ll be doing: Check out Yerranderie, a silver mining ghost town that provides a glimpse of ye olden days. Many of the town’s buildings have also been restored to their original condition. There’s so much to do up here in the Blue Mountains, check out the Jenolan Caves, pull a trout out of the river, hit a small town bakery for the pie of your life.
What’ll help you get the job done: Because of the history of the region, we reckon you should use a pan. Sure, keep the detector with you, but get your convict on. When panning in water, look under rocks or in holes in the riverbank, or where grit is lodged around tree roots in calm parts of the creek.
Why the area is a goldmine: While it’s not the most productive part of the
Goldfields region, it’s much more pleasant to be here in summer than frying your ears off out at Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie. The Goldfields region is literally bigger than Texas, unpopulated, and is one of the world’s richest mineral deposits.
Previous footprints: Some of the sites that were dug last century may have been left prematurely. There was buzz around the diggings at “Fates”, 40km from Esperance; and at Gibson Soak, just 20km north of the beach.
What you’ll be finding: If you don’t fancy some of the old sites around Esperance itself, you can drive up the highway between here and Norseman and get real serious. As you start going over your map, also do some research as to whether the historical gold in that particular area was surface gold or came from crushed ore. Esperance makes a top jump-off point to inland day trips.
Where you’ll be driving: With three miles of coastal real estate to explore, nearby Lucky Bay is a beach driving paradise. The sand here is hard packed, however it makes sense to keep the usual recovery gear on hand as a matter of course.
Where you’ll be sleeping: Head to Lucky Bay, just so damn picturesque. There is camper trailer and caravan access and wood fires are permitted, although firewood can be scarce so it’s best to bring your own.
What else you’ll be doing: Swimming at the beaches of nearby Cape La Grand NP, in the clearest saltwater on the planet, washing the sandy grime and sweat off you after a hard day’s sweeping.
What’ll help you get the job done: Take it up a notch. This is the Goldfields after all. You’re actually a chance of scoring something if you head inland a bit. We recommend the excellently named Minelab, Gold Monster 1000.