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At the time of writing this, gold prices in Australia are at a tick over $2,600 per ounce of gold. I’ve talked about this before, but in the mid-90s, I always remember the newsreaders talking the price of gold on the nightly news. Then, it was around the $450 mark. Right then and there, you should’ve been out prospecting for gold in NSW.
At over 2.5K per ounce you’d be mad not to gather some tools and do some gold prospecting around NSW, there are plenty of spots to do so. And with a permit to fossick in New South Wales just $27.50, you pretty much cannot lose.
Gold was first discovered in New South Wales in 1823 a Fish River, with gold fever not striking the residents of the colony until 1851 when the gold rush hit hard.
A ‘grain of gold’ was discovered by Edward Hargraves in a billabong near Bathurst in 1851. Hargraves had recently returned from California where he had been unsuccessful during the Californian Gold Rush. Hargraves and his guide, John Lister, set out with equipment to search for further gold in the quartz-laden land surrounding Bathurst, finding gold in Ophir in February 1851.
Need some equipment to prospect? Click here to check out our equipment section.
Hargraves travelled to Sydney and met with the Colonial Secretary where his claim was recognised. Hargraves received a £10,000 reward and was also given a £5,000 life pension from the Victorian government.
By June 1851 there were more than 2,000 prospecting for gold around the Bathurst area. Gold was found in other areas of New South Wales surrounding Sofala, Grenfell, Gulgong, Monaro, Mogo, Sunny Corner, Braidwood, and more.
New South Wales permits fossicking for gold in state forests providing you have a miner’s permit. This handy map shows which parts of the forest of NSW you can fossick in.
It’s time to strike it rich. Here are the best places for gold prospecting in New South Wales.
Given gold was first discovered in New South Wales in the Bathurst region, it’s probably a good place to start your gold prospecting journey. The great place about starting out here also is that if you’ve never been fossicking before, there are plenty of guided tours to get you started.
No bookings are required for the guided tours, but arrive at 12:45pm so you don’t miss out.
A great place to start off gold prospecting is the Tambaroora Commons. When visiting, be mindful of the restrictions of fossicking around the park entrance and be aware of private property boundaries.
The road in is not suitable for 2WD cars, so you’ll need a 4WD to access the area from Hill End Road. Find a map of the fossicking region here.
Ophir Reserve was the first place gold was discovered in New South Wales, and continues to be one of the best places for gold prospecting in NSW. Unsealed roads pave the way to the reserve, so take care if you don’t have a 4WD.
You can camp on the reserve as well for $10 a night. Call the Orange Visitor Centre to book a space.
Hill End, on Wiradjuri country, was a boom town during the NSW gold rush of the 1850s with a population of 8,000 living in the town at the height of the rush. Hill End is where the ‘Holtermann Nugget‘ was found, 265kg of gold nugget goodness.
These days there are plenty of historical sites to check out when you’re in town. Have a look around the History Hill Museum and see artefacts of Hill End’s gold mining past, or head to the Hill End Heritage Centre to see photographs and the remains of a miner’s cottage.
Gold panning tours happen in Hill End, run by experienced prospecting local Jhob Drinkwater along the Tambaroora Creek. It’ll cost you $10 and takes around an hour. Call Jhob to make a tour booking on 0421 729 955.
Oberon is around 50 minutes from Bathurst, and has plenty of places to protect for gold—and for some of them, you don’t need a fossicking permit. Public areas where you can fossick without a permit include Sapphire Bend in the Vulcan State Forest and Little River Fossicking Reserve at Porters Retreat. You’ll need a fossicking permit to prospect for gems in other areas within state forests.
Plenty of gems are on offer around the Oberon area, and the region is known for sapphire and zircon, but it is more than possible to find gold, fools gold, and industrial diamond in the area.
Visit Oberon provides handy details on exploring the area.
No gold prospecting journey in NSW is complete without a visit to Nundle, found about 60km from country music mecca, Tamworth. There are plenty of sites in the Nundle area where gold might be found, including Swamp Creek camping reserve, Hanging Rock lookout, Crown Reserve, and the Forest Way fossicking site.
Nundle was a major site during the gold rush and gold can still be found today at the edge of the Peel River. You can hire gold panning equipment at the Nundle Country Cafe.
Fossicking around the Emmaville and Glen Innes areas will have you more likely turning up blue sapphires and other precious gems, but it is likely you’ll find gold along the way as well. The Glen Innes Visitor Centre has a brochure you can grab on fossicking in the region, and also has the tools required if you need them.
Visit the Emmaville Mining Museum while you’re there for a bit of inspiration.
The town of Gulgong was built over the top of many old gold mines, so there’s definitely fertile ground around for fossickers and prospectors. Check out the Gulgong Gold Experience to find out what it was like for gold prospectors during the gold rush. The experience is held on the site of the original gold discovery in Gulgong.
Gold Bearing Creeks in NSW
The following creeks and rivers are prime for gold prospecting in Victoria.
- Swamp Creek | Flows near the New England Highway
- Peel River | Flows through Nundle
- Louisa Creek | Find it running through Gulgong
- Turon River | Flows through the Turon National Park
- Lewis Ponds Creek | Flows through Ophir Reserve, where the NSW gold rush started
Things You Need To Know
To keep any damage at a minimum and to ensure others are able to prospect freely as you can, there are some rules to follow. A full guide to gold prospecting in New South Wales can be found here.
- Prospect only in permitted areas. Check details on the Forestry Corporation website
- Only drive on roads that are open to the public
- Park vehicles on the roadside, not in the bush
- Take all rubbish home with you. Do not bury it
- Minimise damage to vegetation
- Restore ground to the way you found it
Gold Prospecting Equipment
If it’s your first time heading out to find gold, you’re probably going to need some equipment. Here are some great options for beginner prospectors.
- Minelab Gold Monster Metal Detector | $1,029.00
- Minelab Vanquish 540 Metal Detector | $599.00
- Minelab Go-Find 22 Metal Detector | $199.99
- Advwin Metal Detector | $109.90
- Stetson Bozeman | $99.95
- Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero | $64.95
- Patagonia Bucket Hat | $39.00
- Patagonia Trad Cap | $35.00
- Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket | $599.00
- Helly Hanson Rigging Coat | $350.00
- Art’teryx Anorak | $209.00
- Patagonia Micro Fleece | $89.99
- Fjallraven High Coast Hike Trouser | $129.95
- KUHL Traverse Pant | $119.00
- Backcountry Workwear Pant | $99.95
- Patagonia Hampi Rock Pant | $79.00
- Saloman Quest 4D GTX Backpacking Boot | $229.95
- The North Face VECTIV Exploris Hiking Shoe | $158.95
- Merrell Moab 2 | $99.95
- Saloman Outbound Prism GTX Hiking Shoe | $99.95