Far away from the hustle and bustle of Queensland’s busy city streets, tucked away in the heart of Country Queensland, sit the little towns of Rubyvale and Sapphire. A haven for those not fussed with big-city living they offer a peaceful respite from the world outside. It’s here you’ll find yourself treated with country hospitality, offered a warm hello, a wave and a broad smile – just remember, a firm handshake goes a long way. Strike up a conversation with a local and you’ll be trading stories for hours. Immerse yourself in the areas rich mining history and you’ll be getting the bug in no-time, perusing gems, fossicking and hoping to find a life changing stone. If you’re planning a visit and need some inspiration, here are my tips on 14 awesome things you absolutely must do in Rubyvale and Sapphire.
1. Catch the sunset from Policeman’s Nob
One of my favourite moments in Rubyvale was watching one heck of a sunset from one heck of a viewpoint. With the help of a couple of friendly locals, we got a lift up to Policeman’s Nob, scampered up the rocky hillside and were treated to unbeatable views of the local area. It’s only when you get that high up, above the vastly flat area, that you really appreciate how big and beautiful it truly is. It was the perfect spot to take in the sunset and really made us realise just how special Rubyvale is. Just be careful of those loose rocks when you’re getting to the top and, for directions, you’ll need to ask a local for help. Don’t worry, they’re really friendly!
2. Explore an underground mine
We visited Miner’s Heritage, the largest underground walk-in mine in Australia, where we took a guided tour of the winding mine tunnels. Our guide was so knowledgeable, being a local whose family had moved to Rubyvale to fossick for Sapphire’s many years earlier. It was so great hearing stories about local legends and learning about how the mine worked. It gives you a deep respect for those who mined by hand many, many years ago and is a really great way to learn about Rubyvale’s history.
3. Go fossicking for sapphires
We got our hands on a bucket of wash at the Blue Gem Tourist Park and set to work fossicking for Sapphire’s. Thanks to a crash course in fossicking and some very helpful signs, we got the hang of it in no time and Matt became a little too invested in digging through the bucket, hoping to find a whopper. There are a few places you can go fossicking around town, so find a place you like the look of and get stuck in! Alternatively, you could always try your luck in the dry riverbanks.
4. Make friends with Grey Nomads
Another highlight for us was joining the Grey Nomads for an afternoon tipple and a dance at Blue Gem Caravan Park. When we visited they had a lovely duo playing live country music so we grabbed a seat in the gorgeous afternoon sun and quickly made friends with a few lovely travellers. The ladies were even nice to give me some instruction on how to boot scoot (I was terrible and they were very patient). It was a really fun afternoon and a great way to meet new people, have a few drinks and a laugh. I also understand the same live music goes down at the pub from time to time.
5. Eat your body weight in strudel
I wouldn’t have guessed you can get your hands on damn good strudel in the middle of Country Queensland, but you can! Head to Muggachinno’s Strudel Hut where you can nab a seat in the lush green, peaceful gardens. Upbeat music plays in the background while you sink your teeth into perfectly cooked, absolutely delicious strudel. When we visited, the flavours of the day were apple and cherry – both absolutely YUM and perfectly accompanied with a cup of coffee or pot of tea.
6. Hear the story of local legend, Sparrow
Head up to the Anakie Gemfields Hotel Motel and re-live the slightly crazy but very hilarious and totally true story of local beer-lover, Sparrow. Being the only pub within 50kms, Sparrow was rather upset when the pub’s owners kicked him out and banned him for life after he fell off his bar stool one too many times. A rather short man, Sparrow complained it was the fault of the bar stools, not himself. Enraged, Sparrow decided if he couldn’t drink at the pub, nobody could. So, he got his hands on sticks of gelignite and successfully blew up the front of the pub, with no injuries sustained to himself or any other patrons. Amazingly, he was allowed back in three years later, at which time the owners affixed a seatbelt to a pole, naming it ‘Sparrow’s Perch,’ ensuring he wouldn’t fall off again. Pop in, hear the full story, visit Sparrow’s Perch and have a few coldies yourself.
7. Stake out the local op-shop
There’s a fantastic little Salvation Army op-shop on the main road in Sapphire, just keep your eyes peeled and you won’t miss it. Be sure to check the opening hours so you don’t miss out and pop in to have a bit of dig for buried treasure. You’ll find it packed with homewares, clothing, books and much more.
8. Have a few cold beers at the New Royal Hotel
Located in the heart of Rubyvale, you’ll find the New Royal Hotel a must-visit during your stay. We loved the local vibe of the pub! From the moment you walk up, you’ll be greeted with a friendly, “Hello,” and a nod of the head. Inside, you can get your hands on the local drop, Fossicker’s Ale, or a nice cold glass of Great Northern. There is also a whole range of other beer, wine and more, those are just two local beers you might want to sample. You can grab dinner from 6-8pm, shoot pool, mix it with the locals or just sit quietly and watch the world go by.
9. Visit the annual Gemfest
If you happen to be in town at the right time, make sure you visit the annual Gemfest. It’s a huge event, which showcases a huge range of gems from local businesses and all-over Australia. The four-day festival is held every year in the second week of August, drawing huge crowds and bringing the local area to life. There are a great range of activities, including workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions, prizes to be won and so much more.
10. Peruse the Rubyvale Gem Gallery
Wander into the Rubyvale Gem Gallery, situated in the heart of town, where you can meet the owner, Peter, who journeyed into arid Country Queensland as a young man of 21, learning the art of cutting, shaping and polishing gems from a talented local. Now, together with wife Eileen, they run an exquisite gallery housing a great range of absolutely stunning Sapphire’s. I loved looking at the very special and rare gems they’ve collected over the years as well as the range of beautiful jewellery they have on display.
11. Grab coffee and a hearty breakfast at the Rubyvale Cafe
Right next door to the Gem Gallery you’ll find the Rubyvale Cafe, a great spot to grab a cup of coffee (they have soy milk!) and a hearty breakfast. Sink your teeth into their bacon and egg rolls or go old school and tuck into beans on toast to get your morning started. Either way, you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome and served a great meal. I’d recommend sitting on the balcony, catching the morning sun.
12. Take yourself on a DIY gem tour
I’ve only mentioned the Rubyvale Gem Gallery in this guide as it was the only spot we had the time to visit but there are quite a few fantastic gem merchants in the area. So, why not spend a day visiting a few stores in the local area and perusing the wide range of Sapphire’s on offer. This is a great way to get a sense of which stones you like the best and see a bigger range of what’s on offer in the area. If you plan on purchasing something, it’ll also ensure you’ve seen a big range, rather than just buying the first thing that takes your fancy.
13. Visit Blackdown Tablelands National Park
If you’ve got a car and a bit of spare time, I’d recommend taking a drive out to the Blackdown Tablelands National Park. The drive is a bit of long one, taking around 2 hours and 55 minutes to get there but it’s a really beautiful National Park and well worth visiting. We picked up some food for a picnic at the supermarket in Emerald then headed out. Once you arrive you’ll find some fantastic walking tracks which can take you to a waterfall or ancient Aboriginal hand art. There’s also a nice short walk that’ll treat you to stunning views of the local area, afterwards you can stake out a picnic spot and feast!
14. Spot local wildlife
One of my favourite things about Rubyvale and Sapphire was the abundance of wildlife. From beautiful little wallabies bounding around the rocks at Policeman’s Nob to a couple of camels wandering along the roadside, an abundance of kangaroos feeding at dusk and some very friendly local cattle napping along the roadside, keen to nibble an orange out of your hand. It’s an area unspoiled by the arrival of humans.
Watch episode one of my vlog which takes you through The Gemfields
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.