Things to do in Emerald

Viewed as the gateway to outback Queensland; Emerald is a tranquil town located on the Nogoa River in Queensland’s beautiful Central Highlands. While many travellers heading west to Longreach or east to Rockhampton will stay the night to break the journey, it’s definitely worth spending a few days here to explore the town and the surrounding area.

There’s a lot to do in Emerald from exploring the beauty of national parks, to fishing in Lake Maraboon (home to Red Claw crayfish) to searching for a gemstone of your very own!

EMERALD BOTANIC GARDENS

Emerald Botanic Gardens is a wonderfully laid out 42 hectares on either side of the meandering Nogoa River. The six kilometres of walking and bike tracks wind through the different environments you will find in Queensland, each represented in the Gardens.

An oasis in Emerald, with magnificent stands of native trees and shubbery and a habitat for Australian birds and wildlife, the Botanic Gardens is a must-see walk through for all who visit this area.

EMERALD HISTORIC RAILWAY STATION

In 1899 Emerald’s first Railway Station was built. Established out of virgin country, it was instrumental to bringing civilation to the west, establishing most of the small towns that now dot the countryside. Unfortunately, it burnt down within a year.

In 1900, a new Railway Station was built of timber, with iron roof and wrought iron trimmings, boasting an elaborate entry with wrought iron lacework and pillared portico.

Restored in 1986, this National Trust listed Railway Station is well worth a visit for some great photo opportunities.

THE BIG EASEL

The southern hemisphere’s biggest Van Gogh sunflower painting is situated in Morton Park, just opposite Emerald Park Motel. The painting celebrates the Central Highland’s reputation as a major sunflower producer.

Weighing approximately 17,000 kilograms, it is the second installation of Canadian artist Cameron Cross’ “Van Gogh Project” — to erect seven Sunflower sculptures in seven different countries, reproducing Van Gogh’s seven different Sunflower paintings.

Cross’ steel easel measures 25 metres in height; the canvas measures 7 x 10 metres; and approximately 13.6 tonnes of steel went into its construction. Emerald’s Sunflower Painting was finished on 8 November 1999.

The first Big Easel was installed in Altona, Manitoba, Canada in 1998 and another was placed in Goodland, Kansas, USA in 2000. Although 7 installations were planned for this project, only 3 have been completed.

LAKE MARABOON

Lake Maraboon is Queensland’s second largest lake and located just 25 kilometres south-west of Emerald. An aquatic paradise, it’s a popular freshwater fishing destination stocked with Murray Cod, Yellowbelly, Saratoga and Barramundi, and is home to a healthy population of Red Claw crayfish.

The lake is popular for water sports such as kayaking and water skiing, and there is a designated area just for swimmers. While there are no restrictions on the lake, there is a no boating and no fishing zone around the Fairbairn Dam wall.  Enjoy stunning views of the lake, spillway and surrounding area from the dam wall lookout.

Anglers: you will need to obtain a Fishing Permit online or at the Emerald Post Office.

THE SAPPHIRE GEMFIELDS

Just a 45-minute drive from Emerald is the Sapphire Gemfields. The Gemfields surround the towns: Sapphire, Rubyvale, Anakie, and Willows Gemfields, and is one of the largest sapphire fields in the world covering almost 900 square kilometers.

Sapphires come in all shades of the rainbow, although they are typically a deep, royal blue. The Sapphire Gemfields are famous for rich, golden yellow and parti-coloured stones and are also home to the famous black star sapphires.  Enjoy the thrill of fossicking, venture underground with a guided mine tour or spoil yourself at one of the gem galleries.

A fossicking licence is required and can be purchased online.

MINERVA HILLS NATIONAL PARK

If you’re into hiking and love breathtaking views, head 65km south of Emerald to Minerva Hills National Park for a day trip you’ll never forget.   Although this park may be small, it packs an almighty punch when it comes to stunning views. Spectacular jagged peaks provide a scenic backdrop from the many lookouts in Minerva, in particular Fred’s Gorge Lookout/ Picnic Area, Skyline Lookout and Eclipse Gap.

Lions Park is the best vantage point to see the iconic Virgin Rock, a niche in the eastern side of Mount Zamia, which has a weathered likeness to the Virgin Mary holding her child. The spectacular cliffs are floodlit at night.

CARNAVON GORGE

Hidden in the rugged ranges of Queensland’s central highlands, Carnarvon Gorge features towering sandstone cliffs, vibrantly coloured side gorges, diverse flora and fauna and Aboriginal rock art. Carnarvon Gorge has over twenty kilometres of track, visiting 12 major sites, with trails ranging from easy strolls to strenuous 14km climbs!

Emerald is a major service centre for Carnarvon Gorge, and is the last place to stock up on supermarket supplies before reaching the Gorge.