The best places to find gold in Victoria

Hand with gold


Posted July 06, 2022

Don't miss a golden opportunity. These are the best places in Victoria to find gold, plus five tips for getting your gold digger on.

Imagine walking through the forest and stumbling on a shiny rock that turns out to be a gold nugget. It's happened before, and it's possible it could happen again.

More than 170 years after the discovery of gold started a series of rushes that made Victoria rich, there is still gold to be found in the state’s aptly named goldfields region.

And with gold prices around $2600 an ounce (about 28 grams) in 2022, Victoria may not exactly be in the grip of a second gold rush, but there is certainly a revival of fossickers trying to strike it rich.

It is estimated that as much as 75 million ounces of gold remain in Victoria, in meaty nuggets buried deep in the ground or alluvial fragments drifting in our streams and rivers. That’s equivalent to the total amount of gold discovered since the start of the gold rush in 1851.

Sometimes the gold is just lying on the ground, practically in plain sight. Just two years ago, on Mother’s Day in 2019, a girl kicked a 264-gram nugget lying on a well-trod path near Bendigo that had been overlooked by who knows how many passers-by. That same year, a man pocketed $130,000 after digging up a two-kilogram nugget somewhere near Ballarat – he was so surprised by his good fortune he christened his find ‘You Wouldn't Believe It’. 

Now, to help aspiring prospectors try their luck and encourage visitors to explore regional Victoria, the state government has produced a new, free Guide to Recreational Prospecting in Victoria.

Man prospecting for gold

A good place to search for gold is around Ballarat and Ararat. Image: Anne Morley

The guide explains all you need to know about prospecting in the state and importantly points out that unless you have a miner’s right permit, all gold or other minerals found, even on your own land, are the property of the Victorian government. It also lists where recreational prospecting is permitted in state forests and in designated areas within national, state, historic and heritage parks.  

A good place to search is around Victoria’s aptly named golden triangle, a wedge bounded by Ballarat, Wedderburn, Tarnagulla and Ararat. Geologist Jason Cornish, who is President of the Prospectors and Miners Association of Victoria, says the region’s iron-rich rocks and saline ground water make the perfect geological storm needed to create big nuggets and gold-bearing quartz reefs.

Millions of years ago hot volcanic rocks pushed up through the earth’s surface. This gouged a “pathway” for the gold, carried by saline ground water, to follow. The gold settled in faults in the rocks and as the rocks eroded over time, the gold washed loose as nuggets.

These conditions have produced an astonishing windfall for fossickers since the gold rush. In fact, Cornish says Victoria has yielded 90 per cent of the world’s largest nuggets, including the Welcome Stranger found in 1869, in the golden triangle near Moliagul, weighing 72 kilograms. It was discovered just three centimetres beneath the surface around the roots of a tree. Sometimes striking it rich is just sheer luck.

Man prospecting for gold

Panning for gold by hand can be difficult and tedious. Image: Anne Morley

So, where’s the best hunting ground for present-day fossickers?

The trouble is, details of modern finds are usually shrouded in secrecy. Most lucky fossickers are reluctant to reveal the location of their treasure trove, and some don’t want anyone to know about their windfall discovery at all.

So we hear about vague locations, such as “outskirts of Bendigo”, which is where a dad, his two daughters and a dog named Lucky were having a stroll on Mother’s Day in 2019. One girl kicked a rock lying on the road. It seemed heavy, a bit different – and it was. It was a 624-gram nugget and a $35,000 Mother’s Day present.

As for the prospector who struck it lucky with a two-kilogram nugget in 2019, he will only reveal that he found it somewhere within 150 kilometres of Ballarat.

Mark Day, of metal detector retailer Gold Ballarat, says the prospector was “shaking like a leaf” by the time he brought his find into his shop: “He didn’t know what to do with it. He hadn’t slept in three days."

Day says the prospector could have so easily missed his golden opportunity. “He told me the detector made a noise and when he dug down a short way he found a .22 lead bullet and thought that was that,” Day says. “But the detector kept insisting there was something there, so he dug further and – bang – there it was.”

Large gold nugget

The ‘You Wouldn’t Believe It’ nugget that was discovered in Victoria in 2019.

Five of the best bases for a gold-fossicking expedition


One of the richest cities in the world at the height of the gold rushes, Ballarat’s legacy of wealth lives on in its grand Victorian streetscapes as well as the family favourite recreated gold town at Sovereign Hill. Ballarat also has a burgeoning foodie and bar scene, and is an arts hub hosting the Ballarat International Foto Biennale every two years.


Eighty kilometres north of Ballarat, Maldon was declared ‘Australia’s first notable town’ by the National Trust in 1966 thanks to its gold-rush architectural legacy and preserved 19th-century feel. This beautiful town has a thriving artistic community and boasts a full events calendar including an annual folk festival on the weekend before the Melbourne Cup.


In the Central Highlands, 71 kilometres north of Ballarat, Avoca is these days better known for its wine industry. Considered the gateway to the Pyrenees wine region, it’s well and truly on the tasting trail.


This little town is a favourite of filmmakers thanks to its perfectly preserved streetscapes. Home of a nationally significant annual book fair, it also has an excellent monthly farmers’ market.


Creswick is an action holiday epicentre thanks to plenty of walking and cycling trails, and the striking pale water of Blue Waters Lake is a draw for photographers. 

Relax in the heart of Victoria's goldrush landscape.
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