The best places to find gold in Victoria

Travelling Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 30 July 2019

Unleash your inner prospector and hunt for buried treasure in Victoria’s goldfields.

You can find it walking your dog, you can find it kicking a log and, if you’ve got a hard-earned lust for gold, Victoria is the place to be.

Just ask the bloke who pocketed more than $130,000 last week after digging up a two-kilogram gold nugget somewhere near Ballarat – a find so incredible he named his discovery ‘You Wouldn’t Believe It’.

And then there was the kid on a Mother’s Day outing who kicked a 624-gram nugget lying on a well-travelled path near Bendigo, passed by who knows how many people.

More than 150 years after the gold rush that made Victoria rich, there is still gold to be found in the state’s aptly named goldfields region.

Close up of a gold nugget

The ‘You Wouldn’t Believe It’ nugget that was discovered earlier this month in Victoria.

The golden triangle, a wedge bounded by Ballarat, Wedderburn, Tarnagulla and Ararat, is the treasure trove that keeps on giving. And as gold prices top $2000 an ounce (about 28 grams), Victoria may not be exactly in the grip of a second gold rush, but there is certainly a revival of fossickers trying to strike pay dirt.

Geologist Jason Cornish, who is state secretary of the Prospectors and Miners Association, says Victoria’s so-called golden triangle has the perfect geological storm needed to create big nuggets.

The region has iron-rich rocks, saline ground water – both associated with “growing” 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 the faults in the rocks and over time the rocks eroded and the gold washed away as nuggets.

These conditions have produced an astonishing windfall for fossickers since the gold rush. In fact, Jason 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.

More recently there was ‘Friday’s Joy’, a 4.1-kilogram chunk of gold found in 2016 near the southern edge of the golden triangle and, last October, a $200,000 beauty discovered by Neville Perry and Mick Clark in Dunolly while the pair were filming for the TV series, Aussie Gold Hunters.

Pan filled with gold dirt next to muddy river

Forget panning for gold; go full prospector instead.

Close up of person in field with metal detector searching for gold

Time to pull out the metal detectors and get your gold digger on.

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.

“They might hide it in plain sight,” says Fraser Kendall, Australasian general manager of metal detector manufacturer Minelab. “Sometimes they paint it and use it as a door stop or a paperweight, or they run to the bank and stick it in a vault. “And no one will tell you where they found it – ever.”

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 this year. 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 last week, he will only reveal that he struck it rich somewhere within 150 kilometres of Ballarat.

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

Mark 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,” Mark says. “But the detector kept insisting there was something there, so he dug further and – bang – there it was.”

Old-time prospectors like Lester Fisher, 66, former vice president of the Prospectors and Miners Association of Victoria, Ballarat branch, have heard it all.

“Sometimes people say they found it on the surface but really they have used excavators and it’s deep down. But then there are times they have just moved a log and found it sitting there.”

Five golden rules for prospectors

  • Get a 10-year Miners Right licence for $25.20 from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions' Earth Resources branch.
  •  Jason says to go to areas where prospectors worked in the 1850s on Crown land, state forests and, with permission, on private land.
  •  Join the Prospectors and Miners Association Victoria and attend training days or field trips. 
  • Buy or hire a metal detector to unearth buried nuggets.
  • Get detailed maps of goldfields from prospecting stores.


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