Time to discover the region's best
WELL, here I am, ready to discover my new back yard which may well have been yours for many years...
I certainly look forward to getting around this great area. It has only been a week, but we are already feeling welcome even if not "quite at home” after leaving southern Victoria over a week ago.
Let me introduce myself, Paul Thompson, the new Tourism Development Coordinator. I have moved up here with some of my family. The rest are at school or university down south, going through a typical miserable Melbourne winter while we are up here gloating about our new surroundings and acclimatising to the warmth.
I would say "heat” but you are probably already laughing about us struggling with acclimatising, and yes, we have already been swimming in the pool and at Lake Maraboon.
What a fantastic place Lake Maraboon is. Walking along the shoreline at sunset was a beautiful experience, just what we all needed after several days of driving.
We are keen to come back out and explore the lake more fully with our kayaks.
I now know the lake is only at about 25 per cent capacity, which means locals are probably thinking it is not worth heading out, but given the beautiful sunsets, bird life and peaceful nature of the place it will be one of our great first impressions of the Emerald region.
After the obvious outing to the lake, we headed off to the Visitor Information Centre to find out what else the town and region has to offer.
The staff there are a wealth of knowledge and were able to offer up many suggestions for my wife and I and our 15-year-old daughter.
We wandered the mosaic pathway, discovering Emerald's colourful history, took the obligatory photo of the Van Gogh sunflower painting (our daughter being a big fan of Van Gogh, thanks to Doctor Who), and then checked out the train station.
Yes, one day it would be great to sit back and relax on the train to Brisbane.
Coming from Victoria and all the coffee culture it has to offer we have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of cafes and restaurant options in Emerald.
Staying in a local motel for the few days has given us the opportunity to try a few of them for breakfast and dinner. Lunch has been nice picnics back out at Lake Maraboon, and in the beautiful and "cool” botanic gardens.
The running track and bike paths were noted for future use.
The Sapphire Gemfields are only a 45-minute drive away and so we were off.
I did not have any idea what to expect when we headed off apart from the fact that I thought it might be best to leave my credit card behind. With no birthdays coming up I did not want to get caught out with any impulse buys.
It was a wise move in hindsight as the products on offer are truly amazing, and, I might add, the birthday orders are in.
We did not go out to Sapphire or Rubyvale with any real plan.
After a wander around each of the towns, browsing the many amazing local jewellers' shops and hearing about stories of joy and heartbreak from the locals, we became more fascinated by the whole experience.
We thought it best to head underground and gain some insight into what it is all about.
We had a great Walk-in Mine Tour in Rubyvale from a local miner. The highlights were seeing the small bats and babies in the roof and actual sapphires in the mine.
We did not have time to fossick for our own gems, but we will certainly be back.
Finding our own gems and getting the locals to produce some fine jewellery would make a fantastic birthday present.
Gemfest is back in Anakie in August with four brilliant days of fun, family-friendly activities and live entertainment.
It will be a good time to visit the Gemfields and find some treasures.