Calling all gold diggers: Did you read about the two lucky gold hunters who last month unearthed a pair of enormous gold nuggets in Australia—one of the world’s top gold panning destinations? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see you pulling on your boots right now for a trip out into the field to do some gold hunting of your own!
For those of you wondering where to try your luck, here are some of the world’s best places to go panning for gold.
In ‘The Land of the Free’, gold is found in nearly all states. It’s no surprise that California is top of the list, though. California was the location of the famous 19th century Gold Rush. The area to head for is Gold Country (also known as Motherlode Country), a region in Northern California that lies on the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Here, gold gathers in the placer deposits of the streams running from its slopes.
Bordering California, Nevada, Arizona and Oregon also provide rich pickings for gold hunters. Nevada and Arizona are desert states, so you’ll need to dry pan or use a metal detector for the best results. Alaska is rich in gold and, unlike in California, the rules here are very relaxed.
Wherever in the states your gold panning adventure takes you, you’ll find countless places offering equipment hire and gold panning lessons—far too many to list!
In the remote north-west of Canada, the Yukon River is definitely one of the world’s top gold panning destinations. Dawson City, which lies on the river, is the capital of that mountainous region, and has been a destination since the late Nineteenth Century. This is where the Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896, and gold mining still thrives here today. There are plenty of spots around Dawson City to try your hand at panning for gold. For those who wish to linger, there are even log cabins for a comfortable stay in the wild.
Australia is a land rich in gold, particularly Western Australia where 60% of the country’s gold is mined. The biggest gold producing area is Goldfields—the clue is in the name!
At Warrego, near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, commercial goldmining ended in the 1980s, but there is still gold to be dry panned from the surface soil. This part of the country can be a challenge to tourists and care should be taken to follow official fossicking advice.
Another spot to consider is Clermont in Queensland. The site of a gold rush in 1861, Clermont still provides opportunities for visitors licensed to fossick. Panning may be wet or dry, depending on the season; but whatever the case, the Queensland government provides the visitor with plenty of advice and information on making a worthwhile visit.
In certain parts of New Zealand, visitors are free to try their luck at fossicking without the usual permits. The Tasman region, at the northern end of South Island, for example, was the site of New Zealand’s first gold rush in 1856. Here, the Department of Conservation has set aside a number of locations for low-tech amateur gold-prospecting. Whatever the yields, it’s a stunning place to visit.
The South Island’s West Coast also experienced a gold rush in the Nineteenth Century. It was there in Hokitika that New Zealand’s largest nugget was found, and today’s visitors can still dream. Not far away in Goldsborough all you need is a gold pan and some patience! Another option is the Otago region in the southern part of South Island.
For many centuries, the people of Japan have been looking for gold, but it’s fair to say that its resources have been underexploited. Things are changing, however, and today you can, in certain regions, join in the fun. The biggest mine in Japanese history was the Sado Kinzan mine on Sado Island. It is now a museum; as is the Toi Kinzan mine, where visitors can try their hand at panning for gold – and keeping what they find!
With the owner’s permission, you can have a lot of fun in the United Kingdom, especially the Celtic fringe. Scotland may make you think ‘whisky’, but gold in more solid form has been found for centuries in its multitude of rivers and streams. For half a millennium, Wanlockhead in Dumfries and Galloway has drawn gold hunters to its deposits. Once Covid restrictions have been lifted, beginners can take gold panning lessons at The Museum of Lead Mining.
In the highlands of Sutherland, The Suisgill Estate allows you to pay a small fee and pan for gold in two of its burns (streams). The Kildonan Burn flows through the Baile an Or, the site of the 1869 gold rush.
In Wales, the north is still yielding gold, while at the Dolaucothi Gold Mines in Carmarthenshire, first worked by the Romans, you can pan for gold under supervision. As for England, there is still gold lurking Cornwall the Pennines and the Lake District.
Kim Rix, GG GIA
Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence