Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst, kids using an old rocker box

Our Fabulous Gold Panning Experience

We seem to have it all in the Blue Mountains – the lifestyle, community, wildlife, beautiful bushland – the list goes on! You may also already realise that we have the Central West right on our doorstep for fantastic weekends away with the whole family. In less than two hours you can get from Glenbrook to Bathurst (much shorter for those of you in the mid and upper mountains!).

From Bathurst, travel forty minutes to a tiny historic town that is big on Australian history and get ready for a fun, enriching activity that your kids will love. Set alongside the Turon River with a mountainous backdrop, Sofala is Australia’s oldest surviving gold mining town and there is still gold to be discovered! We set out on a half-day gold prospecting tour with family-owned Sofala Gold to learn the art of gold panning – and we didn’t go home empty-handed! 

Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst

Gold Panning in Sofala

Australia’s identity is rooted in the Gold Rush of the 1850s. The discovery of gold in Australia changed the face of our colonies as hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world rushed to Australia to find their fortune, including Sofala.

Step back in time as you enter this little town of 200 people – at its short-lived peak during the 1850s it had a population of about 10,000. Explore Sofala’s historical buildings – the Old General Store, Post Office, Royal Hotel, Gaol and Courthouse – each steeped in their own unique story. 

old sofala gaol, Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst
sofala is a historical town, Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst

Learn the art of gold panning, or prospecting – Finder’s Keepers!

Sofala Gold offers exciting gold panning tours that your family will always remember. Your children will be immersed in an authentic outdoor experience that brings history to life. Founded by Phil and Judith last year, Sofala Gold will teach you and your children the secrets of successful gold prospecting and inspire your children to want to know more about the significance of Australia’s Gold Rush history.

kids digging for gold, Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst

More about your guide, Phil

sofala gold, Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst

Phil started prospecting at the age of 10 with his parents and has developed his skills over many years. Phil enjoys nothing more than sharing his extensive knowledge with people and teaching them the art of panning and prospecting. He loves sharing his passion for prospecting with others and can answer all of your questions about Australia’s Gold Rush. Phil’s patient, happy and calm demeanour make the day not only educational but also relaxing and fun!

Phil is your gold prospecting expert and he is also a talented manufacturer of River Sluices, Rocker Boxes and Higbankers, for those who may like to continue their gold prospecting journey.

kids using a rocker box, Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst

On each tour, Phil will usually bring his original 1940s rocker box for you to use. A rocker box (or cradle) separates gold from sand and gravel and can pick up more gold than an ordinary gold panning dish. You will learn both methods on your tour and relive the gold rush, just like the old timers!

rocker box, Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst
Phil’s rocker box was made in the 1940s and used in the Butcher’s Shop in Wattle Flat to store sawdust. Phil purchased it and brought it back to life for prospectors of all ages to enjoy.

Book your tour

Book a tour with Phil from Sofala Gold and experience authentic gold prospecting in the beautiful countryside of Hill End or Sofala. Take home what you find, and as a bonus, you will probably catch gold fever! Phil’s tours are recommended for anyone aged from 7 years, at any fitness level.

You will drive to your tour location and there is a short walk to the prospecting site. Due to rocky terrain to get to the gold panning sites the tours are generally not recommended for very young children or anyone with a medical condition that affects their balance or mobility. Tour locations vary and may depend on the car you are driving, as certain areas require an AWD or 4WD.

Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst, river crossing
Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst, river crossing, 4WD'ing

T​our information

Adults

  • Half day $30 per person (8am – 12md)
  • Full day $45 per person (8am – 4pm)

Children

  • Ages 7 – 12, $10 per child
  • Ages 12 – 18, $20 per child

If refreshments are required (food and drinks) add:

  • Half day $15 per person
  • Full day $20 per person

Essentials 

  • Gumboots (the higher the better)
  • Sun protection (hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt)
  • Change of clothes in case of inclement weather
  • You are welcome to bring your own picks, shovels and pans but Phil can provide the equipment if you need it. Phil usually takes the rocker box out and a sluice (if there is water flow).
Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst, wear gumboots - it's muddy
Remember your gumboots! Knee high gumboots are best.

How to book a tour

​Tours can be booked by contacting Sofala Gold on 02 6337 7423 or by messaging them on their Facebook page. Judith and Phil will discuss the details of your tour with you over the phone.

Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst, kids, Turon River

Sofala Homestay Bed & Breakfast

Phil and Judith will make you feel right at home in their cabin accommodation on-site in Sofala. At Sofala Homestay expect homely hospitality and additional extras to make your stay extra comfortable. Their cabin includes a cosy wood fire, a queen-sized bed, tea, coffee and fruit. Feel free to relax in the evening under the stars by their outdoor firepit.

sofala homestay, Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst
Sofala Homestay

Sofala Homestay is presently set up for couples, but they are completing an extension that will include a bathroom, kitchenette and a bedroom. For now, you can stay in the cabin and use the shared bathroom facilities of the house. Once the extension is complete (hopefully by the end of October 2020), the cabin will be suitable to welcome families. Follow Sofala Homestay on Facebook to stay up to date.

Sofala Gold Homestay provides accommodation and a hot breakfast and can offer you complete packages which includes all meals, tours and refreshments during the tours. 

Sofala Homestay, Sofala gold panning, near Bathurst

Sofala Gold tours are a rare find. Your family will create fantastic memories together and find real gold to keep. The authentic experience of prospecting for your own gold is a rewarding, fun and exciting experience. It enriches and brings to life Australia’s fascinating Gold Rush history and gives your children an awesome adventure in the great outdoors. But beware – there is a good chance that you will catch gold fever and need to come back for more!

If you are after more fun ideas to do with the family, check out our School Holiday Activity Guides for inspiration.

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