Pan for gold, explore an old mine and wander through the historic streets of Central Australia’s first town, where gold fever was in full swing from 1887 to 1913.
Go panning for gold and explore remnants of old mines at the Arltunga Historical Reserve. The town of Arltunga sprung up around gold diggings early in Central Australia’s settler history in 1887. Today the historic area has been preserved for visitors. Discover the old gaol, Government Battery, Cyanide Works and a former Police Station.
Start your exploration at the Visitor Centre, where you can pan for gold in the courtyard. Learn about the history and culture of the area through photographs, artefacts and displays. Prospectors once had to make a 600-kilometre (372-mile) journey on foot from the Oodnadatta rail terminus to the region. It was only later that Alice Springs grew into a town to provide provisions for Arltunga.
In the peak tourist season between May and September, Arltunga Historical Reserve Rangers offer guided tours of the old town. Tours can be organised in the Visitor Centre for a fee. Alternatively, take a self-guided walk. Visit the old machinery of the Battery and Cyanide Works. Here, rocks were crushed to extract gold, which was further leached out using cyanide.
Wander through the eerie landscape dotted with rusted mining equipment and furnaces. You’ll notice a step down in some of the abandoned buildings, which was a measure designed to insulate against heat. Explore old mine shafts cut down into the rock. You can go inside, but watch for obstacles and don’t forget to bring a torch.
Hire a four-wheel drive to access two old cemeteries further out of town. The burial grounds are evidence of the unforgiving life of a gold miner in Arltunga. It was almost impossible to grow fresh fruit and vegetables because of the heat, meaning the miners’ diet was limited.
The Arltunga Historical Reserve and Visitor Centre are open every day. The reserve is located 110 kilometres (68 miles) east of Alice Springs. There is no camping within the reserve but there is accommodation nearby. Camp at N’Dhala Gorge or Trephina Gorge Nature Park. Enjoy something to eat or a cold beer at the nearby Ross River Resort, which also offers accommodation.