Thank you to CHDC’s Tourism Development Officer Paul Thompson for recently taking me to the Sapphire Gemfields where I was introduced to some of the most interesting and diverse people I have ever met.

Our first stop was at the Coffee Cart owned and operated by Willow on the Crossroads. All I can say is WOW!!! Best coffee EVER. The chat with Willow enlightened me to what is going on out in the Gemmies, as it is affectionately known. Willow is one of the best characters and people you could have as a first point of contact to the area. Ask him anything and he has the information. He’ll direct you to where ever you want to go and also the best places to visit and see. His little red van shares its site with the amazing Sapphire Gemfields Interpretative sculpture.

We then moved on to the multi award-winning Rubyvale Gem Gallery for a chat with owner Peter Brown, one of the best and most knowledgeable jewellers in the region with one of its best gem displays. This icon of the Gemmies told me his plans for the future and ideas to grow the area. Peter and his wife Eileen built almost all of Gallery building themselves and they have a level of passion that’s rarely found in people who’ve been in the same business for 30 years. Their gallery represents hard work, ingenuity, and a love of what they do and where they do it – it’s a true testament to what is being achieved by small business owners in our regional locations.

Our next stop was at Miner’s Heritage to go on a walk-in mine tour and take in more wonderful displays of jewellery and gems (which was certainly a massive lure for me!). We received a warm welcome from the knowledgeable staff, who told us the business had enjoyed a busy season that was only just starting to quieten down now. It was also pleasing to see so many families having a go at fossicking – the children clearly enjoyed trying their luck on finding that elusive big one.

It was then a big hello to Jane Taylor, who owns and operates Rubyvale Motel & Holiday Units with her husband Michael. Jane shared her knowledge and enthusiasm for doing business in the Gemfields and explained how her holiday location and rooms are a wonderful place for locals when they want a quick getaway. As an added bonus, the business has an observatory from which you can just gaze and wonder at the night sky close-up.

Pat at Pat’s Gems Tourist Fossicking Park was my next introduction. Pat has been on the Gemfields for 44 years and has owned and operated her business for 40 of those – an amazing testament to her fortitude, endurance, and diversity. Pat and her husband run bus tours throughout the Gemfields as well as an onsite café, which includes Friday night pizzas. They managed to serve a staggering 65 pizzas in a single night during Gemfest! Pat is a true blue Australian woman of the outback who’s unaware of how amazing and extraordinary she is.

We were then ready for a cold drink so it was time to call into the New Royal Hotel Rubyvale, another award-winning business in the Gemmies. This is a wonderful oasis of green grass, lovely gardens, cool and quintessentially-Australian verandahs. The staff are your typical diversity of people from across the country and then there are the regulars in front of the bar who have lived and laboured for years on the Gemfields.

Our next port of call was the Rubyvale Caravan Park. Common amongst small business owners, Mick is a jack-of-all-trades who was busy directing traffic and showing his guests where to park when we arrived. This small, intimate park welcomes a mix of short and long term visitors and boasts a pool to cool off after a long day’s fossicking or to keep the kids entertained. Mick said his season was a good one but not as good as last year, so we all talked about how things can be done better. He’s only owned the park for three years. It’s wonderful to attract new business owners to a region so they can inject a fresh perspective on how to do business.

Our final stop was the Blue Gem Tourist Park for a chat with Ewan Letts. Proving to be another hands-on operator, Ewan had just finished putting in some fences, and was busy serving customers before fuelling the machine to do some grounds work. Ewan and his wife are relatively new business owners and their enthusiasm and drive was apparent. Ewan and his many committee members have been instrumental in developing new trail maps for tourists and locals. It’s another example of how lucky we are that such a multi-faceted and well-travelled person has found his way to the Central Highlands.

I have only scratched the surface of the small businesses that we have in the Central Highlands. I will be making many more trips around the region to get to know more of you. If you would like a visit and a chat, please contact me or Paul at CHDC. We’re here to help.

For more information, contact Vicki Leeson E: or T: (07) 4982 4386 or M: 0488 195 559

This program is supported by the Local Buying Foundation

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