Gold rushes are one of the most unforgettable moments in history. It is the large-scale and rapid movement of fortune seekers to the sites of recently discovered gold deposits. The most famous gold rushes took place in California, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
The treasure-hunting craze made the towns near the gold sites instant tourist spots. Even if it happened almost a century ago, some of these historic towns remained as they were. This includes the Columbia State Historical Park, Johannesburg, Kalgoorlie, and Central Otago.
Experience a blast to the past as we take you to each of these places of great riches.
Columbia State Historical Park (California)
Only a two-hour drive from Sacramento, there is a historic living gold rush town that awaits you. Visiting Columbia in the California Mother Lode is like a trip back to the 1850s. The rich sights, smell, and sounds of the mining town are almost everywhere. Did we mention that you will occasionally see people dressed as 18th-century merchants, too?
The peaceful streets of Columbia are adorned with antique shops and boutiques. Almost every restaurant serves a locally-made Sarsaparilla. Be sure to enjoy a cold bottle of this old-time soft drink and head over to any photo booth for a black-n-white film photo.
Johannesburg (South Africa)
We have heard of the quiet towns that rapidly became a center of trade because of the massive influx of gold rushers. Do us a favor and spare South Africa’s Johannesburg of this narrative. This town was only built during the Witwatersrand Gold Rush in 1886. The strategic location of this 600-square mile city is the gateway to the Mineral Revolution in the continent.
Johannesburg, aka Jozi, can be translated as “The City of Gold.” It holds the record of the largest city in South Africa and is classified as one of the 50 largest urban places in the world. However, this will not be possible if it weren’t for the massive chunks of wealth uncovered in the scarps of Witwatersrand (literally means “the ridge of white waters in Afrikaans). Scientist believed that rock composition and the changes in the Witwatersrand’s geography create silt and gold deposits. Today, many capitalists invest in mining companies in South Africa because of their rich land.
Although there are fewer attractions in the city, most visitors drop by the Mandela Museum, the former home of South Africa’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela.
The spirit of the great gold rush in Australia strongly lives on in Kalgoorlie. Kalgoorlie is the country’s largest outback town, most famous for the world’s biggest open-cut mines – the Super Pit. The Kalgoorlie gold rush started in June 1893 when Irish prospectors discovered alluvial gold at the feet of Mount Charlotte. The event leads to a massive population increase in the town, which ultimately brought great wealth to the state.
Like most of the historic towns, Kalgoorlie boasts heritage buildings that were retained. The largest residential area, Kalgoorlie-Boulder, is where the majority of Super Pit’s employees live. Among the particular interest is the Racecourse, which is a classical horse racing venue. Don’t miss out on living like in the 1800s with their fully-functioning historic hotels. Some of these are the Broken Hill Hotel, Exchange Hotel, and the Piccadilly Hotel.
Central Otago (New Zealand)
Gabriel Read started the gold rush in New Zealand when he found gold near Otago’s Tuapeka River. Now known as the Gabriel’s Gully, thousands of aspirants rushed towards it, hoping to strike a bounty. This turned out to be the country’s most significant economic growth as foreign miners hunting precious stones in California and Australia migrated to the town. A few years later and most of the temporary settlements were relocated as industrialized-mechanical processes were introduced.
Read’s discovery was only the tip of the shiny golden iceberg. There was much gold in the town that took 70 years and many successive technologies to get to the deposits’ bottom. In fact, the original gully floor was 50 meters above today’s level. The wide-scale mining transformed the riverbanks into panoramic valleys, proving that New Zealand can move and build mountains.
Don’t forget to visit the Bannockburn Sluicing Historic Reserve when you are there. The spliced-up hillsides and start landscapes never fail to make visitors feel as if they were on another planet.