One nugget could pay your rent next month. (Photo: Thinkstock)
We usually save all year for that one big getaway. But, what if going on vacation meant you could actually make money? No, we’re not talking about working for the office on your priceless time off. These lucrative locations have everything from precious gemstones and gold to actual buried treasure in the sea, and it’s all up for grabs.
Where: Murfreesboro, Arkansas
Forget saving up three months’ worth of your salary to buy that big engagement ring diamond. For around $7 you could nab yourself one heck of a precious stone if you’re willing to put in the work. Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond-producing site in the world that is actually open to the public. You can bring your own tools or rent them there to try to mine for diamonds, rocks, and minerals on over 37 acres of land. As recently as 2011 an 8.66-carat diamond was mined from this very spot. We’re pretty sure she’d say “yes” to that.
The most recent finds in Crater of Diamonds. (Photo: Crater of Diamonds)
Where: Jamestown, Calif.
California is known for its famous Gold Rush of 1849, and there is still plenty of the shiny stuff to be had if you have a little patience. You may be thinking of heading to the famous Sutter’s Mill, but Jamestown, situated slightly south, might have even more gold. Jamestown Gold Panning offers access to five different claims, equipment, and instruction. For $60 for two hours of panning and sluicing, you could make up your money and then some in an afternoon. Bonus: The town is less than two hours from Yosemite National Park.
What: Sunken Treasure
Where: Florida Keys
In 1622, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha (a treasure ship) got caught in a storm and sank in the coral shallows just off the coast of the Florida Keys. An enormous cargo of gold, silver, and precious gems stayed in the water for more than 250 years until a treasure hunter, Mel Fisher, recovered $500 million worth of loot off of Key West. Wanting to spread the wealth, Mel Fisher’s Treasures now runs weeklong “Atocha Dive Adventure” packages for $2,500 between June and August and is open to small groups of certified scuba divers. Guests have found coins, old weapons, silverware, pottery — you name it. Supposedly there could be up to $200 million of Atocha treasure still down there.
What: Thunder Eggs/Geodes
Where: Deming, N.M.
They may look like just muddy rocks, but thunder eggs or geodes are actually filled with crystals like amethyst, rose quartz, and hematite. There is no place better for finding these rarities than New Mexico’s Rockhound State Park. All you’ll need is a hammer or chisel and a pair of good eyes to find these gems in the rough. Visitors are allowed to leave the park with 15 pounds of rock to add to their personal collection.
Where: Hiddenite, N.C.
Given that emeralds can often be more valuable than diamonds, you may want to head to the Emerald Hollow Mine for a little digging. It is the only emerald mine in the United States open to the public, and for $5 for a sluicing permit you could be well on your way to making back your money. One recent find in the area is currently valued at over 1 million dollars. Ca-ching!
What would you do with a handful of emeralds? (Photo: Thinkstock)
Where: Brenham Township, Kan.
Short of discovering a UFO, finding some rocks that made their way here from outer space is pretty freaking cool. Glorietta Mountain has become known for its overwhelming number of meteorites. Use a metal detector to help find the buried pieces before grabbing a shovel to unearth the otherworldly objects. Take a tour with Meteorite Adventures, where one of the owners found a world record meteorite, a 1,430-pound pallasite, in 2005 worth over 1 million dollars.
This is what we think we’re looking for when we hunt for meteorites. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Where: Big Sur, Calif.
Big Sur is known for its stunning beauty and celebrity weddings, but did you know it’s also home to some prime jade hunting? If you’d like to dive for the gemstone, then try going after a winter storm when the water is calm. Many of the hidden stones are unearthed at this time. Or, if staying on dry land suits you better, walk along the beach near Jade Cove at low tide and check in between boulders and piles of gravel along the shore.
What: Dinosaur Fossils
Where: Devil Hills, S.D.
This portion of the Badlands has become more and more popular for fossil hunters. Relic hunters have uncovered huge pieces of bone dating back to the Jurassic period, 145 million years ago. Set out with a digging knife, brush, and small pick to see if you can find the next piece of a T-Rex. Once your adventure is complete, head over to the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, where they can examine your specimen and determine its value.
What: Buried Gold
Where: Kalgoorlie, Australia
Most of the known discovery sites for gold happen to be in the U.S. That doesn’t mean you can’t head out for a good ol’ Australian outback vacation and strike it rich. Gold Prospecting Australia provides a tour for those willing to trek through remote regions in the hope of finding some gold. On one recent tour a piece weighing 2,159 grams was discovered that was worth more than $20,000. That seems pretty good for the $650 two-day tour price tag. If you’re really committed, they offer up to nine-day tours for around $1,000 per person.
What: Winning Lottery Tickets
Where: Fond du Lac, Wis.
You won’t need a shovel or scuba suit to potentially make millions in this place, just a car to get you there. On a stretch of South Main Street in this Midwest city, a large number of winning lottery tickets have been sold, prompting people from all over the country to head to what has been dubbed “The Miracle Mile.” In 1993 one local won $100 million. Thirteen years later another won $209 million. In 2008 and 2010 there were $1 million jackpot winners and in between plenty of people have won hundreds and thousands at a time.