We had the pleasure of having nearly two days to spend in Rockhampton. Located along the Fitzroy River in the Capricorn Coast region, Rockhampton has a laid back atmosphere, friendly hospitality and gorgeous buildings. It has a moderate population of around 120,000 people and gets approximately 300 days of sunshine a year.
Our first stop was a book exchange, where we dumped a bunch of books that we had finished reading, and exchanged them for new ones. We then strolled around town to see the sights.
The Rockhampton region was discovered by the Archer Brothers, Charles and William, who were out looking for grazing lands in 1853. Two years later, a settlement grew alongside the Fitzroy River, which was used to ship in supplies. Further up the river was a rock bar that prevented further exploration of the river, and that’s how Rockhampton got its name.
The settlement grew fast and Rockhampton was declared a town in 1858. One year later, gold was discovered in Canoona and miners rushed over from far and wide to find their fortune. Once the rush had died down, many people chose to stay in Rockhampton, adding to its already blooming population, and by the 1870s, Rockhampton had become the main port for the central Queensland hinterland. By 1902, Rockhampton had become a city. In 1909, a passenger tramway started operating, but because riding steam trams in the tropics was an uncomfortably hot and humid experience, they were replaced with a bus network 30 years later.
These days, Rockhampton’s main industry is still grazing, particularly cattle, and it is considered to be the Beef Capital of Australia. Every three years, Beef Week happens – a major event that brings cowboys in from far and wide to showcase their beef and share ideas. There are several life-sized bull statues around the city that represent the various breeds that graze in the surrounding area. The one at the southern entrance of Rockhampton is the Brahman Bull and was erected in 2000.
For people who aren’t as enthusiastic about cattle as the folks wearing cowboy hats, jeans and leather boots – like us – scoring a $5 Thursday special steak at Giddy Goat Bar suits just fine. You get a 300g scotch fillet steak for $5 plus $1 for sides, which include salad, coleslaw, chips, onion rings or the sauce of your choice. While it isn’t the most amazing steak you’ll ever eat, we were seriously impressed with this value.
Things to See and Do
Tropic of Capricorn
As you enter Rockhampton from the south, you’ll pass the Spire Visitor Information Centre that sits on the Tropic of Capricorn. Once you’ve got all your maps and brochures, stand by the big silver spire for a photo.
The botanic gardens in Rockhampton are 145 years old and have recently been awarded heritage listing. Within them is a free zoo full of native and exotic animals. Apart from wombats, crocodiles and dingoes, we also saw chimpanzees and otters. The best time to go is at feeding time, which is between 2:45pm and 3:20pm. You might even get the chance to pat a koala.
While we were at the dingo enclosure, we noticed only one dingo. A family arrived, mum was pushing a pram and dad was holding his little daughter’s hand. Suddenly, two more dingos appear from the bushes and they all eagerly come up to the fence at full attention. Dave says, “Here they come. They must have smelt the baby.” After a small pause, he added, “Sorry about the inappropriate joke.” “That’s ok,” says mum with a guffaw, “it was funny.”
Just over 20km north of Rockhampton are the Capricorn Caves. Queensland’s oldest tourist attraction, the limestone caves formed from an ancient coral reef around 400 million years ago. Tours through the caves run regularly throughout the day, but they have a certain twist to them that is unique to the Capricorn Caves. Go and check them out!
This is a drive that will take you to the coastal towns about 40km east of Rockhampton. Yeppoon is the biggest town along the drive, and when we were there, there was still evidence of Cyclone Marcia, which blew through just three months earlier in February 2015.
We had a quick stroll along the Esplanade that overlooks Main Beach and poked our heads through the ‘Spirit of Yeppoon’, which is more affectionately known by locals as the Arsehole of Yeppoon.
Rosslyn Bay is south of Yeppoon and is home to one of the largest marinas in Northern Queensland, the Keppel Bay Marina. Overlooking the marina is Double Head, a volcanic plug formed by lava around 70 million years ago and exposed as the rock around it was worn away over time. As we cruised along, we crossed the bridge over Causeway Lake, a shallow lake that’s good for fishing and photo opportunities at sunset.
Another great stop is Emu Park. Go and see the Singing Ship – a commemoration of the explorations of Captain James Cook. It’s a sculpture that stands on a hill and overlooks the ocean, which is the perfect place for it to be. As the ocean breezes reach the ship, fluted pipes make pretty sounds.
Information & Accommodation
The Spire Visitor Information Centre is located on the Tropic of Capricorn and is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Quality budget accommodation is available at Rockhampton YHA. For more information or to book yourself a bed, visit their website.