On The Road To Rocky!
A trip to Australia’s beef capital.
Additional Photos: Tourism & Events Queensland and Silver Wattle Caravan Park
Rockhampton, or ‘Rocky’ as its affectionately known – a large prospering city around 600kms north of Brisbane. Known as the Beef Capital of Australia and home to the Gracemere Saleyards, one of Australia’s largest livestock sales facilities. You are welcomed to the city from the south by an actual sized statue of a bull situated on a roundabout (one of many similar statues located at various sites around the city)- but its not just the beef industry that keeps Rockhampton ticking! So, we captured the opportunity to take the bull by the horns (metaphorically) and ventured out to discover more about this not so predicta-bull city!
Today, tourism plays a large part in Rockhampton’s culture and success and the city welcomes with open arms, nomadic travellers and family holidaymakers alike. Its a very popular spot to visit, especially during the winter months where the climate is as close to perfect as you can get.
Boasting many popular yearly festivals and events- the city hardly ever has a chance to slow down. There is always something to keep you busy in and around the Rockhampton region! Some of the most popular events and festivals include- The Multicultural Festival that showcases diverse international food, music, dance and market stalls. Another is The Village Festival which celebrates a range of performing arts, visual arts, dance and street theatre. The Village Festival has grown rapidly over the past few years and now includes live music performances from many local artists and workshops are conducted for the crowds to participate in. Other festivals include The Rockhampton Heritage Festival, the upcoming inaugural Rockhampton River Festival and the Oxford Street Party. Of course there are other events, but you best check out the websites listed at the end of this article for more details.
The pride of the city is arguably the Fitzroy River that runs through it, close to the heart of town. The city has cleverly embraced the river’s presence and the council does a great job maintaining many parks and playground facilities along the river banks. These areas are truly an asset to the city and a reflection on the locals sense of pride. These areas make great spots for a picnic lunch and the kids can burn off some energy too. The rather steep drive up to Mount Archer will reward you with a view back down over the city with a few walking tracks to amuse your energetic ambitions. Take your camera!
As we travelled north through South East QLD and into Central QLD, we were told of and recommended by many fellow travellers that we must visit the Zoo at Rocky. We often listen to these recommendations and like to check them out for ourselves and glad we did on this occasion. The Rockhampton Zoo is free to enter and to be honest we weren’t quite sure what kind of zoo to expect (especially as it was free)- But we were truly amazed by just how great it was and it really exceeded our expectations.
The zoo is located within the Botanic Gardens and is run by the local council. There are plenty of animal displays to amuse and educate all ages. Koalas, Monkeys, Wombats, Dingoes, Macaws, Chimpanzees, Fresh Water Crocs….. just to name a few (over 50 species in total). I don’t know too many other places that you can take the family to see this kind of display for free! A real credit to the Rockhampton Council and a real ‘must do’ activity during your visit.
Whilst you are in that area take a picnic along and stroll around the gardens. The Rockhampton Botanic Gardens are self proclaimed as a ‘Tropical Paradise’ and are regarded as one of the best gardens in regional Australia. It sure has our vote!
If gardens tickle your fancy, then make sure you squeeze in some time for a look through the Kershaw Gardens too. Located on the north side of the city along the Bruce Hwy. In contrast to the lush Botanic Gardens, the Kershaw Gardens predominantly consist of traditionally native Australian flora representing a typical ‘Aussie Bush’ setting. Opened in 1988 as part of the City’s Bicentennial celebrations, this area now serves as another popular area for an afternoon stroll or perhaps a picnic or BBQ lunch.
Whilst we are running with free activities to do in Rocky, I must mention the FLOW Visitor Centre. FLOW is a public education space provided by the Fitzroy Basin Association. Here you can learn about land uses for farming, grazing and mining through interactive displays, videos and maps. Browse the information panels to learn about the local plants and animals. Plenty of educational games for the kids too including a scale model of a fish way. A fun learning experience for the kids and another ‘must visit’ attraction during your stay.
The history-rich town of Mount Morgan is located 40kms away from Rocky and is connected by a rather relaxing and scenic drive. A former mining town where one of Australia’s most successful mines operated and at one stage, was one of the worlds richest gold mines. Today the town enjoys a more relaxed lifestyle and is very popular with tourists who day trip up from the city or many prefer to stay in the town itself. Don’t let the size of the town fool you though- there are plenty of attractions to keep you busy including the Historic Railway Museum, numerous heritage listed buildings (some of which offer tours) and scenic lookouts perfect for photo opportunities. A visit to the ‘Big Dam’ should make the list of things to do and definitely a tour of the heritage listed Mount Morgan Gold mine.
The wonderful Silver Wattle Caravan Park is a favourite stopover for many travellers with a reputation for offering a relaxed atmosphere and great facilities. They even greet their guests with free eggs upon arrival!
Mark and Sarah (the owners of Silver Wattle), have worked particularly hard over the past year to welcome travellers with caravans, campers and motorhomes of all sizes to their park. They are true ambassadors of the town and try very hard to entice as many people as possible to come and experience what the town offers. They provide visitors a convenient place to stay with a real ‘bush feel’ complimented by friendly hospitality that is unfortunately becoming rare these days. Put this one on your list!
One of the greatest aspects of Rockhampton is it’s close proximity to some of Queensland’s most stunning stretches of coast. Referred to as the Capricorn Coast – an easy 40 minute drive from the city. One of the most popular places to visit along this section of coast is the small town of Emu Park. Set on top of the headland near the town centre is the unusual monument known as The Singing Ship. Here you can take in the great views over the strikingly blue waters that surround the Keppel Islands. If you time your visit right, you maybe treated to the sombre musical tones that can be heard when gentle sea breezes pass through the fluted pipes that form part of the Ships construction.
One of Emu Parks flagship events is the yearly Festival of the Wind, which celebrates- you guessed it, everything to do with wind. From kite flying to hang gliding. It is a hit with kids who are encouraged to create and decorate their own kites and test them out on the local beach.
The largest town along the Capricorn Coast is – can you guess? I’ll give you a hint it’s not your knife and it’s not your fork – it must be Yeppoon! HAHAHA(I have been told my Dad jokes aren’t getting any better). Yeppoon is another typical example of a quintessentially ‘Queensland’ coastal town. With an attractive foreshore precinct with park and playground areas with a selection of cafes and eateries to choose from. Yeppoon would be considered the hub of the coast with major supermarkets, health services and hardware stores etc.
There are several holiday parks to choose from along the Capricorn Coast with our favourite being Coolwaters Holiday Village at Kinka Beach. Their water-slides and water-park attractions win over the kids hearts in a flash or should I say a splash (another Dad Joke- sorry). The Coolwaters Holiday Village is conveniently located close to Rosslyn Bay where many tours, cruises and ferries leave from. Including tours to the famous Great Keppel Island.
Great Keppel Island is the largest of islands within the Keppel Group and is located roughly 15kms off the coast. The Keppel Islands form part of the South Great Barrier Reef. Once a popular island for the ‘backpacker’ market, today the island and the many accommodation providers are more focussed on family holiday makers. The great all-year-round climate and crystal blue waters make Great Keppel Island one of QLD’s most desired holiday destinations. With many beaches and coves surrounding the island- its not too hard to find a private spot to yourself to relax or enjoy some snorkelling.
Heading north from Yeppoon, you will come across signs directing you towards the Byfield National Park, a very popular spot for 4×4 enthusiasts. You will need a 4×4 to access the ‘best bits’ though, but they are truly worth it. The stunning coastal scenery and massive sand dunes are two of the most popular reasons to visit- especially on weekends where you will find many of the locals letting their hair down and having a ‘play’. Great fishing and bush walking are also some fine examples of why people visit. My tip is to make sure you get out to Five Rocks for a picnic and a walk out onto the beach.
The last highlight of our trip to Rocky was a visit to the famous Capricorn Caves. We chose to stay at the on-site camp ground and took a guided tour. This above ground cave system is a truly amazing natural attraction. A real testament to the owners who maintain the caves and keep it open for the public to enjoy. There are various cave tours to choose from ranging from easy to more adventurous. The tour guides are a wealth of knowledge and are more than obliging to answer any questions that you may have about the cave system. A tour is well worth the money!
I could easily go on about the many other attractions to keep you busy around Rocky and the Capricorn Coast but they only give me 5 pages to fill. Plenty of other activities, including info on other festivals and events can be found on the websites listed below.
Websites for more information:
Places to Stay:
Silver Wattle Caravan Park
50961 Burnett Highway
Mount Morgan QLD 4714
07 4938 1550
Coolwaters Holiday Village
760 Scenic Highway
Kinka Beach QLD 4703
1800 266 556
Capricorn Caves Campground
30 Olsen Caves Road
07 4934 2883
Top 10 Things to do:
- Visit the free Zoo at the Botanic Gardens
- Spend some time in the historic town of Mount Morgan
- Do a cave tour at the Capricorn Caves
- Take a 4×4 out to Byfield National Park
- Visit the Singing Ship at Emu Park
- Take a ferry or tour out to Great Keppel Island
- Have lunch along the foreshore at Yeppoon
- Visit the Gracemere Saleyards
- Have a pub meal at the Great Western Hotel and see a live Rodeo
- Take a wander through the Archer Park Rail Museum