5-day itinerary: Road trip to Rockhampton and surrounds
Make no bones about it, Rockhampton (or Rocky as it’s affectionately called), is the Beef Capital of Australia for good reason – home to almost 120,000 people and oh, around 3.5 million heads of cattle, hooves definitely outnumber humans!
But as you’ll discover, there’s plenty of culture mixed with country in this diversely beautiful region. Here’s how to explore the best of it in five days.
Day 1: Around Rocky (approx. 85kms)
If you’re rolling into Rockhampton from the south, say g’day to the mighty Brahman! Located on the Bruce Highway’s Yeppen roundabout, he’s the largest of six bull statues dotted around the city to represent the main breeds of the area.
While it’s too hectic to get up close and personal with the big fella, there’s a nearby Santa Gertrudis at Frank Forde Park awaiting your selfie! Continue the happy snaps just down the road at The Spire Visitor Information Centre (it straddles the Tropic of Capricorn!).
From here, it’s a short drive to the heritage-listed Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Zoo. Stretch your legs along the shaded walkways of gorgeous rainforest, and revive under banyan figs at the tranquil Gardens Tearooms.
Next stop is historical Quay Street. Running beside the mighty Fitzroy River, Quay Street is lined with Rocky’s majestic heritage listed buildings. Head for a stroll along Quay, admiring the stunning architecture of Customs House and the supposedly haunted Criterion Hotel!
You’ll also find a great cappuccino at Pacino’s, or if you’re in the mood for something meatier, Ribs n Rumps is only metres away.
Spend the afternoon chilling out (literally) at the incredible Capricorn Caves. Located 23kms north of Rocky, the limestone caves can be explored with the popular Adventure Tour, where you climb, crawl and squeeze your way through a system of water-formed passageways.
My personal favourite, The Cathedral Tour, taking you to its famous cave namesake… the Cathedral Cave! Hauntingly beautiful music showcases the Cathedral Chamber’s amazing natural acoustics, and the accompanying light show transports you away to a totally different world.
On return to Rocky, soak up a spectacular sunset atop Mount Archer National Park, before checking into the Denison Boutique Hotel. Conveniently, it’s just a skip across the road to the famous Great Western Hotel – an iconic saloon offering kilo rump steaks and an indoor rodeo!
Day 2: Gracemere, Mount Hay and Mount Morgan (approx. 130kms)
Enjoy breakfast at Cafe Bliss in Bolsover Street, then slap on that Akubra! It’s time to take in the dust and drama of the largest saleyards in the Southern Hemisphere. Located 8kms west of Rocky at
Located 8kms west of Rocky at Gracemere, the Central Queensland Livestock Exchange (CQLX) cattle sales are a weekly highlight for both locals and visitors. Picture fair dinkum farmers and cattle graziers bidding big bucks as they stock up at the live auctions. With all the suspense and excitement of a Bond film, a visit to the
Picture fair dinkum farmers and cattle graziers bidding big bucks as they stock up at the live auctions. With all the suspense and excitement of a Bond film, a visit to the saleyards is a thoroughly entertaining experience.
After a morning at the saleyards, quench your thirst at the historic Gracemere Hotel, then carry on for another 20 minutes along the Capricorn Highway, where you’ll stumble across a real gem!
The Mount Hay Gemstone Tourist Park is an internationally known thunderegg fossicking hotspot.
Also known as ‘volcanic birthstones,’ thundereggs mightn’t look magic on the outside, but once cut, these stones display stunning star formations – the pretty patterns a result of gas bubbles in molten lava, which have solidified on cooling. They’re all lying at the base of the once active Mount Hay… and the best part is that it’s finders keepers!
After lining your pockets with precious gems, head back towards Kabra and drive 22kms along Razorback Road for the historical gold mining town of Mount Morgan. Witness the town’s wealthy past, and access the heritage gold mine with TMC Tours. Then, take Kylie’s cue, and step back in time at the Mount Morgan Railway Museum. Before returning to Rocky, treat yourself lunch at the popular Mount Morgan Hot Bread Shop – they do a fantastic steak,
Before returning to Rocky, treat yourself lunch at the popular Mount Morgan Hot Bread Shop – they do a fantastic steak, bacon and cheese pie!
Spend a leisurely afternoon strolling through the Rockhampton Art Gallery, and end the evening with dinner and drinks at the Criterion Hotel.
Day 3: Koorana Croc Farm and Great Keppel Island (approx. 70kms)
After brekky in town, jump in the car and head 36kms along Emu Park Road until you reach Koorana Crocodile Farm. Owned and operated by the charismatic croc
Owned and operated by the charismatic croc crusader John Lever, this working crocodile farm will place you just metres from some salty giants! Be entertained and informed by John and his passionate staff as they escort you around the pens on a fully guided tour. Have your photo taken whilst holding a baby croc, learn why crocs sit there with their mouths wide open (amongst many other fun facts) and, at the end of it all, try a croc kebab!
Have your photo taken whilst holding a baby croc, learn why crocs sit there with their mouths wide open (amongst many other fun facts) and, at the end of it all, try a croc kebab!
Next stop is 30kms north to the Keppel Bay Marina at Rosslyn Bay. Here, you can park your car and enjoy a cappuccino at The Waterline Restaurant before jumping aboard with Keppel Konnections. Your destination? The breathtaking Great Keppel Island.
Crystal clear waters teeming with marine life, picture postcard white sandy beaches, and the sense that you have it all to yourself, is what makes Great Keppel Island so special. There’s endless fun in this tropical paradise, and various accommodation options, so stay overnight and make the most of island time!
Recommended is the Great Keppel Island Holiday Village, where your affable host Geoff Mercer will point out the top spots for swimming, snorkelling, bushwalking, birdwatching (both varieties), kayaking and dining.
Day 4: Rosslyn Bay to Yeppoon and Byfield (approx. 103kms)
Order off the brekky menu at the Hideaway Bistro (FYI, the pancakes are good!) then return to the mainland. The 8.6km scenic drive from Rosslyn Bay to Yeppoon will take you past sweeping coastlines to the idyllic seaside heart of the Capricorn Coast.
Boasting gorgeous cafes, gift shops, and boutique clothing stores, Yeppoon is tres coastal chic! Try the always excellent coffee, quiches, and mouthwatering cheesecakes and tortes at Flour Café, before heading 25 minutes north to Byfield National Park.
Spread over 15,000 hectares, the national park can be accessed by standard vehicles, however, if you’re keen on beach driving, you’ll need some 4WD action. Before devoting the rest of the day to nature lovin’, check out the unique ceramics at Nob Creek Pottery.
From rainforest walks and pristine beaches to rugged mountains and stunning waterholes, Byfield National Park really is a choose-your-own-adventure destination. Popular pursuits include bushwalking, swimming, kayaking, beach driving, fishing and birdwatching.
Make the most of the park, and check-in for the night at Fern’s Hideaway Resort. Offering log-style cabins on Waterpark Creek, Fern’s will have you nodding off to the rhythms of the rainforest.
Day 5: Yeppoon to Emu Park, Keppel Sands and return to Rocky (approx. 148kms)
Return to Yeppoon via Capricorn Resort Yeppoon. Set over 22,000 acres, this resort boasts a world-class golf course and epically-sized pools!
Be sure to have lunch at the resort’s Tsuruya Japanese Restaurant. With top Japanese chefs flown over on rotation, Tsuruya offers a truly authentic dining experience and is a hit with both locals and visitors. If you’re a sushi fan, you can’t go past the QLD Maki… the Dobin Mushi soup is also divine!
After lunch, your drive south from Yeppoon to Emu Park will take you along the coastal scenic highway, so take the time to enjoy the views you may have missed on the way up.
On reaching the idyllic seaside village of Emu Park, head for the famous Singing Ship – it’s easy to spot, atop the headland. Then make your way to the recently built Centenary of Anzac Memorial Walk.
Beautifully located, the 175-metre boardwalk ends with a viewing deck below the Singing Ship. From here you can enter the outside Memorial Gallery, which displays artwork telling the WWI story.
Before leaving Emu Park, duck into Bell Park Bakery for a supersized sausage roll, then continue south to Keppel Sands. A hidden gem, Keppel Sands is a sleepy beachside village, and chances are the only footprints in the sand will be your own… bliss!
From Keppel Sands, it’s a 40km drive back to Rocky. On return, duck into the Archer Park Rail Museum, where you’ll be treated to fascinating exhibits of rolling stock, including the Purrey Steam Tram which puffs along for a ride every Sunday morning from February to November.
Toast your trip, and farewell Rocky with wonderful Italian food and wine at Pacino’s on East Street.