Rockhampton, Qld: Destination Guide

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Rockhampton may be the Beef Capital of Australia, but there's surprisingly more to this lush, tropical town than a good steak.

Read on to discover the best things to see and do in Rockhampton, or find and book accommodation in Rockhampton today.

About Rockhampton

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Rockhampton, or ‘Rocky’ as the locals refer to it as, is a hot and sweaty mix of historical architecture, magnificent natural surroundings, and – you guessed it – beef.

There’s no denying the impact the booming cattle industry has had in forming much of the identity of Rockhampton. Six bull statues representing the main breeds of the area are dotted around town; while Gracemere Saleyards - which handles the largest throughput of export beef cattle in Queensland, and is also the biggest stud-seeling venue in the Southern Hemisphere, can be found in Rockhampton. Add in 2.5 million cattle who call Rockhampton home, and you’re guaranteed to get a good steak if you’re passing through.

However, rich colonial past has seen Rockhampton flourish into an important regional hub, and there’s plenty of stunning architecture to admire as you wander down the busy streets. Sandstone buildings, the heritage Post Office and Customs House, and stunning cathedrals are constant reminders of the town's colourful history.

Things to do in Rockhampton

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With an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s always a good time to get out and see what Rockhampton has to offer. The stunning natural beauty of the town, nestled inland on the banks of the Fitzroy River, means there is plenty for nature-lovers to appreciate. Highlights include Mt Archer National Park, which has spectacular views of Rockhampton (and is an impressive backdrop for the town), and the Dreamtime Cultural Centre, set on ancient tribal sites.

There’s also plenty to get up to in the heart of Rockhampton; with shops galore, great restaurant and dining options and fascinating architecture. Don’t miss out on strolling down Quay Street either, which is located alongside the river and is where you’ll find many of the heritage-listed buildings

Attractions

The Great Western Pub

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The Great Western is a country pub like no other. Yes, the food is typically generous pub grub but that’s not what stands the Great Western apart from other country pubs.

Go inside and this grand, post-colonial dame shows off her walls steeped in rodeo memorabilia including images of rodeo champions, horses, bulls and riders from the earliest days of Australian rodeo through to more contemporary memories. Among them, you’ll learn about Rockhampton’s famous rodeo The Rocky Round Roundup, Cloncurry’s Merry Muster and other rides.

The pub even boasts Australia’s only indoor rodeo arena and frequently hosts major regional rodeo shows. Alternatively, the bull riding school runs lessons every Wednesday and Friday, for those who really want to embrace the Rockhampton spirit.

Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Zoo

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With 140 years of development under its belt, the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Zoo is among the best regional gardens in Australia. From the Bamboo Lagoon to the Foreshore and Rainforest, the Japanese Garden and Lawn to the Arid Garden and more, there’s so much for the would-be horticulturalist, greenkeeper or garden enthusiast here. Better still, the gardens are home to a good cafe.

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As for the zoo, it features a range of exotic and indigenous species from chimpanzee to wombats. The chimpanzee enclosure is quite a remarkable experience. It’s impossible to look into the dark eyes of one of these wonderful apes without casting your imagination to the time of prehistoric man. The zoo is also committed to the conservation of endangered Central Queensland animals.

And the best bit? Entry is free into both the gardens and the zoo, so grab the family, pack and picnic and make a day of exploring these two beautiful attractions.

Capricorn Caves

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Adventure–seekers should head to The Caves, a tiny village north of Rockhampton, and home to the impressive above ground Capricorn Caves. Discovered in 1881 by the Olsen family and opened to tourists not long after (making it Queensland’s longest-running tourist attraction), the caves, composed of limestone, fossils, coral and bone deposits are a spectacular sight to behold.

This cave system has something for everyone: the large, the small, the fit and less fit are all able to amble or crawl through the magnificent natural tropical wonder. One large cavern is even the site of a geological dig by Queensland Museum. It’s a fascinating site if you’re into paleontological past times.  

The breathtaking Cathedral Cave is a must-see, and it's well lit and wheelchair-friendly. Or you could try abseiling, rock climbing, or the high ropes course - all guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping!

Getting to Rockhampton

Rockhampton is located in Central Queensland, north of Brisbane.

By car

The drive to Rockhampton from Brisbane is a fairly straight-forward one, with the 618km journey taking just over 7 hours along the Bruce Highway.

By air

As the major regional gateway to Central Queensland, Virgin Australia and Qantas both run multiple daily flights to Rockhampton from Brisbane, Gladstone and Mackay.

Where to stay in Rockhampton

Discover more accommodation options in and around Rockhampton.