Straddling the Tropic of Capricorn and the Fitzroy River, Rockhampton might have been founded on the backs of sheep introduced by the brothers Archer - Charles and William - back in the 1850s, but the merino has long since been replaced by the Hereford and Brahman. Today, Rocky is firmly established as the nation’s beef capital, and life-size statues dedicated to Santa Gertrudis, Brahman, Bradford and Droughtmaster bulls sit strangely with the city’s other major claim to fame as home to some of the finest examples of colonial architecture in the land. Many of the city’s buildings on Quay and surrounding streets - most of which were designed by gifted architect J.W. Wilson - are listed by the National Trust. The clearly defined Heritage Walk takes visitors on a circuit of architectural gems which have been lovingly preserved or restored.
Rockhampton Heritage Village is a unique collection of buildings, homesteads and businesses from bygone years. Here, you can watch heritage trades such as blacksmithing and woodcutting, take a horse-drawn carriage ride or go back to school in the schoolhouse. At St Aubins Village there are cottage shops and a herb nursery.
Old Glenmore Homestead dates from 1858 and includes a log cabin, slab cottage and the oldest stone and adobe building in Queensland.
The Steam Tram Museum is housed in the magnificent Archer Park Station. The museum is open Sunday to Friday, but its highlight is the fully restored Purrey Steam Tram, which operates on Sundays only.
Rockhampton Art Gallery features major works by Australian artists from the 1940s to the 1970s. It also houses temporary and travelling exhibitions. Rockhampton also has a number of other galleries including the Walter Reid Art Centre. The Pilbeam Theatre is an excellent theatre venue, offering a range of productions and shows throughout the year. The Dreamtime Cultural Centre is Australia’s largest Aboriginal cultural centre. It includes the Dreamtime Museum and an Aboriginal art and craft shop.
The Botanic Gardens are among the best in regional Australia. They feature a delightful fernery, a Japanese Garden, Murray Lagoon, now a fauna reserve, and ancient palms and cycads, some over 100 years old. The more recent Kershaw Gardens have been constructed in a more naturalistic manner, recreating a bush setting with a rainforest, waterfalls, a scented garden and the slab hut, which includes native flower arrangements.
Rockhampton is bounded by the Berserker Ranges and Mount Archer. Take a bushwalk to the top of Mount Archer, where you will be rewarded with delightful views over the city and the river.
At Koorana Crocodile Farm you can get up close and personal with these ancient creatures. The farm features over 3,000 crocodiles.
Some 22 kilometres north of Rockhampton, you will find Cammoo Caves, a system of active rainwater caves. There are limestone formations including stalagmites, oolites, cave coral and huge tree roots. Tours are available. Nearby, Olsen’s Capricorn Caverns feature the magnificent Cathedral Cave, stalactites and small insect-eating bats.
Big River Jazz Festival (September), Barra Bounty (fishing competition) (October)
Things to do:
Heritage Walk - colonial architecture
History - Rockhampton Heritage Village, St Aubins Village, Old Glenmore Homestead
Steam Tram Museum - ride on the Purrey Steam Tram
Culture - Rockhampton Art Gallery, Walter Reid Art Centre, Pilbeam Theatre, Dreamtime Cultural Centre
Botanic Gardens - fernery, Japanese Garden, Murray Lagoon, palms, cycads
Kershaw Gardens - bushland garden, rainforest, waterfalls, scented garden, slab hut
In the area:
Mount Archer - bushwalks, lookout, views
Koorana Crocodile Farm
Caves - Cammoo Caves, Olsen’s Capricorn Caverns