Rockhampton is a city that lies on the tropic of Capricorn near the Queensland coast, south of Mackay and north of Bundaberg. Rockhampton is an industrial and agricultural centre of the north, and is the regional centre of Central Queensland. Rockhampton is also a large tourist destination known for its history and culture supporting such institutions as the Rockhampton Art Gallery, one of the most extensive regional galleries in Australia, the Rockhampton Heritage Village, and Dreamtime Cultural Centre.
Rockhampton was established in 1855 and is one of Queensland's oldest cities. It was named by Queensland's first Land Commissioner, Mr W. Wiseman, who was supposedly inspired by the rocks in the river flowing through the town.
In the late 1800s, several nearby gold discoveries ensured continued economic growth of the region and of Rockhampton. Subsequently, as mining, grazing, farming and meat processing industries developed in Central Queensland, Rockhampton thrived as a regional service centre.
Rockhampton was incorporated as a city in 1902, and has continued to grow slowly but steadily ever since. It has a population of 79,000 people (2018). The Rockhampton area is surprisingly busy, with considerable traffic on the roads, and a substantial suburban area. It has a feel much more of a developed city than of an outback town.
Rockhampton is almost universally called Rocky. Just about every business has some variation of Rocky in their name or their promotion.
It is also famous as the hometown of Rod Laver – one of the best tennis players in history.
- 1 Rockhampton Airport (ROK IATA) (just to the west of the city; signposted road access is from the Bruce Highway heading south from the city centre). Qantaslink has seven direct flights a day to Brisbane during the week, slightly fewer on the weekends. Virgin Australia flies direct to Sydney, to Brisbane and to Townsville. Qantaslink also operates a twice-daily all-stops flight north and south, to Gladstone then to Brisbane heading south, and to Mackay, Townsville and Cairns heading north. The discount airlines flying the route mean that cheap fares from the eastern capitals are commonly on offer. Rockhampton airport has a central cafe, in a fully air conditioned terminal. It has an ANZ ATM available, and car hire facilities. There is a small Qantas regional lounge next to the Qantas check-in area. There is also an outside observation area.
Rockhampton is accessible by sealed road, most notably the Bruce Highway which travels north from Brisbane, through Rockhampton and on to Cairns. It is 7-8 hours driving time along the highway from Brisbane.
Road access from Sydney, Melbourne and other areas further south and inland is shorter via an inland route. Rockhampton is the terminus of the Leichhardt Highway. Driving time from Sydney is around 16 hours (non-stop).
The Tilt Train runs to Rockhampton from Brisbane once daily, six days a week, and takes 7½ hours. The Spirit of the Outback ends its journey up the coast from Brisbane here, and turns inland towards Emerald and Longreach. The Spirit of Queensland continues from Brisbane up the coast to Cairns.
The towns and areas around Rockhampton are all accessible by sealed roads. Most major car rental companies offer car hire in Rockhampton, either at offices in the city or at Rockhampton airport. Roads are typically uncrowded, making driving in the area enjoyable, though drivers are advised to be cautious of the many large trucks on the Bruce Highway. When travelling on back roads watch out for straying livestock.
There is actually a bit of peak hour in Rockhampton, especially on a Friday afternoon travelling over the bridges towards Yeppoon. Expect up to around 10 minutes of delay due to traffic.
Taxis are useful for those wishing to travel to places of interest within the city, or to and from the airport. Travel time from the airport to the city centre is only 15 minutes. Rocky Cabs can be reached on the national taxi number, ☏ 131 008 (domestic). The taxis also service Yeppoon although a fare there is expensive, and a bus or hire car may be a better option.
Rockhampton's CBD is fairly flat, and most roads are uncrowded, which is good for those wishing to cycle around the city. However, access to areas such as the hospitals requires strenuous uphill riding and so is not recommended for those of poor fitness. Those wanting to venture further a field should be warned that the combination of rural drivers, and large trucks and cars with Roo bars is not particularly bicycle-friendly. Be cautious!
Rockhampton’s flat topography and compact size mean many attractions can be visited on foot, especially those in and around the city centre.
Many of the attractions in Rockhampton are operated by the local council, which has a focus on tourism promotion.
- 1 Rockhampton Zoo, 93 Spencer St (next to the Botanic Gardens), ☏ , toll-free: 1300 22 55 77, ✉ email@example.com. 3PM is feeding time at the zoo. A variety of Australian wildlife, including wallabies, kangaroos, goannas, wombats, and koalas. There is also a freshwater crocodile display. Also seeming somewhat out of place is a chimpanzee, a baboon and a monkey. 3PM is also the chance to get up close to a koala for photos. free.
- 2 Botanic Gardens, 100 Spencer St (next to the zoo.), toll-free: 1300 225 577. Surrounding the zoo, includes a Japanese Garden and the Rockhampton War Memorial. The Giant Banyan Figs in the gardens are a feature. There are tea rooms in the garden, serving cappuccinos. ice-creams and lunch.
- Rockhampton Heritage Village, Boundary Rd (signposted off Bruce Highway north of Rockhampton). Opens 9AM. A large site, with around 20 historical buildings from between 1850 and 1950 reconstructed on the site, including a school, hospital and church. Takes around 1 hour to walk around the site, but if you are interested in historic machinery it may take longer. Volunteers run kiosk on site, serves Devonshire teas until 2PM (but only instant coffee) $8.50 adults.
- Dreamtime Cultural Centre, Bruce Highway, ☏ . M-F 10AM-3:30PM. The Dreamtime Cultural Centre showcases Aboriginal culture, heritage and artwork. Local Aboriginal guides give regular tours through the centre, and describe regional tribal history, myths of the Dreamtime and the process involved in producing Aboriginal artworks. There are also displays of didgeridoo playing, bush tucker and boomerang throwing. A convention centre and accommodation are located on the site. It is located 6 kilometres to the north of Rockhampton city centre.
- 3 Mount Etna Caves National Park (30 km north of Rockhampton on the Bruce Highway), ☏ . Access to 2-wheel drive vehicles. If you are an experienced caver in a group, you can go caving independently here. Guided tours are available at the nearby Capricorn Caves
- Capricorn Caves (26 km north of Rockhampton on the Bruce Highway). Guided tours
- Capricorn Spire (at the tourist information on the Bruce Highway south of Rockhampton). The tropics are caused by tilt of the earth on its axis, with the tropic of Capricorn marking the line of latitude when the sun is directly overhead at the summer solstice. Rockhampton lies pretty much on the tropic of Capricorn with the temperate zone to the south of the city, and tropical zone to the north. A spire marks the Tropic of Capricorn but the position is inexact, and varies by a few kilometres a year because of the wobble of the earth on its axis. The position here is a convenience, and an older marker lies on the Bruce Highway 3 km south of this location.
- Customs House and Riverside Esplanade. Immigrants to Australia used to arrive by the boatload at Rockhampton. The sandstone Customs House building now houses the tourist information centre. Just across the road is a modern riverside esplanade on the banks of the Fitzroy river.
- Archer Park Station and Steam Tram Museum. In south Rockhampton a tram line runs through the city streets, and a restored steam tram runs on Sundays. The museum is also open Monday to Friday.
- Koorona Crocodile Farm, 65 Savages Road, Coowonga (around 10km from Rockhampton on the Emu Park Road), ☏ . Last admission at 2PM, tours at 1PM. Cafe serving croc and other dishes, mains over $20. The only possibility of getting value for money here is to turn up for the tour. You will get an idea of the entrepreneurial nature of the operations here. The tour involves feeding and viewing the crocs that are in the pens visible as you approach the farm entrance, which is basically the breeding pairs. Also offers the opportunity to hold a younger croc. $22 adults, $11 children - no family discount.
- Mount Archer (head to Frenchville, then Frenchville Road, turn right onto Pilbeam Drive and stop at the top in Mount Archer National Park). Pleasant views of Rockhampton are available from Mount Archer, including the locally known Hell Nights at night. Free.
- Great Western Hotel, Cnr Stanley & Denison Streets. There is a steakhouse. On every Wednesday and Friday nights, you can choose to have your dinner in the rodeo arena while watching bull rides practice.
- Pacino's. Great homey Italian food.
- Punjabi's. Surprisingly good and authentic Indian cuisine. Fresh ingredients and great ambience.
- Coffee House. Serves lunch and dinner. Good and fresh food.
- Seagull's Fish and Chips. In Yeppoon. Once ranked as the 6th best fish and chips shop in Australia. Very friendly people. Consistent quality. Try the special tartare sauce.
- Restaurant 98. Relaxed environment and close to fine dining.
- Saigon Saigon. Great location by the river. A combination of Vietnamese and Chinese food. Vey tasty but the service can be a bit slow and disorganized.
- Ascot Hotel, 177 Musgrave Street, North Rockhampton. The Ascot Hotel serves large portion steaks on a StoneGrill. If you like steak, this is one of the best in Australia.
Rockhampton has 4 nightclubs located at the Quay Street end of William Street, and many bars scattered throughout the city. The Criterion Hotel situated at 150 Quay Street has a lively atmosphere and the bar and club is open till 3AM Friday and Saturday. The "Cri" as it's locally known is a great place for food and a few drinks in the afternoon as well. Locally known to have a ghost as well.
There are many motels in Rockhampton, mostly on the roads into and out of town. Many offer standby rates. There is also a choice of accommodation in nearby Yeppoon, tending to have an nicer aspect, and still within easy reach of downtown Rockhampton.
- Quest Rockhampton, 48 Victoria Pde, ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. A hotel along the Fitzroy River.
Rockhampton is about as far south as the habitat of the salt water crocodile extends. These animals are dangerous to humans. If you are travelling north along the east coast of Australia, Rockhampton is where you have to start being aware of crocodiles. Crocodiles are seen in the Fitzroy River.
Rockhampton is a great base if you are travelling Central Queensland to the Gem Fields, Great Barrier Reef and Islands, Gladstone, The Coast, Gracemere, Mount Morgan
|Routes through Rockhampton|
|Townsville ← Mackay ←||N S||→ Gladstone via → Gin Gin → Brisbane|