Sun­shine is al­most as­sured but good steak is guar­an­teed in the Beef Cap­i­tal of Aus­tralia, writes lo­cal Anna Daniels. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Josh Cun­liffe.

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A lo­cal’s guide to the best of Rock­hamp­ton

STRADDLING THE Tropic of Capri­corn in Cen­tral Queens­land, Rock­hamp­ton is best known for the stat­ues of bovines along its wide streets and atop the wel­come-to-the-city round­about. It’s im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore that you’re in the Beef Cap­i­tal of Aus­tralia.

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The re­gion is best ex­plored by car so hire some wheels and give a nod to the Drought­mas­ter bull statue as you exit the air­port. It was in­stalled in 1994 to

wel­come vis­i­tors fly­ing in to Rocky for

Beef Aus­tralia, a huge tri­en­nial expo that re­turns in 2018 (see “3 fes­ti­vals to plan your trip around” on page 38).

Make your first stop The Spire Visi­tor

In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre (07 4921 2311) on Glad­stone Road, where you can lit­er­ally “step into the trop­ics” and take a pic at the Tropic of Capri­corn Spire, which marks (roughly) where the tem­per­ate zone meets the trop­ics. Pick up a free map and visi­tor’s guide and, for two bucks, the lo­cally pro­duced pub­li­ca­tion

Rock­hamp­ton’s Her­itage Walk.

From here, it’s a five-minute drive

into Rocky’s heart. Cen­tred on a labyrinth of laneways and back al­leys, the CBD is home to a cos­mopoli­tan mix of galleries, cafés and a shop­ping mall – the per­fect place to park and be­gin your on-foot ex­plo­ration along Quay Street.

Run­ning ad­ja­cent to the mighty Fitzroy River, Quay Street has about

30 build­ings of his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance,

mak­ing it Aus­tralia’s long­est Na­tional Trust her­itage-listed street. Be­gin your walk at ABC Capri­cor­nia at No.236. Built in 1898, the build­ing was orig­i­nally the gold store and head­quar­ters of the Mount Mor­gan Gold Min­ing Com­pany be­fore it was kit­ted out with ra­dio stu­dios in the 1960s.

Other gems in­clude the splen­did sand­stone and ren­dered-brick Cus­toms House (208 Quay Street) and much-fre­quented wa­ter­ing hole The Cri­te­rion (the­cri­te­ End your Fitzroy River me­an­der­ings at Rock­hamp­ton Art Gallery (rock­hamp­tonart­, which fea­tures works by Aus­tralian greats such as Sid­ney Nolan, Charles Black­man and Mar­garet Ol­ley.

For a spot of high-end re­tail ther­apy in laid-back sur­round­ings, head to 32 Up­per Daw­son Road, in the in­ner-city sub­urb of Al­len­stown, where there is a

gor­geous bou­tique. Some­thing Dif­fer­ent

(07 4927 3730) sells de­signer la­bels from the likes of Twin­set, White La­bel Noba and Camilla, as well as a range of coastal-chic home­wares.

Feel like a breather? Nose your car a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres fur­ther along Up­per Daw­son Road then turn right into Spencer Street to ar­rive at Rock­hamp­ton Botanic Gar­dens (07 4931 1254) and Rock­hamp­ton Zoo (1300 22 55 77).

Re­garded as one of the finest in re­gional

Aus­tralia, the botanic gar­den is an all-ages “choose your own ad­ven­ture”. En­joy the tran­quil Ja­panese Gar­den,

re­lax with cof­fee and scones un­der a

canopy of banyan trees at the Gar­dens Tea­rooms (gar­den­stea­ and ad­mire more than 70 species of an­i­mals at the zoo. The cheeky chimps are al­ways a hit with the kids, as is the leafy playground.

With more than 300 sunny days a year, Rocky’s cli­mate is the envy of many. But if you need to beat the heat, chill out in the nat­u­rally air-con­di­tioned splen­dour of the Capri­corn Caves (capri­corn­ Lo­cated an easy 30-minute drive north of Rocky, the lime­stone cave sys­tem can be ex­plored through guided tours or cav­ing and ab­seil­ing ad­ven­tures. On the Cathe­dral Cave Tour, haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful mu­sic and a light­show com­bine in a spine-tin­gling demon­stra­tion of the cav­ern’s acous­tics.

No visit to the Beef Cap­i­tal would be com­plete with­out some dirt, dust and cow­boys so don your boots and head to the fa­mous Great West­ern Ho­tel (greatwest­ern­ho­ Time your visit for a Wed­nes­day or Fri­day evening to see the pub’s in­door rodeo arena in ac­tion. You can even dine ring­side on a rump steak by the award-win­ning steak­house.

Rocky also of­fers easy ac­cess to the coast and Great Kep­pel Is­land. Serv­ing as the gate­way to the South­ern Great Bar­rier Reef, the Capri­corn Coast is a string of se­cluded beaches and seaside vil­lages, with Yep­poon its main hub.

Be­gin your coastal ad­ven­ture 38 kilo­me­tres from Rock­hamp­ton at John and Lil­lian Lever’s Koorana crocodile farm ( With more than 3000 crocs in res­i­dence – and John and his fam­ily as your charis­matic guides – you’ll be within me­tres of these saltwater gi­ants. There’s the chance for happy snaps with a baby crocodile at the end of your tour and, if you don’t mind view­ing then eat­ing, the li­censed restau­rant serves croc ke­babs and pies.

From Koorana, it’s a 30-minute drive north to Ross­lyn Bay, where you can take a Free­dom Fast Cats (free­dom fast­ or Kep­pel Kon­nec­tions (kep­pelkon­nec­ ferry to Great Kep­pel Is­land. With pris­tine beaches, azure wa­ters and a range of ac­tiv­i­ties and ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, it’s easy to stay awhile. But if you’re on a tight sched­ule, the Co­ral Lunch Cruise with Free­dom Fast Cats is a win­ner.

Back on the main­land, stop at Flour café in Nor­manby Street (07 4925 0725) in Yep­poon for a cof­fee be­fore head­ing 30 min­utes north to By­field Na­tional Park and By­field Con­ser­va­tion Park ( Spread over 15,000 hectares, the park varies from rugged moun­tain ranges to lush rain­for­est walk­ways and is known for its wa­ter­holes and pic­nic spots. While in the area, duck into Nob Creek Pot­tery (nobcreekpot­ for pots, plates and cook­ware crafted by lo­cal ar­ti­sans Sue McBurnie and Steve Bish­opric.

No visit to the Beef Cap­i­tal would be com­plete with­out some dirt, dust and cow­boys.

You’ll want to eat here...

$ En­joy Grinders cof­fee and freshly baked crois­sants un­der the pas­sion­fruit vines out the back at Ja­nine Bell and Ga­bor Szom­bati’s café, Birdies Es­presso (, on Den­ham Street. The car­rot cake is amaz­ing.

The lat­est ad­di­tion to Rocky’s latte scene, Cof­fee So­ci­ety (07 4961 1405) of­fers a se­lec­tion of gluten-free cakes and slices, in­clud­ing Nutella choco­late brown­ies.

With sun­light stream­ing through its street­front win­dows, Cof­fee House Restau­rant (cof­fee­ on Bolsover Street is a laid-back lo­cal favourite and the place to get a top­notch toasted sand­wich and cup of Merlo cof­fee. $$ Café Bliss (07 4920 4900) has an ex­ten­sive break­fast menu that in­cludes the al­ways-ex­cel­lent eggs Bene­dict and frit­ters with corn, sweet potato and zuc­chini.

For a hearty steak and a gen­er­ous serve of qual­ity pub grub, join the lo­cals at The Cri­te­rion (the­cri­te­, aka The Cri. Think chicken parmi for less than $25.

There’s a lively vibe in the re­vi­talised her­itage build­ing that houses Head­ricks Lane (head­rick­ Try the small share plates of but­ter­milk fried chicken, pulled-pork buns and pancetta cro­quettes with three cheeses.

$$$ Delizie ( is a fine-din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in op­u­lent sur­round­ings on

Vic­to­ria Pa­rade. Chef Gianni De Luca plates up flavour­some Euro­pean dishes with a twist, such as dou­ble-baked pork belly with mous­saka vinai­grette and oven-roasted beef with smoked-ched­dar bread and Soubise sauce. It’s BYO (make sure you book ahead).

Feast on de­li­cious Ital­ian cui­sine

be­neath chan­de­liers and Etr­uscan-style fres­coes at Pa­cino’s (07 4922 5833). The veal, lightly crumbed and served with egg­plant, tomato and parme­san, is won­der­ful.

At Ross­lyn Bay, dine at The Water­line Restau­rant (the­wa­ter­ along­side the twin­kling lights of Kep­pel Bay Ma­rina. The award-win­ning grass­fed Banana Sta­tion beef is pro­duced in Cen­tral Queens­land, while lo­cally sourced seafood dishes in­clude To­day’s Catch, ac­com­pa­nied with a ca­per­berry cit­rus salad and le­mon aïoli.

These are the places to stay...

$ Of­fer­ing a choice of cab­ins, vil­las, trop­i­cal chalets and shady camp sites, Dis­cov­ery Parks – Rock­hamp­ton (dis­cov­ery­hol­i­day­ is a 10-minute drive from the CBD and has great fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a heated pool, half-size ten­nis court and jump­ing pil­low for the kids.

$$ The Deni­son Bou­tique Ho­tel (ho­tel.qan­­rock­hamp­ton) is a cen­trally lo­cated ro­man­tic get­away fea­tur­ing open-plan her­itage-style rooms with a four-poster bed, high ceil­ings, bal­cony views and spa bath.

Qual­ity Ho­tel Re­gent Rock­hamp­ton (re­gen­thotel­rock­hamp­ on Bolsover Street has spa­cious, light-filled con­tem­po­rary and her­itage gue­strooms, some with bal­conies.

$$$ With panoramic views of the Fitzroy River and sur­round­ing hin­ter­land, Em­pire Apart­ment Ho­tel (ho­tel.qan­tas.­pire­rock­hamp­ton) and The Edge Apart­ment Ho­tel (ho­tel.qan­tas.­rock­hamp­ton) are high-end lodg­ings in prime river­front lo­ca­tions. Em­pire, which has an out­door pool and fit­ness cen­tre, tow­ers above qual­ity restau­rants and cafés, while The Edge has a mod­ern-Aus­tralian restau­rant and a bar known for its bou­tique beers.

Her­itage-listed Cus­toms House in Quay Street

(Clock­wise from left) The Cathe­dral Cave Tour at Capri­corn Caves; Yep­poon’s Kep­pel Kraken water park; lo­cal coun­try mu­sic en­thu­si­ast Len Turner; res­i­dents of Koorana crocodile farm; the Great West­ern Ho­tel’s in­door rodeo arena

The car­rot cake at Birdies Es­presso is a stand­out (right and be­low); The Cri­te­rion ho­tel (bot­tom); Head­ricks Lane chef Nani Dora (far right)

A Su­pe­rior Spa Her­itage Room at Qual­ity Ho­tel Re­gent Rock­hamp­ton; the Fitzroy River runs through the city

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