ROCKHAMPTON ... North QLD
Locals know it as the un-offical capital of regional QLD but I think it is one of the most stunning cities I have ever visited and spending a week here may just not be enough.
Rockhampton, 620 km north of Brisbane may not be a seaside town but it has the charm and personality that would put many to shame. Dating back to 1853 when the Archer brothers discovered and explored the now Fitzroy River and later settled nearby in 1855. Like any new town, Gold was discovered and a rush was on - with this the town grew, a port was built at the mouth of the river ( 40 km away ) and Rockhampton was officially named. Over the next 100 years Rocky ( as known to locals ) grew immensely by 1900 with huge churches, a rail line, steel bridges were built over the river, a customs house was built due to the amount of good being exported out of Rocky, then a tramway was built within the city, it saw several devastating floods and cyclones plus during WW11 the US army set up camp with nearly 70,000 men nearby.
These days Rockhampton is a tough city and welcomes visitors. The perfect spot to gather a plethora of information is the tourist info centre on the Southside of town right on the latitude line of Tropic of Capricorn. Once you go past the info centre your officially in the tropics which means jumpers off and outdoor activities. The city of Rocky sits in a natural bowl allowing for plenty of activities while having a diverse range off flora and fauna. The very best overview and most exciting to drive up is to the top of Mount Archer. From the summit the views are extensive all the way around and with the new tree top board walk that has been installed the views across Rocky and to the west are nothing short of stunning. For the fitness freaks there are walks that delve into the gullies and back to town for 14 km and other small ones along the ridge lines, all of this occurred from huge volcano eruptions.
If you head back in to town and walk the riverside precinct the heritage building are nothing short of spectacular and date back to 1860 when buildings were build with pride. From old hotels to newspaper buildings, banks to a very impressive customs office you like us will be blown away. Down beside the river there are stunning gardens along the way, water features, info boards with aboriginal meanings through to history undertakings it is a great way to spend the day wandering the riverside with a coffee in hand. If you're in Rocky on a Saturday head to Archer St where the heritage listed 1899 station and railway are open to the public. For a small fee you can wander through an array of totally amazing historical railway memorabilia, participate in interactive displays, walk through 1900 period rail carriages and engines but the biggest bonus is to ride the French Purrey Steam train. The only working one left in the world it definatly is a work of art. Run by dedicated volunteers they know the rail system inside and out.
Back in 1869 the Botanical gardens were started and today they are a huge hit with the locals and tourist that frequent the town, not only is it free to enter but it is also the home of the Rockhampton zoo also free of charge. It’s fantastic wandering around the stunning gardens, through animal enclosures then seeing other animals within the gardens and its one of the few zoo that have chimps in Australia and with over 60 different species of animals, birds and reptiles its a fun time exploring. It’s an amazing experience where they combine the old and new gardens from theme countries to the trees that were planted over 130 years ago. An amazing fact that we found out exploring the city is that Rocky has over 200 gardens and parks within the shire, some with huge waterfalls, stunning riverside gardens to playgrounds for kids that have safe west areas where glorious trees give shade in the hot tropical summers.
Gold was found 30 km west of Rocky back in the mid 1800’s and like any other place when the word was out the boom began. Most of the mining was for alluvial gold until a chap named Morgan looked further into the mountains and found gold encrusted in huge amounts of Ironstone. For the next few years the mining moved to the now named Mount Morgan and absolutely huge amounts of gold, silver and copper were extracted from the area. It was once regarded as the largest gold mine in the world, where the mine went into the mountain nearly 2km. Today the hole where the mountain was is regarded as one of the largest man made holes in the world. Mount Morgan is a quirky little village where you can visit rail and historical museums, view the mine from various lookouts around town and see the huge chimney that took 750,000 bricks to build. The Dee River weaves its way around town and back in the day of the mines operation, 6 suspension bridges were built across the river but over time with floods ( the 1928 flood swept away several ), fires and decrepitation all bar one is left, that you can walk across the bridge near the heart of town. For a peaceful break away from the town, we headed to what is known as Dam number 7. A local and tourist destination this huge dam was one of many built for the mine, but today it's used for the towns water supply and recreation like boating and fishing.
Rocky is also the Beef capital of Australia and from the 7 points around the city there are different life size statues of iconic Rocky cattle. If your into fishing Rocky is fast becoming the home of the Barra where you can target them right in the heart of town in the Fitzroy River system which incidentally is one of the largest delta systems in Australia.
Rockhampton blew us away with its heritage, things to do and amazing shopping that you normally only find in major cities and spending a week in Rocky just wasn’t enough. We stayed at the South Side Holiday Village in Allenstown ( just on the outskirts of Rocky ) that catered for all our needs. The caravan sites are huge and set into tropical gardens allowing for most sites to have a little private area and some of the cleanest and modern shower blocks we have seen. It’s a busy friendly park being just 5 mins away from the centre of Rockhampton where it was easy to shoot back to camp for an afternoon snooze and then head off again. Manicured gardens throughout and they have some of the oldest fig trees we have ever seen in the park plus you know your in the tropics when coconut trees line the outskirts.