The Beef Capital of Australia is the title the Central Queensland city of Rockhampton has earned itself, but it's not all rural. Affectionately known as Rocky, it has a lot to offer and is more than just a halfway stop on the Queensland coast. Read on for local tips on the sometimes quirky sights (and food) that make Rocky worth stopping in for more than one night.
If coming from the south, you'll know you've arrived when you see the giant bull in the middle of the roundabout. You’re probably travel-weary and in need of a hearty meal, and Rockhampton has some rather unique food options that you'll be hard-pressed to find in many other places.
If you're looking for a good value pub meal, stop in for a "crummy at the Brunny". Translation: a famous crumbed steak at the Brunswick Hotel. Value is right; the steak takes up most of the plate, and costs less than $20. Want something more upmarket? Head to Café Bliss or Pacino's.
Afterwards, stroll along the riverfront, a modern public space built after the area suffered substantial damage in the 2015 cyclone. For a casual nightcap, you can stop at the Oxford Hotel, where there is always live music. Be sure to order one of the secret drinks that are unique to the pub and pack quite a punch. The place to stay is definitely in the newer hotels and apartments in the CBD area, only a short walk away.
Start your day with a stroll back along the riverbank into 'the mall' area for a day time view of the classic buildings and a spot of breakfast at one of the many cafes in the area. The Two Professors, Headricks Lane and Dingles, are highly recommended with gorgeous decor and the latter two double up as bars come the afternoon.
Driving is the best way to get around Rockhampton, especially on the weekend, as there are plenty of sights to see that are not within walking distance. After breakfast, drive to the Botanical Gardens, taking in the fancy houses of The Range along the way. There is a zoo and a playground that will keep children entertained and a lagoon that is home to geese, ducks and turtles.
After the gardens, head to the north side for a picnic lunch at Mount Archer National park. Pop into Captain Nemo’s on your way to pick up one of their famous sub sandwiches. After lunch walk it off on one of two walks through the bush. One is twenty minutes, graded easy and wheelchair accessible. The other includes an uphill return for those wanting more of a challenge. No matter which you choose, you will be treated to incredible views from lookouts and plenty of wildlife. On the drive down from the mountain is another lookout that gives a view of the city and at night, due to unfortunate, but amusing town planning, the city lights spell 'Hell'.
A visit to the Beef Capital isn't complete without a proper steak, so for dinner head to the Criterion Hotel, which is a gorgeous old building. The ‘Cri’, as it’s affectionately known by locals, prides itself on its steakhouse reputation, but the 'Cri Fries' (chunky chips covered in a secret bacon and onion sauce) are equally famous. The Cri has live music most nights of the week, so stay for a dance then make your way back to the mall to a bar or nightclub.
If a greasy breakfast is needed, stop into Cranston's Pies for a 'pie plus meal', consisting of a pie of your choosing, chips and gravy. Then drive to Yeppoon, which is only a forty-minute drive away and has some fantastic beaches to relax on. Or you can do a spot of shopping along the main beachfront area.
From Yeppoon, keep heading north, where you’ll find the relaxed town of Byfield for yoga, Stony Creek for a refreshing swim, or Five Rocks for an adventurous four-wheel drive. Off the coast of Yeppoon, is Great Keppel Island for a tropical paradise getaway. If you're beached out, learn local aboriginal history at the Dreamtime Centre or drop into the Heritage Village. For more adventure, go to the Capricorn Caves just out of town and take a tour.
A weekend visit to Rockhampton may increase the waistline but will also be filled with adventure, relaxation and entertainment, so make sure you stop in next time you travel the Queensland coast.
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