Capricorn? What’s in a name? Rockhampton may be a world away from London’s Greenwich, but when you pass through the beef capital of Australia you traverse a line that is up there in global significance with the zero line of longitude. There is no actual line in the sand but there is a monument commemorating the point where the Tropic of Capricorn scythes its way through ‘Rocky’, marking the gateway to the tropical north.
Some say this is Australia’s best cattle country; some look to mining riches and heritage – gold and copper, then King Coal and a thriving trade in sapphire. Others look to spectacular national parks, while still more laud the nearby pristine beaches, ocean and islands. In other words, welcome to the region where the Outback genuinely meets the Great Barrier Reef.
People love Capricorn for:
- Diving, snorkelling and sailing the Southern Great Barrier Reef
- Heritage towns and pioneering history
- National parks and geological wonders
The main resort may be closed for redevelopment but stunning Great Keppel Island is still the standout destination in the Keppel Islands Group for lovers of the beach and water sports thanks to a fast ferry connection from Keppel Bay marina at Rosslyn Bay. If you prefer to stay landside, the stretch of coast between bustling Yeppoon and heritage-filled Emu Park is dotted with beaches and shady coves.
Away from the coast, expect to be amazed by the limestone wonders of the Capricorn Caves or, further inland, the beauty of the Blackdown Tableland and magnificence of Carnarvon Gorge, including its ancient rock art. Close to Rockhampton, which has its share of heritage buildings, lovers of history will revel in Mount Morgan. The quiet and quaint main street belies a past when it served a huge population working one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world. Speaking of riches, you can pick up a gemstone or two from the workings around Sapphire and Rubyvale, west of the busy regional centre of Emerald.
Capricorn is also tops for:
- River, beach, rock and blue water fishing
- Four-wheel driving
- Thunder egg and gemstone fossicking
Eat & Drink
With a daily ocean harvest and some of the best beef in the world off the land, Capricorn may as well have invented the concept of ‘reef and beef’, ‘surf and turf’ – call it what you will. For many, the multiple combinations of the freshest seafood and the most succulent steak is a marriage made in heaven.
That said, a superb steak doesn’t hold the menu monopoly. You will find first-class restaurants and fast-food outlets serving all types of cuisine – from modern Australian, Asian and European to the best ‘burger with the lot’ that money can buy. Don’t miss delicious mud crabs in season, the freshest barramundi and, on the coast, crispy chips with fish straight off the trawlers.
Last but not least, don’t forget the pubs and those value-for-money counter meals. Capricorn has more than its share of wonderful pubs, some with a long history.
The best pub/bar steak in Rocky:
- The Great Western Hotel
- The Ascot Hotel
- The Ginger Mule
Where to Stay
Stay on an island or camp in the national parks, book a hotel or motel in the heart of Rocky, pick a top-class Capricorn Coast resort, or take an apartment – the choice is yours in a region boasting a multitude of accommodation options.
And while some prefer to splurge, others can rest assured that the region caters equally well for those on a more modest budget through camp sites, caravan parks and associated cabin-style accommodation.
If you like to mix a round of golf with your coastal stay, pack the clubs and head for the Capricorn Resort outside Yeppoon, which also boasts one of the largest freshwater swimming pools in the South Pacific, or the newly developed Reef Palms Resort.
Where to stay for what:
- Rockhampton – as a base to explore north, south and east
- Yeppoon to Emu Park and Zilzie – for the coast and islands
- Emerald – for the western national parks and gemfields experience
It doesn’t pretend to be designer-label central, but Rocky has all the amenities you would expect from a major service centre. You will find a mix of key department store-style shopping and supermarkets, as well as boutique clothing, antiques, souvenirs, grocery and deli lines. Key centres are City Centre Plaza in the CBD and Stockland, north of the city – the largest of its kind in the Capricorn region.
To the west, Emerald is a major regional centre serving the mining and vibrant agricultural communities, while on the coast Yeppoon is the major shopping town, providing everything from groceries for self-caterers to resort wear and water sports gear.
Capricorn shopping secrets:
- Buy sapphires direct from the miners in, yes, Sapphire
- Buy pottery direct from the maker in Byfield forest
- Buy seafood straight from the trawler at Rosslyn Bay
Capricorn Like a Local
Some of the best-kept secrets are within easy reach – and free! In Rocky, take a trip up Mt Archer to the north of the city for amazing views over an untrammelled landscape as far as the eye can see. Or head to the more than century old Botanic Gardens, regarded as one of the best of their kind in Australia. Children will love the gardens zoo.
To the north of Yeppoon, Byfield National Park offers a combination of shady forest, cool creeks and – for the more adventurous – 4WD access to some of the most unspoilt beaches in the land. Look out for artisan potteries and galleries for those keepsakes with a difference.
Meanwhile, Emerald may be more than three hours’ drive inland but it boasts the huge Fairbairn Dam and Lake Maraboon water catchment – host to water sports lovers and anglers from far and wide.
Capricorn locals know:
- You can hire a canoe and paddle beautiful Water Park Creek at Byfield
- You can catch a barra in the Fitzroy a minute from the Rocky CBD
- You can see a croc up close – and safely – at the Koorana Crocodile Farm