20 Things To Do In Rockhampton

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A working-class town in Queensland known for being the beef capital of the state, these days, Rockhampton is transforming into an entertainment hub. At the heart of this change is a stunning riverside heritage precinct, a lively cafe and restaurant scene and a range of adventure activities that appeal to all ages.

Throw into the mix breathtaking natural landscapes and a fascinating Aboriginal history, ‘Rocky’ is no longer just a quick pit stop en route to Cairns or Brisbane along the Bruce Highway. You could easily spend a week exploring the area around this under-the-radar gem. Here the best things to do in Rockhampton.

Rockhampton, Queensland

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20 Things To Do In Rockhampton

1- Explore Quay Street And The Riverside Precinct

One of the first things you should do when you arrive in Rockhampton is to explore Quay Street and the Riverside Precinct.

This area runs along the edge of the Fitzroy River and has a splendid set of heritage buildings, some of which date to the early 1800s which are best appreciated on foot.

You will also find modern art, Indigenous history and native trees interwoven with this newly renovated area.

The Riverside is a stunning destination to explore at any time, though I recommend visiting it in the morning or at sunset to avoid the heat of the midday sun and crowds.


2- Relax In Rockhampton Botanic Gardens

Greenhouses For Growing Plants At Botanic Gardens
Wandering around the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens is one of the things to do in Rockhampton for free.

Undoubtedly one of the most relaxing and tranquil places to visit in Rocky is the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens.

Open every day of the week, from 6am to 6pm, these stunning gardens are divided into three sections: the upper, lower and outer gardens.

Each has a different theme, including a Japanese Garden, and plenty of green space to stroll about.

The gardens are free to enter and there is even free parking and a cafe nearby where you can order takeaway food to enjoy a picnic besides the native flowers.

3- See The Wildlife At Rockhampton Zoo

Kangaroo Portrait At Cage
Seeing Australian wildlife in the Rockhampton Zoo is one of the best things to do in Rockhampton for kids.

Right next door to the Botanic Gardens on Spencer Street is the Rockhampton Zoo.

As this is another free activity, it is a good idea to combine a visit to both during one of the days you are in town.

The zoo is home to almost 100 animals across 31 different species, ranging from cassowaries and dingoes to koalas and saltwater crocodiles.

The great thing about this place is that you can learn a lot about Australia’s unique wildlife.

You can also see kangaroos and emus up close in an open pen.

4- Visit The Dreamtime Cultural Centre And Heritage Village

Indigenous people have lived in Australia for over 60,000 years and in Rockhampton, the Darumbal people are the traditional owners of the land.

To learn more about them, visit the Dreamtime Cultural Centre, which showcases the history of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Inside is an absorbing collection of old photographs, artwork and fascinating stories that relate to indigenous people living in Central Queensland.

While it is worth coming to the centre at any time, at 10.30 am and 1 pm free guided tours are available – run by a Darumbal man called Wayne and a Torres Strait woman, who share poignant insights into the history of their people.

5- Stroll Around Kershaw Gardens

Another excellent set of gardens to visit in Rockhampton is Kershaw Gardens.

Residing in the suburb of Park Avenue, within a 50 hectare parkland area that resides on a former landfill site, this wonderful attraction stretches parallel to the Bruce Highway for about one kilometre.

Inside there are plenty of walking pathways and no shortage of terrific spots for photos including a fantastic waterfall.

In addition, children will love coming here as there are plenty of areas for them to play in, including Wyatt’s Wonder Web, a nine metre high apparatus in the middle of a playground the spreads over five levels.

6- Visit CQ Livestock Exchange

CQLX is one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest livestock sale yards, so, if you want to find out more about how it operates it is worth paying a visit here.

The exchange is where lots of horses, cattle and other livestock are sold by auction.

While it might not be for everyone, it is free to enter and is a quintessential Rocky experience to take in.

7- Go On-Country With A Darumbal Elder

If you enjoy visiting the Dreamtime Cultural Centre you should consider going on-country with a with a Darumbal Elder.

Wade Mann, a local elder, runs fantastic on-country experiences which takes the form of a trek to the top of Mount Archer National Park.

During this expedition – which lasts for a few hours – he will share intriguing Dreamtime stories.

Some of the things he’ll cover are how the Rainbow Serpent cut a swathe through the land, bush tucker and the spiritual beliefs of the Darumbal people.

Overall, it is an engrossing way to spend a day.

8- Enjoy a Coffee

Coffee Cup With Artistic Cream Decoration
Sipping coffee in a cafe is one of the things to do in Yeppoon and Rockhampton.

If you love coffee, you will be pleased to know the standard of java in Rocky is pretty good.

You’ll find a decent number of cafes in the area to get your fix, so it is worth trying a few to discover which one you like best.

Two excellent venues to head to are The Two Professors, which you’ll find along William Street and Birdie’s Cafe on Denham Street.

Locals are divided as to which of them are the best in town!

9- Admire The Collections At Rockhampton Museum Of Art

Art lovers will want to make a point of visiting the Rockhampton Museum of Art in the Riverside Precinct.

It’s one of the best regional art institutions in Queensland and the state’s only regional gallery to house a representative collection of Australian art from the mid-twentieth century.

Celebrated modern Australian painters like Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, Judy Cassab and Sidney Nolan are among the artists whose works are featured.

The museum also contains a fabulous collection of photographs, objects and historic paintings that showcase the heritage and history of not just Rockhampton, but also Queensland and Australia.

10- Have Fun At Rocky Bowl And Leisure

If you are travelling with children or if you want a break from the intense heat of the day, Rocky Bowl and Leisure is a great place to go for a few hours.

Located in the suburb of Berserker, on Musgrave Street, this family-friendly venue counts ten pin bowling, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, and laser tag among its entertainment options.

You can also get a nice range of snacks like hot chips and nachos from the onsite cafe.

11- Shop In The Rocky Racecourse Markets

Fruits And Veggies On Farmers Market Stand
Shopping in the markets is one of the things to do in Rockhampton this weekend.

If you want to meet the locals and try some of the region’s fantastic local produce, it is worth making your way over to the Rocky Racecourse Markets.

There you will find a huge range of stalls selling everything from hand made furniture and jewellery to plants and dog coats.

The market takes place every Sunday from 6 am to midday at the Callaghan Park Racecourse in Lakes Creek.

Plenty of parking is available and you will also be able to get coffee and ready-to-eat hot food.

12- Drink Craft Beer At Headricks Lane

For those wondering where to go in Rockhampton at night, Headricks Lane is a great option.

This hip and buzzy microbrewery is situated in the heart of the downtown area within a stylish heritage building that has recently been renovated.

Its restaurant has a nice and intimate ambience, making it a lovely place for a date night or an evening with friends.

They also offer a fabulous selection of craft beers, which are brewed on the premises (their IPA is excellent) and a robust wine list.

13- Explore The Capricorn Caves

Stairs Leading Across Underground Cave Formations
Exploring the Capricorn Caves is one of the things to do in Rockhampton Australia.

While in Rocky, you should make an effort to visit the Capricorn Caves about 23km north of the city.

The caves are spectacular and one of the area’s main drawcards.

Discovered by John Olsen, a Norwegian immigrant in 1881, this cave system is privately owned.

There are several different caverns you can visit on a guided tour, including the Cathedral Cave, which is a massive chamber flanked by incredible limestone columns.

Occasionally this area is used for weddings or opera performances because the sound quality is magnificent.

For those with a bit more of an adventurous spirit you can even choose to partake in explorer and adventure tours that will involve crawling over rocks and through narrow chamber which will take you into the guts of the cave.

Adventure caving is definitely not for the faint-hearted!

14- Enjoy The View From Mount Etna

Mount Etna National Park is not far from the Capricorn Caves and it is worth making your way to the top to see incredible views of the rocky outcrops and landscape that defines the Rockhampton region.

As the pathway is well looked after, it should not take most people any more than around 20 minutes to get to the best viewpoint from the car park.

Once there, you will find a boardwalk encircling the limestone.

If you can, try to get there for sunrise, when the sky illuminates with the vibrant colours of dawn.

15- Watch The Sunset From Mount Archer

If Mount Etna is a good place to see the sunrise, then Mount Archer is the place to take in the sunset.

The great thing about coming here is you can drive straight to its summit, which means anyone with a car or motor bike can access it.

Like at Mount Etna, the views of Rockhampton are lovely.

Once you’ve parked your car, follow the trail westward until you find a nice spot to take in the beauty of the setting sun.

16- Hike The Zamia Trail

If you have a bit more time available while at Mount Archer’s summit, you should consider tackling the Zamia Trail.

This scenic 14km hike showcases the diversity of the local landscape as it guides you through the national park all the way to German Street Reserve.

Starting from craggy forests, the trail takes you into Aussie bushland, where you will be able to see glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and Berserker ranges, along with hundreds of different species of flora and fauna.

Make sure you have your camera at the ready to capture it on film.

17- Go Mountain Biking At First Turkey

If you are into downhill and cross country mountain biking, the best place to do this is First Turkey.

With more than 35km of trails sprawling across 37 pristine black, blue and green runs, there is a track here to suit all levels.

The courses are nestled on the periphery of Mount Archer National Park, with the trailhead beginning at the German Street parking lot.

They eventually make their way to Zamia hiking trail via Moore’s Creek.

For those coming here with kids, it’s best to stick to the green runs initially, which are well signposted and trail mapped.

However, more experienced riders should be challenged by the black and blue trails.

18- Stay At A Farm

To experience the countryside, book a farmstay at Alkoomi Adventure Farmstay.

It is located just a half an hour drive from downtown on an old cattle farm that now features horses, dogs and cows, which guests can feed.

As one of the newest attractions in the area, the owners have put some thought into their farmstay.

As a result, visitors can enjoy a range of other activities including kayaking or swimming in a dam, hiking around the farmland, driving a motorbike or ATV and horse riding.

You can even stay here overnight if you have a motorhome, campervan or caravan, while there are two small dongers you can rent.

19- Discover Gold Mining History At Mount Morgan

Abandoned Mt Morgan Australia Gold Mine
Discovering Mount Morgan is one of the things to do in Rockhampton.

In the latter part of the 19th century, Mount Morgan used to be a very productive gold mining town.

It is worth visiting to get a sense of this from the remains of the old mining equipment and buildings that are dotted around the landscape.

Mount Morgan is a top-notch spot for hiking, accommodating trails that are well maintained and lead you to vantage points that showcase spectacular views that incorporate much of the Capricorn Coast, as well as the beautiful Fitzroy River.

20- Fitzroy River

The Fitzroy River is great for fishing, so, you’ll definitely want to bring your rods and reels with you as well as your tinny if you have one.

You can choose to fish from the banks of the river or head out into the open water.

Either way, you should have no trouble catching Saratoga, Golden Perch and Barra.

For more things to do in Queensland, read:

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Spencer Samaroo
Spencer is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years experience producing written content for tourism-related businesses. A thalassophile who was afflicted with wanderlust from a young age, he has visited over 40 countries in the world. An ex-pat Brit who now lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he cites Miami Beach in the USA and Palm Cove in Australia as his favourite travel destinations. Specialising in writing about beach destinations around the world, he would probably bleed sand if you cut his arm open