Our next destination was Rockhampton. Nell could not wait to see Rockhampton Zoo – the only free zoo we saw during our trip so far. We decided to skip Mackay as we were running out of time. Also, on the way, we missed Cape Hillsborough and Eungala National Park, but that’s ok – we left it for next time.
Mackay is nicknamed the sugar capital of Australia because its region produces more than a third of Australia’s cane sugar. Also, there is a boosting coal mining industry. There are 34 operational coal mines in the Mackay region. Things like this are not our cup of tea, so we passed Mackay and drove directly to Rockhampton.
Our long, 450 km drive happened to be pretty dull, but finally, we arrived in Rockhampton. We did not know that locals call the town ‘Rocky’, the shorter and friendlier name.
Rockhampton is home to many attractions
Rockhampton is cut in half by Fitzroy River. The river is 100 meters wide and is inhabited by saltwater crocodiles. There are only two bridges over Fitzroy River to get across to the other side.
Our first impression of Rocky was good as we spotted many historic buildings and the town centre looked tidy and welcoming.
We stayed again in Discovery Caravan Park as we knew they offer a good service in spacious camping sites. Also, it was a good base for our trips around Rocky.
There are numerous attractions in Rockhampton: Botanical Gardens with a free Zoo, Kershaw Gardens, Dreamtime Cultural Centre, Rockhampton Heritage Village, Rodeo, Train Museum, Rockpool Water Park, Mount Archer, fishing in Fitzroy River and Tropic of Capricorn monument.
Around Rockhampton, you can find Capricorn Caves, historical Mount Morgan and a scenic drive to Capricorn Coast with Yeppoon as its primary tourist centre.
We started by visiting Rockhampton Zoo as Nell wanted to see the animals again. I think it is the only free Zoo so far in our trip.
We could saw koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, chimpanzees, emus, otters, cassowaries, crocodiles, dingoes, reptiles, birds and many more. We spent there a good few hours, and if you have kids, this is the place not to miss.
Meeting Shirley and Stan - friends who we met in Bungle Bungles
In the mid-time, we contacted our friends, Shirley and Stan, who we met in Bungle Bungles. It had already passed six months since we met them in Cathedral Gorge, and we did not know if they still remember us.
It happened they did, and they were waiting for us to get in touch. We were invited to Shirley and Stan house for lunch, and honestly, we could not get better hospitality.
We had scones, muffins with the morning tea, and a proper barbeque lunch. We were talking endlessly, reminding different stories from our trips. We spent there five hours and could stay longer. Shirley and Stan happened to be very lovely and friendly.
Our big surprise was when Stan told us about New Year’s Eve Rodeo that was going to happen. Kasha had waited for it since we started our trip in April.
In the past, we missed a few rodeos already. Often, we arrived too early or late where Rodeo was happening. This time we were lucky, and we were also accompanied by our new friends who lived their whole life in the Queensland outback, making this event even more unique.
Rockhampton Rodeo at Great Western Hotel
New Years Eve Rockhampton Rodeo started 7 pm at Great Western Hotel. Shirley told us this rodeo is not as big as some rodeos can be, and it was focus mainly to give it a good show.
But, the local atmosphere was great. Men and lady cowboys were dressed in traditional outfits, making them prepared adequately for the upcoming competitions.
We saw two main events: Barrel Racing and Bull Riding.
Barrel Racing is a ladies event. They put three empty oil barrels in three corners of the arena. Then, ladies compete in racing for the best time.
The rule is: you cannot touch a barrel as it gives you some penalty points. Also, you cannot skip a barrel, and if you did, you have to come back to it, making it impossible to finish with a good time.
It was a short distance in the arena, but some ladies technique to make the fastest time was incredible.
Bull Riding was the main event in Rockhampton Rodeo. The rule here is: they put a bull in the box, then a cowboy sits on the bull, he firmly holds the rope tied around the bull’s neck and off you go.
The cowboy has to stay on the bull for eight seconds, and believe me; eight seconds is a lot of time when you are sitting on a crazy, raging bull.
When the cowboy finally drops to the ground, there are other helping cowboys assuring the bull does not horn the rider and do any harm.
It was a very spectacular event, and we enjoyed watching it. Even better was listening to Shirley and Stan stories about rodeos and life in the outback. During the show, Shirley explained Rodeo rules to us so we could understand the show while watching it.
Important role of rodeo clown
The Rockhampton Rodeo show was run by a speaking host who announced the next competitors but the second, equivalently important role in the rodeo was the involvement of the rodeo clown.
Originally we were thinking that the rodeo clown’s role is to only provide comic humour and entertain the public. Later on, however, we learned that the rodeo clown is part of the team that protect the riders thrown by the bull.
Another name for rodeo clown is rodeo protection athlete.
The atmosphere in Great Western Hotel was great and we enjoyed it very much but we had to leave early at 10 pm as Nell was already tired.
The next day we noticed that most of the attractions in Rocky are closed. We drove up to Rockpool Water Park, but it was closed. Then we wanted to see Capricorn Caves and Heritage Village, but they were closed too.
Scenic drive to Yeppoon
The next day we decided to go for a scenic drive to Yeppoon.
We drove from the Capricorn Caves that were closed that day, and from there, we went for an off-road drive to Yeppoon. It was an excellent idea as we saw lovely green hills, wandering cattle, the river and finally, we arrived in Yeppoon that happened to be quite a big tourist town.
There is a lovely esplanade in Yeppoon with many shops, restaurants, and coffee shops (actually we paid $12.90 for two coffees!).
After having a tasty lunch in Yeppoon, we drove up to Rosslyn Bay which is the main area for lunching boats and Keppel Island cruises.
Apart from a beautiful marina in Roselyn Bay, we did three main walks: Fan Rock Lookout, Rosslyn Bay Lookout, and Pebble Beach.
Fan Rock Lookout
It is a short walk from the car park that leads to a Fan Rock. On the way, there is a left turn to Rosslyn Bay Lookout. The name of the Fan Rock Lookout comes from the volcanic core rock that is formed in a shape of a fan palm leaf. Sometimes nature makes incredible surprises.
Rosslyn Bay Lookout
Going off the main walk leading to Fan Rock Lookout, this short path led us to the incredible 360 degrees lookout overlooking Rosslyn Bay. We understood why Yeppoon in Emu Park area is so popular, and more people are moving here to live.
Another exciting place worth seeing was Pebble Beach. It was again a short walk going from the car park.
The beach is situated between two hills made with pebbles and rocks. It is not a beach if you think about it. The water exposes the beach on a low tide, which is fully covered with rock pieces and not much sand.
However, the area looks impressive. Marius took Nell, and they walked to the ledge located on the right-hand side rock. From there, they could see the open ocean. We spent some time on the beach and finally drove to Emu Park.
Singing Ship is located in the heart of Emu Park on the hill in Kele Park. It commemorates the legacy of the historical explorations of Capitan James Cook, who discovered this area in 1770.
It is a stunning monument that looks like a sailing ship, and the organs hidden inside make musical sounds using the sea breeze.
On top of it, we could also see the fantastic view over the bay. We loved this coast more and more with every new attraction in our way.
Finally, we completed our loop and made it back to our caravan park in Rocky.
In the evening, we drove up to Mount Archer, a lookout where we could see Rockhampton from the top.
On the top of Mount Archer, there are many walks go around the hill. We walked to two lookouts to see the country from both sides. We had a lovely sunset so we could take good photos.
Rockhampton is a great town where you can spend time during your holiday. It has this rural atmosphere, but it is a prominent place where 70000 people live (2016). Actually, Rockhampton is recognised as the beef capital of Australia and this is a great place to order a juicy steak in the restaurant which we obviously tried too.
It looks like we have to come back to Rockhampton as now we have new friends to visit.
Talking about it – we were invited to their Shirley and Stan son’s homestead somewhere around Monto, and we were going there the next day.