Rockhampton, affectionately known as Rocky to the locals, as well as the beef capital of Australia, is a place not to be missed on your AUS bucket list. It is buzzing with activities, experiences and adventures for the whole family, with options to keep you busy for days. From the free Rockhampton Zoo where you can meet meerkats, kangaroos and baby chimpanzees, to a night at the adrenaline pumping PBR, there’s so much more to Rockhampton than meets the eye.
To help you plan your visit, here are 15 of the best things to do in Rocky.
In this post:
1. Explore the Riverside Precinct
Right in the heart of Rockhampton, the Riverside Precinct was one of our favourite places in the city. Sitting along the Fitzroy River, Quay Street is dotted with beautiful heritage-listed buildings, great places to eat and drink and of course, beautiful views over the river.
If you’re looking for a great place to stop, check out the Boathouse Rockhampton for lunch and dinner sitting right over the river, the Criterion Hotel for some great steaks and the Riverston Tea Rooms for breakfast and homemade cakes.
2. Wake up early for a sunrise at Mount Etna
If you can pull yourself out of bed before the sunrise (which can be incredibly early in QLD, we feel you), head to Mount Etna to watch the sun rise over the country side. About a 30 minute drive out of the city, and just around the corner from the Capricorn Caves, Mount Etna’s is Rockhampton’s best kept secret and a favourite sunrise location.
It’s a short, steep hike to get to the top, but the views are beautiful when you get there. The walk takes about an hour and is a 2.4 kilometre return trip. To start your hike at the right spot, find the access point for the Mount Etna Bat Cleft Caves that is found off Rossmoya Road.
3. Take a bull statue tour of the city
Take a self-guided driving tour around Rockhampton to spot the seven bull statues that are scattered throughout the city. The Explore Rockhampton app will give you all the information and directions you need for the tour, with plenty of commentary and insights into different spots around the city. The tour takes about 40 minutes, and our favourite is this one at Frank Forde Park – definitely the best selfie bull in the city.
Download the free Explore Rockhampton app HERE
4. Meerkat Encounter at the Rockhampton Zoo
The Rockhampton Zoo is just amazing – not only is it FREE to visit, it is home to more than 30 species of native and exotic animals. You can see cheeky baby chimpanzees playing together, otters swimming around in their pool, wander through the open kangaroo enclosure, and even see their family of wombats.
But our favourite part was the meerkat experience! Get up close and personal with the Rockhampton Zoo’s six cheeky meerkats in this experience, where they will happily run all over and maybe even stand on your shoulders or head. This was something we had wanted to do for so long, so it was so much fun to finally have the experience while we were in Rockhampton.
While you’re there, make sure you check out the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. Right next door to the zoo, the Botanic Gardens are one of Queensland’s oldest public gardens, celebrating 150 years in 2020. It has been heritage listed since 1999 and is also home to the Central Queensland War Memorial. Stop for a quick snack at the Gardens Tearooms.
Rockhampton Zoo & Botanic Gardens || 100 Spencer Street, West Rockhampton || rockhamptonzoo.com.au
5. Pick up some local produce
Head to Parkhurst Town Centre to pick up some of the regions delicious local produce. We stopped at Parkhurst Quality Meats to stock up on some steaks for a BBQ dinner, and then popped into Berry Good Produce a few doors down to grab some supplies for salads and sides.
The food we picked up from both of these spots was absolutely incredible. So fresh and tender, with so many incredible options – from thick cuts of steak to cute little sweet pineapples. Delicious.
Parkhurst Town Centre || 810-818 Yaamba Road, Parkhurst
6. Sunset picnic at Mount Archer
We took our supplies from Parkhurst Quality Meats and Berry Good Produce up to Mount Archer (Nurim) National Park and had the most incredible sunset dinner. This is a phenomenal spot to watch the sunset, with views over both the city and the mountains and the sky lighting up into a beautiful mix of oranges, pinks and reds as the sun sets for the day.
While you’re here, take a walk around the Nurim Circuit – a treetop boardwalk with stunning views, extending 25 metres off the side of the mountain. It’s an easy 500 metre flat walk, and it is absolutely beautiful. After your walk, bring a picnic blanket, some wine and cheese, and grab a patch of grass in the amphitheatre to watch the sky change colours. The after glow is amazing from here as well.
7. Explore the Capricorn Caves
Dating back 390 million years, the Capricorn Caves was such a cool spot to explore. We jumped on a Cathedral Cave Tour, which takes you through some of the biggest and most impressive caves, sharing the history of the caves, the wildlife and special plants that grown within it and you even get to visit their magical underground cathedral. Boy, does it get dark down there.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, they also have tours have venture a little further into some of the tightest parts of the caves, and even an adventurer tour, where you literally get to climb through some of the tightest tunnels and darkest parts of the caves. Make sure you check out their events too – they sometimes have movies nights in the cave on special occasions!
Capricorn Caves || 30 Olsens Caves Road, The Caves || capricorncaves.com.au
8. Take a sunset river cruise
Enjoy a sunset cruise along the Fitzroy River with Reef Cruises CQ. Kick back and relax with a drink and some nibbles as you watch the sun set over the city, and learn a little more about the history of Rockhampton and the Fitzroy River. The cruise goes for about 90 minutes, departing from the Northside Boat Ramp and if you’re lucky you might even spot a crocodile!
9. Check out the professional bull riding (PBR)
Plan your visit to Rockhampton at the right time of year to catch a night at the Professional Bull Riding – Rockhampton Invitational, also known as the PBR. Held at the Great Western Hotel, this is a wild night watching professional bull riders try and stay on their bulls for as long as they can, while the bulls frantically try and buck them off!
It’s a great night to really get into the spirit of Rockhampton, everyone has a great time. Make a night of it by grabbing a steak at the Great Western Hotel before all the action begins. Check the tour schedule to see if the PBR is in Rocky during your visit, or to plan your trip around the next one!
10. Spend a night on a cattle farm
Experience more of the beef capital of Australia with an overnight stay on a cattle farm. Alkoomi Adventure Farmstay is the perfect place, with beautiful farmland all around, plenty of animals to see (with free animal feeding at 4:30pm each day), campsites if you’re bringing your van, a dam to kayak and swim in and a whole range of great activities to keep you busy during your stay including horse and motorbike riding.
For the perfect night on the farm, take a chuck wagon sunset tour up to Alkoomi’s sunset lookout, for a delicious cheese platter on their swing bench as the sun sets. It’s absolutely beautiful up there, with views across the surrounding farmland and cattle scattered across the horizon.
Alkoomi Adventure Farm || 695 Old Coach Road, Mamor || 0423 216 412 || alkoomiadventurefarmstay.com.au
11. Take a sunset scenic helicopter ride
While you’re staying at Alkoomi they can organise a sunset helicopter ride for you from their sunset spot with Roam Aviation. It’s such a magical evening – take the chuck wagon to the top of the mountain, enjoy a sunset scenic helicopter flight and a cheese plate as the sun goes down. What better way to end a day on the farm?
For more details and too book your experience, call Bec at Alkoomi on 0423 216 412.
12. Cool off at Kershaw Gardens
This was unexpectedly one of our favourite places in Rockhampton. Maybe because it was 36 degrees on the day we visited and the small water play area at the front of the park was just such a welcome relief. Kershaw Gardens is the ultimate place to stop in Rockhampton, especially if you’re travelling in your van.
There is a free campground, it’s pet friendly, there’s an epic playground for the kids and the perfect little water play area to cool down, with a little paddle pool and plenty of water features to keep the kids entertained (and cool) for hours. Follow the walks around the park to check out the wetlands and even the beautiful waterfall surrounded by palms in the corner of the park.
We literally could have stayed at Kershaw Gardens for the whole day if we had more time, we were having a blast. It will definitely be the first place we head next time we’re up this way with our van.
Kershaw Gardens || Moores Creek Road, Park Avenue
13. Take a horse and cart ride through the city
Take a horse drawn carriage ride through the streets of Rockhampton with Capricorn Carriages. You can choose from a wagon or a wonderfully old fashioned carriage for your ride (depending on how many people you’re with), pulled through Rockhampton by two clydesdale horses clip clopping through the streets. It’s a beautiful way to see the city and the old heritage buildings at night.
14. Eat and drink your way through the city
There are so many great places to eat and drink during your visit to Rockhampton, from epic steakhouses to under the radar micro distilleries. Some of the best include –
- Boathouse – 189 Quay Street
- Cocobrew – 114 William Street
- Criterion Hotel – 150 Quay Street
- Great Western Hotel – 39 Stanley Street
- Headricks Lane Micro Brewery – 189 East Street
- Heritage Hotel – 228 Quay Street
15. Step back in time at the Rockhampton Heritage Village
Step back in time to roughly the 1850s at the Rockhampton Heritage Village. Set on 11.4 hectares of land, the Heritage Village has immaculately preserved buildings, houses and artefacts from the last almost 200 years, displaying a beautiful township preserved in time. Wander through the local hospital, old homesteads, and charming chapels at the village, and make sure you check out their vintage fire engines, tractors and horse drawn wagons.
Rockhampton Heritage Village || 296 Boundary Road, Parkhurst || Open from 10am to 4pm daily
We had such a wonderful time during our visit to Rockhampton. Honestly our days were jam packed with adventures from sunrise to sunset with so many activities, and we had so much fun. Rockhampton really exceeded our expectations in every way, and we can’t wait to visit again soon.
To help you plan your visit to Rockhampton, and for all kinds of free self-guided walking and driving tours during your stay, make sure you download the free Explore Rockhampton app.
We visited Rockhampton in partnership with Explore Rockhampton. All opinions are, as always, our own.