TRAVEL: ROCKHAMPTON, QLD
Travel to Rockhampton to experience some amazing wilderness and wildlife.
Kinka Beach lies languid on the Capricorn Coast in central Queensland. And across from the beach rests cosy Island View Caravan Park.
This Top Tourist Park boasts cleanliness, comfort and customer service as its mainstays, as well as a pool, camp kitchen-style barbecue and clean amenities. But at its heart are Robyn and Peter Madigan.
Apart from the huge effort to keep the park ship-shape and provide regular (and free!) sausage-sizzles, Robyn and Paul provide that intangible something that turns a good caravan park into a home away from home with all the warmth and care that implies.
So heartfelt is the feeling of wellbeing around the park that when floodwaters inundated the park earlier this year, previous customers came ‘home’ to lend a hand.
At the northern end of Kinka Beach is the Causeway. The Causeway’s fine flowing waters offer up the chance to bag a barramundi and, for those not into angling, it’s a beaut spot for a picnic.
A smidge further north, Keppel Bay Marina is the gateway to any number of nautical adventures for boat owners. The marina is the dream of local cattle-folk Richard and Libby Wilson.
If you love great food, the marina comes into its own with a waterfront restaurant called Waterline, serving superb food including Richard’s home-grown beef.
If the laidback pace of Waterline is a bit too quiet, you can spice things up at nearby Beaches restaurant, which offers fine modern cuisine in a setting that involves its own crows-nest and mast. You can’t go past Beaches’ sampler menu, with its gob-smackingly good bloody Mary oyster shots.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Past Keppel Bay and the little coastal village of Yeppoon are some wetlands, adjacent to the Mecure Capricorn Resort. The friendly staff are happy to accommodate day visitors on any wetland eco-tour, which gives a snapshot of the almost 90sq km of wilderness. Discover a wonderful habitat with many waterbird species, some migratory and threatened species, including jacana, sea eagles and dancing brolga.
Near the wetlands is Byfield, home to several conservation areas that provide sanctuary to magnificent scenery and a breathtaking array of wildlife. What’s more, you’ll also find a small village, which includes the Byfield General Store – great for a burger and a yarn – and Nob Creek Pottery. For those who love the look of glazed clay, this is an outstanding gallery and shouldn’t be missed. And you get to use the pool and watch the potters at work. Best of all, despite the wilderness setting, you don’t need a 4WD to get to Byfield.
Cooberrie Wildlife Sanctuary is a volunteer-powered sanctuary that is only a short 20-minute drive from Kinka Beach. It’s worth the drive for the chance to encounter exotic and native animals in this boutique zoo. That includes getting to know some very excitable marmosets, including a couple of extra-cheeky sisters called Lulu and Bubbles. While the zoo is in the throes of change, it’s still a worthy stop.
If you’re interested in animal experiences, you will love Koorana Crocodile Farm, just back from Kinka towards Rockhampton.
Those familiar with central Queensland will be aware of Koorana as it’s been part of the landscape since 1981 when John and Lillian Lever established it with just three lonely crocs. These days, it is home to up to 3000 ferocious beasts. But it’s the stories John tells, as much as the encounters with these primitive creatures, that keep you coming back.
John shares yarns about how he almost faced life in a wheelchair thanks to one croc confrontation, and about meeting the crocodile tribes of remote New Guinea. A certain glint in Lillian’s eye betrays the fact that she still finds joy in watching a hatchling burst from its shell, despite the passing of the years.
Meetings with nature are not limited to coastal wildlife encounters. Travel the half-hour from Koorana, take time to get to know the central Queensland capital and you’re sure to uncover wildlife experiences in the wild, interesting city of Rockhampton.
For too long, Rockhampton has been thought of as little more than the gateway to other central or far-north adventures. But that’s certainly not the case any longer, at least not for this correspondent.
Rockhampton is a surprising, resilient, historical and fascinating city meriting a stopover for a few nights. You’ll go a long way before you’ll find a regional botanic gardens and zoo better than Rockhampton’s – and exploring both is free. So it makes the visit to the kiosk for a coffee and scones or lunch the only cost and it’s a very affordable and enjoyable experience.
If you’re not after an animal experience, don’t despair. The Rockhampton Regional Art Gallery is an absolute surprise. It’s a pocket-sized delight with only three gallery rooms, but the treasures housed in those rooms would make a connoisseur’s mouth water with delight. Here you’ll find absolutely stunning work by Michael Zavros, Jeffrey Smart, Russell Drysdale and many others including a touring exhibition of Kabuki Actor Prints from the National Gallery.
Art goes hand in glove with heritage and Rockhampton’s heritage is, in its way, a snapshot of Queensland history.
One way of discovering the city’s heritage is to take the heritage walk around the CBD buildings down by the Fitzroy River. For lovers of architecture, there’s plenty to discover including the neo classic rival style of the Criterion Hotel. If that’s too much of a mouthful – it’s basically an interesting pub with a great wartime history. Then there’s the old sandstone National Bank building with its Corinthian pillars and archways, the Customs House with its great dome, curved verandah and windows, and the colonial Commercial Hotel.
Take a break at the Commercial – the beer is cold and the food is superb.
With lunch tucked away, there’s a 30-minute drive west to Mt Hay Gemstone Tourist Park. Out here it’s heads down and bums up and to see if you can find any semi-precious stones or thunder eggs. Thunder eggs, for those not in the know, are old volcanic rocks that, once cut open, display coloured minerals – a rainbow potpourri of geological beauty. Park boss
Ken Kayes will cut it there on the spot for
you if you find one.
If ancient geological features tweak your cheek into a smile then head 30 minutes north of Rockhampton to the caves. You can park the caravan out there, but the real attraction is the labyrinth of limestone caves like Cathedral Cave that make a tour an out-and-out must.
All in all, a trip to Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast will have you smiling like a crocodile, knowing that this taste of central Queensland leaves much more to see.
- Rockhampton lies between Townsville in north Queensland and Brisbane. Rockhampton is about 650km from Brisbane and 1060km from Cairns along the Bruce Highway.
- Wander through the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and get up close and personal with the animals at the Rockhampton Zoo in Spencer Street.
- The Rockhampton Art Gallery, at 62 Victoria Parade, South Rockhampton, has an amazing collection of art.
- Mount Hay Gemstone Tourist Park, off Capricorn Highway (36km west of Rockhampton) allows visitors to fossick for thunder eggs, and see them cut and polished.
- Drive to Capricorn Caves to enjoy the Cathedral Cave tour, Wild Caving Adventures and Family Adventure Caving. Capricorn Caves are located 23km north of Rockhampton at 30 Olsen’s Caves Road.
- Head north-east on Yeppoon Road, then roughly north on Farnborough Road to Byfield State Forest and have a picnic at Stony Creek and a dip in the swimming hole.
- Check out Nobb Creek Pottery with its exquisite gallery at 216 Arnolds Road, Byfield, (07) 4935 1161.
- Byfield General Store is a great spot for a yarn and a meal, (07) 4935 1190.
- Take a nautical adventure or dine at an interesting restaurant at Keppel Bay Marina, 1 Waterline Way, Rosslyn Bay, (07) 4933 6244
- Mecure Capricorn Resort in Farnborough Road, Yeppoon, offers superb tours of the glorious wetland region, (07) 4925 2525.
- Archer Park Rail Museum is a wonderful trip back into railway history. Archer Park is open Monday to Friday and Sundays from 9am-4pm at Dennison Street, Rockhampton, (07) 4922 2774
- Koorana Crocodile Farm provides an up-close look at these ancient creatures, 65 Savages Road,Coowonga, (07) 4934 4749.
- Tropic of Capricorn Spire, Gladstone Road, Rockhampton, 1800 676 701.
- Customs House, 208 Quay Street, Rockhampton,1800 805 865.
Originally published in Caravan World #517, August/September 2013