Rockhampton in Central Queensland is known for two things; caves and crocodiles. I love travel experiences that teach my girls a little about the world, and it’s even better when it also fascinates them.
That’s why we decided to make a stop in this Queensland town on our Australia road trip, because there are so many things to do in Rockhampton that provide eye-opening and inspiring experiences for families.
Rockhampton makes its name from its beef production, being the largest bull breeding town in Australia, but it’s also known for its natural beauty.
Being on the banks of the Fitzroy River and being the gateway to the Keppel Bay Islands National Park, there are plenty of nature sites to see and explore here.
But if you’re not sure what to do in Rockhampton, then keep reading to learn about the most unmissable attractions and activities.
- Things To Do In Rockhampton
- 1. Check Out the Capricorn Caves
- 2. Visit the Koorana Croc Farm
- 3. Visit The Great Keppel Island
- 4. Get Cultured at Rockhampton Museum of Art
- 5. See The Animals at Rockhampton Zoo
- 6. Walk The Treetop Walk in Mount Archer National Park
- 7. Discover Archer Park Rail Museum
- 8. Relax in Kershaw Gardens or Rockhampton Botanic Gardens
- 9. Travel Back In Time At Rockhampton Heritage Village
- 10. Learn To Throw A Boomerang at Dreamtime Cultural Centre
- 11. Enjoy A Sunset Cruise
- 12. Have Lunch at the Great Western Hotel
- Where to Stay in Rockhampton
- Final Thoughts
- Other Southern Great Barrier Reef Travel Guides
Things To Do In Rockhampton
1. Check Out the Capricorn Caves
I’m not someone who’s big on caves, after all, how different can they be? Well, it all depends on the stories that lie deep within the cavernous walls or in the shallows of a murky waterway.
The Capricorn Caves are a family-owned cave on the edge of Mount Etna Caves National Park, owned by Ann and Ken Augusteyn.
They were keen to bring back some of the travel excitement in their life and went looking for an opportunity – something new to get them away from teaching and plumbing jobs and their Brisbane home.
Their story reminded me a lot of mine and Craig’s.
They discovered Capricorn Caves in 1988 and decided to buy it. Ken would sketch out the plans he had for the caves in his living room every evening, which over 25 years has been brought to life.
Capricorn Caves were original discovered by John Olsen back in 1882, and our guide, David, told us the story of his discovery and his two-year journey exploring and mapping out the caves, sludging through bat poo and creepy critters up to his knees with only a candle to guide his way.
We learned that Olsen had a persistent draft problem, which would blow out his candle and force him to crawl back out the entrance using a rope tied to his waist to guide him in the pitch black.
Once back outside he would light his candle again and go back in. Now that is real passion.
The bat poo later proved to be quite lucrative and miners moved in to heave out bags of the guano, but they were kicked out by Olsen for blowing a tunnel through the caves to gain access to a cavern, and Olsen wanted to keep the cave pristine. Now there is only one man-made tunnel in the cave, the rest is natural.
This man made tunnel gives us access to the Cathedral, one of the highlights of the caves tour. It’s a place where many choose to get married and where opera concerts are held every year.
The acoustics in this cave rival that of the Sydney Opera House and we sat on the pews and listened to Jeff Buckley’s Alleluia.
A fun part of the tour was walking over the swinging bridge in the dry, subtropical rainforest. The bridge takes you to a narrow zig-zag passage with lighted candles, which gives you a tiny glimpse into what Olsen’s adventures were like.
After the Cathedral tour, we ventured down into a cave to see the archaeological digging spot.
The Queensland Museum have a site there where they are digging up fossilized remains of various mega fauna spewed up by their by owls and preserved by the bat poo.
We were then able to go into a small room and look at some of these under the microscope.
It was a brilliant science lesson for Kalyra. She LOVED it and had no idea we were checking off a whole heap of outcomes for her Science curriculum – learning the way it should be.
Capricorn Caves is a fantastic place to visit and not only offers cave tours, but adventure caving experiences, school camps, rock climbing, abseiling, high ropes and accommodation by way of camping, caravanning and cabins.
You’re out in the bush, so serenity is yours to enjoy.
2. Visit the Koorana Croc Farm
It’s hard to grab the attention of a six and a two year old, but the Capricorn Caves and Koorana Croc Farm in Rockhampton did a good job of it.
If only all my homeschooling lessons could be this good!
The guides at Koorana Croc Farm did an amazing job of capturing my attention too. I was a little unsure as I’ve visited croc farms before and was a bit ho hum.
The first sign that I liked both of these experiences was that both businesses were created and run by families. The stories behind them were incredible and I loved to hear how they overcame adversity to create a thriving business and valuable experience for any traveller.
It’s hard to imagine a crocodile farm falling under the banner of conservation, but I understood it as soon as our guide, Adam, explained how the farm was born and how it does help protect the crocs.
Adam is the son of John and Lillian Lever who started the croc farm in 1981. It’s an approved farm, operating under the Australian Government’s strategic conservation program.
Years ago the government received a harsh realization of the effects of crocodile hunting. Kakadu National Park, an area almost 20,000 square kilometres, which was once teeming with crocs, had less than 3,000 crocs.
As Adam said, “imagine a country half the size of Switzerland that only had 3,000 people.”
So the government banned croc hunting and the black market sprung up, which did not help the crocs plight. In an effort to join them instead of beating them, the government allowed commercial farming.
So now the croc numbers in Kakadu are up around the 10,000 mark and increasing in healthy numbers.
It makes you think about commercialism conservation and how it can in fact save species. Crocs are a hugely important part of nature’s balance.
Koorana Croc Farm helped to give me a deeper appreciation and respect of the saltwater croc. The saltie has evolved and thrived since prehistoric times.
The Lever family treated them with a lot of love and awe. Adam climbed over the fence to stand next to, and feed, a ginormous 5 metre croc. He spoke to it gently, called it over to his side and coaxed it to stand up and smile for our cameras – a trick he’s worked on for years to perfect.
He wanted to show us that they are not the aggressive monsters that we humans like to think they are.
And they’re not, they’re just doing their crocodile thing. As long as they do it far from where I am, and pigs and cows are their only dinner, I’m happy.
Although Kalyra refused to hold the baby croc despite his teeth being taped up. Savannah jumped straight in there with me and needed gentle reminding not to squeeze baby crocs leg too tight!
Both my daughters now have some awe and respect for the croc and I’m pretty sure they won’t be going near river banks.
I won’t say I feel more at ease being in croc country for the next 5 months. Complacency can be the killer. But, at least I now know a little more about the beast, where they hang out and how to not take any chances.
Oh, and when you visit Koorana, be sure to check out their famous “croc pie” for lunch.
3. Visit The Great Keppel Island
For those who want to visit the Southern Great Barrier Reef, then the nearby Great Keppel Island is the perfect place to do that.
Accessible from Rockhampton, this tropical paradise is a haven for snorkelling enthusiasts who want to witness the vibrant underwater world and colorful coral reefs of the GBR.
When taking Barrier Reef Tours from Cairns, you will find yourself stuffed into a boat with hundreds of other people, but here in Rockhampton, you’ll find much fewer crowds, adding to its allure.
The island itself is worth exploring. You can go kayaking, camping, bush walking, or sunbathe on the pristine beaches.
4. Get Cultured at Rockhampton Museum of Art
For those looking for more cultural things to do in Rockhampton City, head to the Rockhampton Museum of Art (RMOA).
This vibrant cultural hub serves as a natural meeting place where creativity and community come together. RMOA is a space that inspires, engages, and enriches visitors through art.
It has a diverse range of exhibitions and events, plus it’s Queensland’s largest art space, so you’ll be bound to find a piece of artwork you love in this place.
5. See The Animals at Rockhampton Zoo
If you need ideas for things to do in Rockhampton with kids, then you can’t beat Rockhampton Zoo.
This zoo showcases a diverse range of exotic animals such as meerkats, chimpanzees, and tigers, as well as native Australian animals such as koalas and kangaroos.
As you explore the sprawling 10-acre zoo, you’ll be delighted by the close encounters with up to 100 animals and 30-species.
You can also meet the friendly otters and play with the meerkats. Or if you’re feeling brave, you can hold a snake!
6. Walk The Treetop Walk in Mount Archer National Park
If you’re visiting Rockhampton, don’t miss out on a chance to walk the treetop boardwalk at Mount Archer National Park.
The Nurim Circuit is a 500-meter, elevated boardwalk that extends 25 meters off the side of Mount Archer, offers an exhilarating adventure through the treetops.
As you traverse the boardwalk, you’ll be surrounded by lush forest and treated to stunning panoramic views of the park and beyond.
There are also plenty of other trails and bush walks you can take in the surrounding national park, if you want a longer experience in the great outdoors.
7. Discover Archer Park Rail Museum
If you’re interested in the history of rail-based transportation, check out the Archer Park Rail Museum. Set inside a heritage-listed former railway station, this transport museum showcases the development and evolution of railways in Rockhampton and central Queensland.
From the restored Purrey Steam Tram to the fascinating collection of historical artifacts, Archer Park Rail Museum provides a glimpse into the past and allows visitors to connect with the region’s heritage.
8. Relax in Kershaw Gardens or Rockhampton Botanic Gardens
To discover more of Rockhampton’s natural beauty, head to one of the botanic gardens.
Kershaw Gardens and Rockhampton Botanic Gardens are two botanic gardens in the city that are worth exploring.
Kershaw Gardens, stretching along the Bruce Highway, offers a serene oasis filled with picturesque parklands, paved walking paths, and wheelchair access. It provides the perfect setting for a peaceful stroll or a delightful picnic with family and friends.
Meanwhile, the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, one of Queensland’s oldest public gardens, invites you to explore its lush greenery and captivating displays of Australian native plants.
Walk around the captivating Japanese Garden or stand on the water’s edge of Murray Lagoon, there are plenty of places to relax and unwind in the park.
With free entry and long opening hours, these gardens offer a unique opportunity to connect with nature from the heart of Rockhampton.
9. Travel Back In Time At Rockhampton Heritage Village
Another historical attraction in Rockhampton not to miss is the Rockhampton Heritage Village.
This hidden gem invites visitors to step back in time and experience 10 hectares of bushland, where the township museum boasts a collection of meticulously preserved buildings, cottages, vintage cars, tractors, fire engines and a fire station, and horse-drawn vehicles.
From the 1850s to the 1950s, you’ll discover what life before electricity was like, and gain a deeper appreciation for the pioneers who shaped the region.
10. Learn To Throw A Boomerang at Dreamtime Cultural Centre
The Dreamtime Cultural Centre is an indigenous arts and education centre that offers a unique and immersive insight into the rich heritage of Australia’s First Nations people.
Explore the 12 hectares of classic Australian bushland that surrounds the centre, engage with experienced staff who offer guided tours, and learn from interactive exhibits.
You can learn to throw a boomerang as well as traditional dance performances. The Dreamtime Cultural Centre is the place to be to gain a cultural understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in Rockhampton.
11. Enjoy A Sunset Cruise
For something more leisurely, consider taking a sunset river cruise along the majestic Fitzroy River and witness the breathtaking beauty of the setting sun against the city skyline.
As you relax on the boat, savor a drink from the licensed bar and enjoy complimentary nibbles, adding a touch of luxury to your journey.
You can book your river cruise experience with River Cruises CQ.
12. Have Lunch at the Great Western Hotel
Being the Beef Capital of Australia, no trip to Rockhampton would be complete without stopping off somewhere to get a juicy steak.
The Great Western Hotel is a historic Australian pub that offers more than just a meal, it’s a historic institution. The hotel dates back to 1862 and has kept much of its original charm.
You can indulge in mouthwatering dishes at the steakhouse, where you can savor the finest cuts of beef cooked to perfection, whilst enjoying the live entertainment.
Where to Stay in Rockhampton
We stayed at the Coolwaters Holiday Village at Kinka Beach. It’s located halfway between Yeppoon and Emu Park, near Rockhampton.
We were so busy touring, we did not get a lot of time to experience the enormous 5 slide waterpark. The girls loved it when we did and we enjoyed our stay here.
It’s a huge park and the cabin we stayed in was very comfortable and spacious. We recommend taking a morning coastal drive up to Yeppoon after your stay; it’s very pretty.
For accommodation closer to Rockhamption, consider:
- The Denison Boutique Hotel is just 5 minutes’ walk from Fitzroy River
- Korte’s Resort is popular for its swimming pool, spacious rooms, location and friendly staff. Great family friendly option.
- Located on the banks of the Fitzroy River, Quest Rockhampton offers self-contained accommodations with river, city or mountain views
With its diverse range of attractions, stunning landscapes, and fascinating museums, Rockhampton has plenty to offer.
We hope this guide helped you decide on what to do in Rockhampton City and gave you some inspiration for how to plan your itinerary.
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