We flew from Brisbane to Rockhampton. In one short hour we were transported from the growing capitol city of Queensland, to the tropical world of Rockhampton.
Rockhampton doesn’t make it on to many travellers radars, even for those who are on a driving tour. This bustling regional town makes its fortune from various mining industries, but if you dig just a little bit deeper you will find enough great family friendly activities to keep you busy for days, even weeks.
We are on a self drive famil with Choice Hotels, and have exactly one day at each property. So as soon as we touch down I start researching the things to do in the area, when I am struck with a problem.
There is too much to do. I guess we will just have to come back.
What to do in Rockhampton
The Botanic Gardens and Free Zoo
Rockhampton is home to a beautiful botanic garden and a really great free zoo. The main highlight of the gardens is the free zoo. Animals at the Rockhampton zoo are kept in spacious new enclosures and you can see a wide variety of animals. Highlights of the zoo include the monkey displays which showcase several variety of monkeys. Your standard local animals can be found here as well, such as kangaroos, emus, dingos, and koalas.
After spending some time exploring the zoo make sure to also have a wander around the Botanic Gardens. We particularly liked the Japanese garden with sculptures, water feature, and water fall.
Great Kepple Island
Great Kepple Island is one of the biggest tourism draws for Rockhampton. Think tropical paradise, white sand beaches, crystal blue waters and plenty of snorkelling and scuba opportunities. The island is similar to the extremely popular Whitsunday islands, except Great Kepple is much less crowded and more laid back.
Great Kepple Island is easily accessible by air or ferry, and there are several accommodation options available on the island. We seriously considered a day trip on the island, but finally decided against it when the weather turned out to be a bit overcast. However a visit to Great Kepple Island is definitely on our domestic bucket list for 2015.
The Capricorn caves located just north of Rockhampton are another major tourist attraction in the area. The caves are easily accessible and tours are available for all sorts of fitness levels. Some caves are even wheel chair accessible. These large caves are one of Queensland’s longest running tourist attractions where you can go on cave hikes, go abseiling, or adventure caving. They even have an adventure caving tour which is suitable for children (we will *definitely* have to come back here when Jacob is a little bit older).
Another major attraction at the caves are the bats. This is one of the world’s largest colonies of little bent winged bats and there are special ranger tours available where you can witness the hundreds of bats leave the cave at dusk.
Rockhampton is near the start of the Great Barrier Reef and offers a great spot for scuba diving and snorkelling. There are a couple scuba schools here where you can become PADI certified. There are over forty great diving locations around Great Kepple Island. To dive the island contact one of the dive centres in advance.
Thunder Eggs in Mt Hay
What are thunder eggs? Thunder eggs were formed from volcanic activity when gas bubbles got trapped in flowing lava. As crystals developed and grew in the bubbles the thunder eggs were formed. Thunder eggs look similar to normal rocks, but when you cut them in half beautiful and unique crystal formations are found.
You can dig for your own thunder eggs at the Mt Hay Gem Tourist Park. For only 25$ you will be shown what to look for, be given a bucket of water and a shovel and be sent off into the tourist parks back yards. Here you can dig through the dirt looking for treasure.
It is remarkably easy to find a thunder egg. We found a whole bag in about thirty minutes. They are so easy to find that Jacob even picked up a few from the ground. After we had our fill of digging in the dirt we took our potential thunder eggs back to the park where we chose a few of the best and cut them in half for us. It was amazing seeing the rocks cut open, revealing the patterns and formations inside. Just think, we were the first people to see these formations ever.
Our southern Queensland adventure tour was made possible by Choice Hotels.