We spent a brilliant long weekend in Rockhampton, which is one of Queensland’s least desirable holiday destinations. Forty kilometers inland from the central coast, Rocky is a road-trip overnighter at best. The accommodation consists of a huge range of Hitchcock-esque motels in a beach town meets 1970s car salesmen aesthetic, and the local attractions are crocodiles, caves and rodeo. But Melbourne was experiencing its coldest week in thirty years, and Rob had a non-negotiable exam to do. Also, crocodiles.
We picked a hire car up from the airport and drove the forty kilometers to Yeppoon, for a night in the hilariously outdated 1990s resort with mini golf, plastic waterfalls over the pool and three restaurants. None of which were open. The landscape is surprisingly breathtaking – craggy black volcanic mounds surrounded by the yellowest of crops and blue blue skies. It’s probably about time to rename ‘Mount Jim Crow,’ though. Seriously.
After an excruciatingly drawn out tour of the above ground caves, we picked a friend up from the airport and returned to Rocky for serious exam prep. Disappointingly, we missed the Rocky rodeo by a week, but one of the pubs has built an arena ‘out the back.’ Every Wednesday and Friday, budding bull riders practice while people eat their 500g steaks on plastic tables next to the action. I’m not sure what compels a person to ride a bull, much less put their toddler on one, but despite my bleeding heart we had a fun (and funny) night. It felt like we were in another country, and I had to laugh when a local bloke sidled up as I was taking pictures to say g’day.
“Betcha don’t have a rodeo arena in your local pub?”
“No. Our local has live music, vegan burgers and a Saturday craft market.’
Rockhampton, meet Northcote.
The crocodile farm was hilariously overpriced, but it was full of information and it was heartening to see just how passionate they are about conservation and education. Crocs are so feared (for good reason) that it’s difficult to inspire people to protect them – so the farms pay local communities for the eggs they collect from their land. This can add up to huge sums of money, so it creates a financial incentive to ensure the ongoing welfare of the croc population. They farm the young salties for meat and handbags, but unsurprisingly that wasn’t a huge feature of the tour.
I’m not pulling your leg when I say it was a brilliant weekend. My face hurt from laughing when we stepped onto the icy tarmac in Melbourne. And he passed the fricking exam. It’s a shit of a thing, that many people fail multiple times. If the letters FRACP mean anything to you, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’m proud and grateful and oh so very relieved to have our life back for a bit.
Thank you, Rocky. Turns out crocs and rodeos are ideal exam prep. Who knew.
If you find yourself doing your f craps in Rockhampton, or overnight on a roadtrip, or you just really want to go to a rodeo in a pub, here are some recommendations. I use the term ‘recommendation’ here pretty loosely.
SLEEP Mercure Yeppoon is overpriced and ridiculously in need of a makeover, but the pool is good. No matter what they tell you, the wifi doesn’t work. Lilly Pilly Rockhampton is corporate accommodation 15-20 minutes out of Rocky, but near a big supermarket and pub. There’s a pool, gym and games room and the houses are lovely. It’s good value, too.
EAT I hope you like beef. Try the Criterion for the best steak, the Great Western for the rodeo and the Blue Truffle Deli for brunch. Afishionados in Yeppoon was, hands down, the best fish and chips we’ve ever had. Stop at the road side stalls you see and buy ALL THE AVOCADOS. If you head to the Capricorn caves, The Caves pub was surprisingly good for lunch.
DO There are apparently crocs in the Fitzroy River through town, but you probably won’t see them. You will at the Koorana Croc Farm, 40km away. The rodeo is at the Great Western, and they’ll be able to tell you if there is a full rodeo on while you’re there. Also check if there is a livestock sale on at Gracemere (there wasn’t for us). There’s also the Capricorn Caves, the Rockhampton Zoo and Rockhampton Art Gallery. The Rockhampton Arcade Markets is on every Sunday (it isn’t great, but it’s there), and Emu Park is a cute little seaside town .