After six hours and over 500 kilometers worth of driving, passing through Gympie, Tiaro, Childers, Gin Gin and Miriam Vale, we finally reached the city of Rockhampton, on Queensland’s Central Coast.
The estimated urban population of Rockhampton in June 2015 was 80,665, making it the fourth-largest city in the state outside of the cities of South East Queensland, and the 22nd-largest city in Australia.
Rockhampton is one of the oldest cities in Queensland and Northern Australia. In 1853, Charles and William Archer discovered the Fitzroy River, which they named in honour of Sir Charles FitzRoy. The Archer brothers took up a run near Gracemere in 1855, and more settlers arrived soon after, enticed by the fertile valleys. The town of Rockhampton was proclaimed in 1858, and surveyed by Arthur F Wood and Francis Clarke, the chosen street design closely resembled the Hoddle Grid in Melbourne and consisted of a grid of wide boulevards and laneways, which was uncommon in Queensland.
Within the year, gold was found at Canoona, and led to the first North Australian gold rush. This led to an influx of migrants who quickly transformed Rockhampton into the second-largest port in the state; during this period, Rockhampton was nicknamed as the “City of the Three S’s”, of which were “Sin, Sweat, and Sorrow”. Subsequent gold rushes at Mount Morgan Mine, which was at the time one of the most productive gold mines in the world, laid the foundations for much of the city’s Victorian architecture.
Today, Rockhampton is the industrial and agricultural centre of the north, and is the regional centre of Central Queensland. Rockhampton is also a large tourist destination known for its history and culture supporting such institutions as the Rockhampton Art Gallery, one of the most extensive regional galleries in Australia, the Central Queensland University with campuses across five states, the Rockhampton Heritage Village, and Dreamtime Cultural Centre. It is also famous as the hometown of Rod Laver – one of history’s best tennis players. The city acts as a gateway to local tourist locations such as the Capricorn Caves and Mount Archer National Park, as well as regional tourist areas like Yeppoon and the Capricorn Coast alongside the island chains offshore that include Great Keppel Island.
The cattle trade is a dominant industry in Central Queensland, and has been visually represented around Rockhampton City with a set of seven large statues of bulls known as the ‘Big Bulls’.
The Central Queensland Livestock Exchange at Gracemere is one of the largest livestock sales facilities in the country, lies just to the west of the city.
Rockhampton promotes itself as the Beef Capital of Australia, but the title has been disputed a number of times by the New South Wales town of Casino. The tri-annual Beef Australia Expo held in the city is a celebration of the local area’s cattle industry.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited Rockhampton on 15 March 1954, and Princess Alexandra visited Rockhampton on 1 September 1959.
Karl Stefanovic, former Rocky WIN News reporter, has gone a long way since his days as a young journalist in the Beef Capital. Karl, who is now a co-host of Nine Network’s Today show, lived in Rockhampton after completing his university degree. Christine Anu, 17 time ARIA nominated pop singer and actress who gained popularity with the cover song release of the Warumpi Band’s famous song “My ISland Home”, spent all her high school years here.
Since European settlement, Rockhampton has experienced shaking associated with several earthquakes, in 1883, 1918 and 2016. The region has also experienced meteorite sightings- on 2 August 1903, many people in Rockhampton reported seeing a meteorite. Between eight and ten minutes after the meteorite was observed in the sky, a loud boom was heard which shook houses, rattled tin roofs and moved telegraph wires.
On the night of 31 October 2016, Central Queensland residents, including in Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Gladstone, reported seeing a bright orange light in the sky. Many residents in the Gladstone area south of Rockhampton, particularly those living in the Boyne Island and Tannum Sands areas, reported hearing a loud boom soon after. Despite the light also being observed in Rockhampton, there were no reports of the boom being heard there, unlike in 1903. Experts including astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, Astro Space News editor Dave Reneke and private astronomer Owen Bennedick all concluded that a meteorite had crashed to earth near Gladstone.
Rockhampton wasn’t quite the end of our road. We still had another forty minutes and forty kilometers to drive northeast, to the seaside township of Yeppoon.
Yeppoon is the principal town on the Capricorn Coast, a string of seaside communities stretching more than 150 kilometres (93 mi) from north to south. The beaches and shallow coves provide a destination both for tourists and miners settling down in Central Queensland. Offshore, there are 27 islands including Great Keppel Island, which is 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Yeppoon. Yeppoon is the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
The Capricorn Coast was part of the traditional lands of the Darumbal Aboriginal people. Yeppoon was first settled by the Ross family in 1865 who took up large landholding along the length of the Capricorn Coast. Fruit crops, cattle, and wool were the major industries of the early town. A short-lived period of sugar cane growing followed from 1883 to 1903, which failed due to unseasonal rains and lack of financial backing. Along with other sugar growing areas of Australia, South Sea Islanders were used as labourers on the sugar plantations, often without their consent, an activity known as blackbirding. Pineapples, mangoes and other tropical fruit became the mainstay of local agriculture in the new century, with cattle grazing and fishing also contributing to the local economy.
On 20 February 2015, severe tropical cyclone Marcia crossed the Capricorn Coast near Shoalwater Bay as a category 5 Cyclone. The storm destroyed more than 150 houses in Yeppoon and left more than 13,500 residents without power.
Yeppoon will host the inaugural Capricorn Coast Writer’s Festival in May-June 2019.
Well, I’ve reached Yeppoon, where my new life begins. I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along for the ride on my Rocky Road Trip blog series. Keep an eye out for my upcoming blog series Books By The Beach Series 2, which will take off right here in Yeppoon, and in which I will be bringing all the beautiful beaches of the Capricorn Coast straight to your screen, with a literary touch.
I hope you’ll join me then!