Beef Capital of Australia

Location of Rockhampton in Queensland (red)

Location of Rockhampton in Queensland (red) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you drive through the city of Rockhampton, you will notice something quite unusual. Everywhere, there are statues of cows and bulls. Big cows, little cows, cows with horns, cows without – even the Welcome to Rockhampton sign is graced with one of these magnificent beasts.

Stop in at any of Rocky’s numerous pubs for an inexpensive meal and you will be shocked to see your plate loaded down with a huge, tender and delicious beef steak that leaves little room for your side of veg. And this isn’t even the best meat Rocky has to offer – that is reserved for exports.

Little wonder, then, that Rockhampton, located approximately 40 kilometres from the mouth of the Fitzroy River and some 600 kilometres north Brisbane, is known as the Beef Capital of Australia.

Tourism is increasingly playing a role in the development of Rockhampton City, however, I don’t feel that Rockhampton itself offers much for tourists. Rather, it is a convenient central location to make your base while you explore the surrounds – and there is much to explore.

Rockhampton is just a days drive from Brisbane, making it a convenient overnight stop for travellers. The Capricorn Coast, gateway to the Great Keppel Islands is just 30 minutes away.

Tourists may wish to tour the spectacular Capricorn Caves, a unique system of above-ground caves in a limestone ridge located just 23km North of Rockhampton. If you are visiting in December or early January, the caves really are a must-see due to the Summer Solstice Light Spectacle. This dazzling light display is a natural phenomenon unique in the southern hemisphere and occurs due to the alignment of the sun over the Tropic of Capricorn. However, I strongly advise that you book ahead for this as it is very popular.

Those using Rockhampton as a gateway will find themselves just three hours from Mackay to the North, Gin Gin to the South and Emerald to the West. All of these towns are beautiful places to visit.

Within Rockhampton itself, we have the Rockhampton Heritage Village, the Pilbeam Theatre, a small Art Gallery, the Archer Park Steam Tram museum, the Dreamtime Cultural Centre and the Botanic Gardens, which contains a small, free zoo. Rising out of Rockhampton’s north-eastern suburbs is the Mt Archer National Park which provides beautiful bushland walks for those who prefer to tour the natural environs.

For those who like to time their trips with local festivals, Rockhampton is not ideal. There are a handful of family friendly festivals, but most events here seem to be of the adult piss-up variety. The family friendly festivals are the annual Multi-cultural Festival, held at the Heritage Village, CQU Open day and the Rockhampton Show.

But what would the Beef Capital be without a Beef Festival? Every three years, Rockhampton hosts Beef Australia. Beef Australia is one of the world’s great beef cattle events and attracts over 75000 local, interstate and international visitors. Australia’s cattlemen and women bring their top stock to compete and a huge trade fair also takes place as well as seminars, property tours and displays that showcase the innovative and sustainable practices that keep Australia at the forefront of world beef production and export.

There is loads of entertainment including taste testing, concerts, fashion shows and a Gala Ball. Local schools participate in ‘Beef Week’ activities and competitions are held as to who can make the most creative ‘bull’ display.

Beef Week is loads of fun and, in my opinion, the best time to visit Rockhampton if Rocky itself is your destination.

Something I like about Rocky is that it is small enough to get to know bus drivers by name but big enough to have a cinema. One thing I don’t like about Rockhampton is that it often has a heavy, depressing air about it, making it a place I would recommend to visit but not to live.

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