12 Unique Things to Do in Rockhampton

by Paul Joseph  |  Published February 29, 2024

A riverside setting with a mountainous backdrop and a lively cultural scene help make the Australian city of Rockhampton a major draw with visitors.

An exhibition space at Rockhampton Museum of Art (Photo: Rockhampton Museum of Art)

Located in Central Queensland, Rockhampton is also an ideal base for exploring the idyllic beaches of the Capricorn Coast, which lie around 40 kilometres away. But there’s more than enough in and around the city itself to keep visitors entertained too, including some exceptional museums, galleries, and gardens, not to mention the opportunity to sample what many consider Australia’s finest beef, thanks to a long history of beef production here. If that’s given you a taste to visit, here are 12 more great reasons to come to Rockhampton.

Visit a top-class museum

At the heart of the city’s cultural activity is the renowned Rockhampton Museum of Art, said to be the largest arts gallery in the whole of Queensland. Home to a prestigious collection of paintings, objects and photographs spanning the mid 20th century through to contemporary artists still practicing today, the museum’s focus is on Australian art that explores the history and heritage of the region. Among its six exhibition spaces are also interactive zones that invite visitors to engage with art in a more immersive, hands-on way.

220 Quay Street / Mon-Sun 9am-4pm

Anyone with an interest in military history are in for a treat in Rockhampton thanks to the Central Queensland Military Museum. Housing artefacts from the Boer War through to the present day, the museum is a veritable goldmine of material relating to the people and institutions that have served to defend Queensland and Australia as a whole down the years. Highlights include American Army uniforms from World War II, light horse memorabilia, personal collections from Vietnam veterans, a Women at War display, and a room devoted entirely to the history of Rockhampton.

40 Archer Street / Mon-Fri 9am-2pm Closed Sat-Sun

With the comforts and convenience of modern life, it’s always worth taking a step back to remember that the privileges we enjoy are relatively recent. Situated a ten-minute drive from the city centre and set amid over 11 hectares of bushland, Rockhampton Heritage Village is a township museum offering a window into what life was like without electricity, running water, toilets and many of the other facilities we take for granted today. Recreations of a school house, fire station, wagon works, residential cottages and displays of vintage vehicles, dolls and antique timepieces transport visitors back in time, leaving them with a renewed appreciation for quite how far we have come.

Boundary Road, Parkhurst QLD / Mon-Sun 10am-4pm

Visitors to the Rockhampton Heritage Village sit in a replica vintage vehicle (Photo: gérard via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Join a history walking tour

There’s no better way of getting to know a city than by traversing its streets and taking in the sights and sounds that you pass. Time Safaris are a renowned local company that offer themed walking tours complete with an expert guide who will regale you with tales and facts as you go. For those interested to learn more about Rockhampton’s impressive assortment of heritage buildings, the History Walk won’t disappoint. Passing along Rockhampton’s scenic Riverside Precinct, you’ll be transported back to a time when the Fitzroy River, Quay and East Street suffered female bushrangers, bank heists, floods and helped the WW2 war effort. Don’t miss the night walks where you’ll learn about the ghosts, murders and if Jack the Ripper really did live in Rockhampton.

You can book A History Walk at Viator

Explore a complex of underground caverns

About a 25-minute drive north of Rockhampton takes you to the Capricorn Caves, an ancient geological wonder and a popular excursion for visitors to the city. One of the largest privately owned cave systems in Australia, the limestone caverns can be explored via accessible walkways and passages that guide you through its deep depths and across a suspension bridge. Along the way, you’ll be treated to breathtaking acoustics akin to a cathedral, as well as an abundance of native wildlife and endangered species. There’s also a pool where you can cool off and a visitor centre.

You can book a guided tour of the Capricorn Caves at GetYourGuide

Inside the illuminated confines of the Capricorn Caves (Photo: Capricorn Caves / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

Take a scenic hike

Comprising over 10,500 acres of open forests and woodland, Mount Archer National Park is a must-visit for lovers of the great outdoors. Making up the backdrop to Rockhampton, the aboriginal mountain area teems with valleys, dry rainforests and wildlife, as well as spectacular vistas back over the city. Several walking trails draw hiking enthusiasts throughout the year, and among the most popular is the Zamia Trail, a 24.3-kilometre trail featuring hillsides full of Zamia palms and sensational views from the summit.

Take in a live show

Overlooking the scenic environs of the Fitzroy River and named after a former mayor of Rockhampton, the Pilbeam Theatre is one of the jewel’s in the city’s cultural crown. Providing a platform for both national and international touring acts, as well as local productions, the vast community-operated performing arts complex plays host to a packed programme of live events throughout the year, including concerts, musicals, comedy, drama, dance and plenty more.

Victoria Parade &, Cambridge St, Rockhampton City 

A live show at Pilbeam Theatre (Photo: Pilbeam Theatre)

Try your hand at fishing

Home to the largest river system on Australia’s eastern seaboard, with a large delta and interconnecting creeks, a bay with islands and reefs, vast flood plains, billabongs and lagoons, Rockhampton is one of the region’s most popular fishing destinations. Most of the angling activity takes place on the Fitzroy River, where separate freshwater and saltwater contain their own distinct fish species. Those keen to try their hand at fishing here can do so by booking a fishing boat charter, or simply finding a spot on the riverbank and bringing your own rod.

Take a stroll around historic botanic gardens

Providing an ideal antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the historic Rockhampton Botanic Gardens are a haven of tranquillity brimming with picturesque flowers, foliage and tropical plants. A delight to wander around, the Japanese gardens are officially registered as a heritage landmark – and it’s easy to see why. Banyan Figs dating back 150 years – to the garden’s inception – dangle over the garden tearooms and there’s also a zoo featuring animals from across Australia and beyond, and a Cenotaph honouring fallen Australian soldiers.

100 Spencer Street, West Rockhampton QLD / Mon-Sun 6am-6pm

A war memorial perched amid the pristine greenery of Rockhampton Botanic Gardens (Photo: denisbin via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED)

Learn about the region’s aboriginal heritage

Situated on the northern outskirts of Rockhampton, six kilometres from the city centre, the Dreamtime Cultural Centre offers a fascinating insight into the history of Central Queensland’s indigenous people and their rich culture. Created to promote greater awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage through guided tours, educational visits and hands on activities including face painting, didgeridoo demonstrations and dance routines, the centre also boasts a beautiful setting amid pristinely-landscaped gardens that can be explored on foot.

703-751 Yaamba Road, Parkhurst QLD / Mon-Fri 9am-3pm Closed Sat-Sun

Spend a day at the zoo

Nestled between the Botanic Gardens and the Murray Lagoon in the city’s leafy suburb of The Range, Rockhampton Zoo is packed full of more than 30 species of native and exotic animals. Highlights include mischievous meerkats, cheeky chimpanzees, adorable otters, and even two of Australia’s most iconic creatures – kangaroos and emus.  There’s also an Australian Wetlands zone where visitors can marvel over a giant saltwater crocodile known as ‘The Colonel’, plus daily zoo keeper talks and animal feedings sessions.

100 Spencer Street, West Rockhampton QLD / Mon-Sun 9am-4.15pm

(Photo: いおりょぎ via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Splash around at an aquatics centre

The perfect place to cool down on one of Rockhampton’s fairly frequent sweltering days, the 2nd World War Memorial Aquatic Centre is an acclaimed recreational venue offering water-based fun and adventure in a family-friendly setting. Located on the city’s south side, the facility features an array of top-class amenities including an undercover Olympic pool, a diving pool, and a fenced off children’s water play park that allows adults to kick back and relax while their kids get wet ‘n’ wild.

2 Graeme Acton Way, Rockhampton City QLD / Mon-Fri 5am-8pm Sat 7am-6pm Sun 9am-5pm