Rockhampton is the unofficial capital of Central Queensland, and proudly declares itself the ‘Beef Cattle Capital of Australia’. Yet it is also a proudly independent city, and, since the 1860’s, has had a strong secessionist movement thriving in the city.
It is located 638 km north of Brisbane, 8 metres above sea-level and just a few kilometres north of the Tropic of Capricorn. The view from Mt Archer is certainly worthwhile.
It is one of the finest cities in Queensland, and is renowned for elegance and style. The city centre, particularly Quay Street and East Street, is one of Australia’s most elegant streetscapes.
In 1853, the brothers Charles and William Archer were the first explorers to discover and name the Fitzroy River, which Rockhampton now straddles. The name Rockhampton refers to the rocks in the river which prevented ships navigating further inland along the river.
The city’s early agriculture was wool, which quickly gave way to beef cattle because of the city’s climate. The life sized statues of bulls at the northern and southern entrances to the city remind everybody of this. But it was the gold rushes, starting in the 1860s, which created the wealth out of which the stately buildings in the city were constructed.
Today, with a population of over 60,000, Rockhampton is largely a centre for the nearby coal mining towns which lie beyond the Great Dividing Range.
Buildings of note to see in the CBD include: the Post Office; Customs House; the Criterion Hotel; the Supreme Court; the Union Trustee Chambers; the Heritage Tavern; and the ABC Studios. However, the entire CBD is crammed with notable architecture, and two-three hours can easily be enjoyed walking through the city centre, enjoying the building heritage.
Beyond the city centre are no less than 20 buildings which are considered of great historical interest. These include: the Ward Street Buildings (Mater Hospital and others); Archer Park Railway Station (which still runs steam trains); St Paul’s Cathedral; St Joseph’s Cathedral; Botanic Gardens and Japanese Gardens; Rockhampton Historical Society Museum; and the Dreamtime Cultural Centre.
Probably the most famous person to come out of Rockhampton is Rod Laver, who is reputed to be the greatest tennis player ever.
Rockhampton is a favourite destination in Australia, with buses, planes and trains departing frequently from Brisbane.