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Published September 21st 2018
New, often free and multi-million dollar attractions
If you haven't been to Rockhampton and neighbouring Yeppoon recently, then head there immediately to see some of the incredible new attractions. While Cyclone Marcia may have hammered the area in 2015, now the only winds blowing are those of restoration, regeneration and revitalisation.
Both the state and the federal government have injected millions of dollars into the region. The winners are the locals who already say they live in paradise but as a tourist, you will find a host of multi-million dollar and state-of-the-art attractions that are free to visit.
Nirum Circuit Elevated Boardwalk Mount Archer
This circuit boardwalk only opened earlier this year. Built at the cost of $750 000 it sits on top of the peak like a garland. Stop here first to get your bearings of the region as there are spectacular views over the city and the Fitzroy River snakes below you like a writhing serpent. To the east are views over to Yeppoon where I will also take you later in this story.
Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt The view is like hovering over a city in a plane as you come into land.
If you arrive at the boardwalk at the golden, pre-sunset hour the majestic river gleams silver and the Rockhampton lights spring to life as if you were on an aeroplane and approaching the city at night.
The walk is only 500 metres taking about 20 minutes. But leave time to soak in the amazing view and gain a perspective on all the attractions in store for you.
Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt Mount Archer Boardwalk
Heading down to Rockhampton make your way to the Fitzroy River. All tiers of government have contributed to the revitalisation of the riverside precinct between Fitzroy Street to William Street. Some $36 million dollars have been poured into the redevelopment and the grand opening only occurred in March 2018.
Stroll to the Boathouse an iconic building with decking that hovers above the river like the wing of a swooping eagle and offers birds-eye views over the river. The Boathouse includes an eatery offering family-style fish & chips, coffees and meals. But at night it becomes a restaurant where you can dine and sip wine whilst the gentle breezes off the Fitzroy River wash over you.
Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt The Customs House is a heritage-listed building at 208 Quay Street. The architect is thought to be Thomas Pye with the assistance of George Payne
The striking architecture was inspired by old 'Queenslander-style' houses. There is a breezy central open corridor and the overhanging roofline offering shade. The region's rich mining history is reflected in the colourings of copper, gold and silver. But whilereferencing the past the Boathouse is stridently modern.
Team an evening at the Boathouse with a stroll along the revitalised waterfront. With 30 buildings of historical significance, this is Australia's longest National Trust heritage-listed street. Buildings include the Heritage Hotel (1898), the classical revival period Customs House (1898-1901) and the three-storeyed Criterion Hotel (1891). At night the heritage buildings are lit by ambient lighting that transitions in colour.
In keeping with the modernity of the Boathouse, I would recommend staying at the new Empire Apartment Hotel where many rooms have river views. If wishing to focus on a heritage experience, Quality Regent Rockhampton (review here) is in a beautifully restored, and historic building designed by Thomas Pye who also designed the Customs House.
The Playgrounds at the Rockhampton's Riverside Revitalisation Precinct.
If the kids have been cooped up in the car promise them a stop at a great playground. It is only a few metres away from the Boathouse and can be reached by stairs or the lift (perfect for parents with prams). There are play options for toddlers but older children will love the Fitzroy Adventure Playground. Hovering seven metres above ground the children can experience the thrill of heights in safety. There are rubber-climbing domes, crows nest lookouts, mountaineering ropes and green climbing fixtures for a fun but challenging climb up to the tree-house styled sky cabin with views over the river.
The Fitzroy Adventure Playground. Designed in collaboration with @Urbis_au and KOMPAN Australia. Image credit - Florian Grohen. Source Urbis Facebook
In the plaza area, a sculpture spells out words in water just like the famous exhibit in Hobart's MONA. The message for the playground's opening was: 'I love Rocky.' Nearby some 150 waterspouts jet up from the ground for children to duck in and out of. At night, the mood changes with ambient lighting and classical music. A veritable water ballet.
Parking available along Quay Street or the lower bank car park adjacent to the Sand Wharf.
Yeppoon is on the coast about 30 minutes drive away. To give you some idea of the distance many locals who work in Rockhampton prefer to live on the coast and commute to work daily.
But as you are a more leisurely tourist you can stop at Emu Park one of the coastal villages along the way. While the revitalisation of the foreshore area is still in progress the newly completed Centenary of ANZAC Memorial Walk is a marvel.
When you see the terrain it will dawn on your that the cliffs, waves and winds are reminiscent of Anzac Cove making it the perfect setting for such a significant memorial. A cenotaph formed from a glass pane faces the ocean and depicts the landing at Gallipoli. It is semi-transparent so it aligns with the local background as the sun rises. A moving sight.
Source Facebook Bendigo Bank who helped raise the $2 million for the ANZAC Precinct on the Capricorn Coast
The walk takes you through a gateway and orientation gallery and then along a timeline pathway of WW1's major battles such as the Gallipoli campaign, the Somme, Fromelle, and the Battle of Lone Pine. You look up at the silhouettes of the diggers on the hilltop, grouped in twos and threes who appear to be walking with you up to headland. It is as if they were marching with you and guarding you along your journey.
The Anzac walk leads up to the Singing Ship a monument marking Captain Cook's exploration of the bay in May 1770. The creative design allows gentle sea breezes to pass through the fluted pipes producing haunting musical notes.
Further along on your drive, you will come to Shipwreck Point with breathtaking views across Keppel Bay and the Keppel Islands. It is the site where in October 1848 the 62-ton transport schooner Selina was found washed ashore. The newly completed stage 2 of the installation features a nature trail and sandstone steps leading to a viewing platform positioned immediately above the spectacular rocky point drop-off. An interpretive panel tells the story of the Selina. There is a model ship for children of all ages to play on. When I was there some 20-year olds were having a ball.
Drive on into the arms of Rosslyn Bay with its fascinating volcanic formations. This sheltered bay is where the new whale watching cruises leave from July to October.
Both Freedom Fast Cats and Keppel Konnections have just received permits so they can provide whale watching cruises meaning you no longer have to head to Hervey Bay to see the amazing site of whales swimming past your boat and perhaps even lunging or breaching.
As some 33,000 whales travel up and down the East coast of Australia, your chances of seeing whales are excellent. One local told me she looked up one day when she was mopping her floor and saw whales from her kitchen window.
Refreshingly, the new tours are not crowded providing a unique chance to really talk to the crew and ask questions. My tour only held half a dozen people or so on a modern, sleek craft.
What was as exciting as seeing the whales was observing the unbridled glee of the other passengers. There was clapping, cheers and whistles.
@nadinecresswellmyatt All eyes scanning the water for whale spouts
Max Junior, our skipper, was highly knowledgeable with lots of fun facts. Did you know that baby whales (calves) drink up to 500 litres per day and that the milk is the consistency of toothpaste?
Even if we had not seen whales the tour back toward shore with the aquamarine waters and volcanic mountains like jagged torn paper cut-outs, in the background would still have left an indelible memory.
Any visit to Rosslyn Bay is not complete without a visit to the aptly named Waterline restaurant alongside Keppel Bay Marina.
This uniquely sited and award-winning restaurant looks out over the peacefully bobbing moored boats. The restaurant is famous for its Banana Station beef as owners Richard and Libbie Wilson, also own a cattle station out at Banana. But also try the local seafood dishes including local Keppel Bay Prawns. The menu is here.
Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt Grilled Keppel Bay King Prawns, green tea noodles, MMM Farm avocado, Stocks Farm cherry tomatoes, edamame, sesame wakame and soy dressing
Yeppoon is a refreshing palate of swirls of blue and white. The ocean is ultramarine blue and many of the buildings are painted white. The new star attraction is the Yeppoon Lagoon. A huge resort-style infinity pool framed by palm trees and the ocean and Great Keppel Island tantalising you on the horizon.
This pool complex is so luxurious it is like staying in a top resort for nix. Do laps of the pool or hang out on a deck chair looking out at the beach for passing whales.
There is disabled pool access and a great play area for toddlers.
I am sure there are lots of great eateries in town but it is hard to go past Whisk for full on amazing all-day breakfasts. Below is my banana and raspberry French toast with bush honey and poached pears.
@nadinecresswellmyatt The camera always eats first but sometimes the ice-cream won't wait.
And loved Yeppoon's creative take on a water playground with its Keppel Kraken a free water playground built around mythical sea creatures and featuring water cannons, jets and showering water play. And it's right on the foreshore with views out to Keppel Island.
If you are now completing the circuit by heading back into Rockhampton then stop at Kershaw Gardens. The park stretches for an entire kilometre parallel to the Bruce highway. These gardens were badly damaged by Tropical Cyclone Marcia in 2015 but $16 million dollars has created a fabulous new, family-friendly venue that only reopened in August (2018).
One of many innovations is Wyatt's Wonder Web. Originally designed for New York's Central Park it offers five levels of self- contained fun including climbing ropes, ladders, tunnels, slides and swinging hammocks. A 200mm watercourse replicates the formation of the Fitzroy River so take off your shoes for a paddle.
The park has no end of delights including a waterfall, walking trails, a 30-metre double flying fox, a fragrant garden and a famous monorail powered by pedal power. Free BBQs, free Wi-Fi and even free camping although conditions apply.
But perhaps what surprised me most about the region was just how unspoilt and uncrowded all these incredible attractions are. As in the shots below.
A fabulous article, Nadine - definitely worthy of the Gold! But also worthy of a tourist brochure for the area - I've never visited Rockhampton or Yeppoon, but definitely now feel it would be a worthwhile trip to make. I love the ANZAC commemorations too...