Gladstone’s fortunes have waxed and waned since European occupation. The traditional home of the Byellee, Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng and Tarilbaleng Bunda people, the town (formerly named Port Curtis) was once slated to be the capital of a new penal colony.

But on 25 January 1847, this plan hit a snag when the Lord Auckland, carrying the first residents, ran aground off Facing Island, where all aboard remained for three months. A change of government saw the colony disbanded but pastoralists moved to take up leases in the hinterland and the town grew until 1858, when gold was discovered nearby and many left to find riches.

Now, Industry and nature are near neighbours here. The city is a significant port, shipping 70 per cent of Australia’s coal as well as alumina and aluminium. Found at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, the broader Gladstone region encompasses alluring destinations such as Agnes Water. It’s also a launch point for islands (including the famed Heron) that are home to diverse wildlife, from turtles to migrating humpback whales. And while local fishing enthusiasts may be among the highest boat owners per capita in the state, there are opportunities to stretch their land legs in the 47 surrounding national parks and state forests.

Local tips

“Camping on Facing Island is fantastic. It’s quite isolated, you can snorkel and fish and, at low tide, there are the ‘fairy ponds’ – holes in the ocean floor that are filled with fish, coral and sea cucumbers. It’s like looking into an aquarium. Be sure to take the ferry to Curtis Island to see the turtles hatch.” Zoe Underhill, Office Manager, Raine & Horne.

“It’s a small, friendly community and everything is so close. The nightlife isn’t extensive but it goes alright – we have excellent DJs. The fishing is great and there’s heaps to explore. If you like four-wheel driving, check out the dirt tracks out the back of Gladstone.” Tui Tamani, Barber, The Garage Barber Shop.

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