There are plenty of great adventures to be had in the stunning natural surrounds near Rockhampton. What you need to decide? Whether you'll head to the islands of the Great Barrier Reef or the amazing mountain ranges first.
Explore Mount Archer National Park
This peak stands sentinel over the city of Rockhampton, its quiet dominance hiding a flurry of activity among the furry, feathered and fit. Here’s how to best experience Mount Archer National Park.
Take in the view
There are so many ways to admire Mount Archer’s beauty but one of the quickest and most popular is the Nurim Circuit, a 500-metre boardwalk that extends 25 metres out from the side of the mountain and offers panoramic views of the region. The mountain is a 20-minute drive from downtown Rocky so set your alarm to catch the sunrise. Prefer to sleep in? Sunset is a dazzler.
Have a picnic
The views from the amphitheatre are epic, sweeping over the snaking Fitzroy River and all the way down to the city. If you’re not there for a concert, you could enjoy this 200-seat space with a yoga or tai chi session in the early morning. Not your thing? Fill the Esky with nibbles, snag a spot on the elevated grass “stage” and feast while the kids explore.
Get out on country
Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast are the traditional lands of the Darumbal people. Sign up for a cultural awareness tour and you’ll see significant sites, hear their stories of the Dreaming, learn about bush foods (yes, you can have a taste) and discover which plants are used as medicine.
Go mountain biking
First Turkey Mountain Bike Reserve, eight kilometres from the centre of Rocky, has a world-class trail network that runs alongside the national park and past the swimming holes at Moores Creek. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced mountain biker, you’ll find a track that suits – there are more than 30, including gravity enduro and cross country.
Break a sweat
Lace up your hiking boots, pack plenty of water and load up on carbs. The Zamia Walk is a 14-kilometre one-way hike to the bottom of Mount Archer. The main game is the summit with its spectacular views but there’s plenty to see on the way down, including powerful owls, glossy black cockatoos and maybe a wallaby or two if you’re lucky. Expect creek crossings and small waterfalls.
Experience idyllic island escapes
The Southern Great Barrier Reef’s one-time party islands, Pumpkin and Great Keppel, have had makeovers, re-created into idyllic escapes from the city. Which one is for you?
From the air, at just 450 metres long and 150 metres wide, Pumpkin Island looks like a tiny ink spill. Standing on the beach with water lapping at your toes, a warm wind kissing your face and occasional birdsong, it feels like what it actually is – paradise. The ideal place to get marooned with a loved one.
Pumpkin – briefly known as XXXX Island when it was leased to a brewing company – lies 45 minutes by ferry from Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast. The island has seven stylish, self-catering cabins so book one or rent the whole island… because you can. There is a bar but you must either bring your own food, pre-order from acclaimed The Waterline Restaurant on the mainland or book a private chef for the duration of your stay (harvesting oysters from the rocks is free and fun).
The best bit? With the island powered by wind and sun, the only footprint you’ll leave is in the sand. Now that’s luxury.
Great Keppel Island
It was once the go-to destination for school leavers but if the name “Great Keppel Island” still has you imagining loud dance music, it’s time to reset your expectations. Now your vision should be of butterflies, rainbow lorikeets, palm trees, vast beaches, dolphins, migrating whales and giggling children splashing in the shallows.
That’s right, this 1300-hectare isle, a 30-minute ferry ride from Yeppoon, is now a tranquil haven for families. Great Keppel operates on “island time”, a loose stretch of hours anchored by sunrise at one end and sunset at the other.
From your cabin at Great Keppel Island Hideaway, throw in a line off the beach, swim, snorkel, play minigolf, kayak and take a hike (there are plenty to choose from, including trails that lead to spectacular lookout points and others that are like a walk through time, bringing visitors to Aboriginal shell middens). Or you could just sway in a hammock until sundown with a cocktail in hand and the kids playing on the sand. Footwear is optional.
Image credits: Jack Harlem, Phil Warring