The Capricorn Coast is a loose term used to describe this part of Central Queensland to distinguish it from Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Parts are also called the Coral Coast, Discovery Coast, Fraser Coast and Hibiscus Coast with the area roughly stretching along the coastline and inland in what is broadly called Central Queensland, as opposed to North Queensland.
The ‘Capricorn Coast’ takes its name from the Tropic of Capricorn line of Latitude that passes across the Southern Hemisphere through South Africa, Chile and Australia, with the line marked with signage just south of Rockhampton. The Tropic Of Capricorn is established as the most southerly location where the sun passes directly overhead during the summer months. The Northern equivalent is the Tropic of Cancer or Northern Cancer. If you stand at the Tropic of Capricorn signpost you may have one foot in the tropical north and your other foot in the temperate zone.
While the Central Coast may not be as famous as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and the Barrier Reef – it still has lots of interesting places and towns to visit, and what we have detailed here are the main towns, beaches and cities from Maryborough in the south to Townsville in the north.
Heading northwards from Brisbane is the town of Maryborough, some 3 hours or 255 kilometres north of Brisbane.
Maryborough – with a population around 16,000 people is located on what is called the Fraser Coast. It is located on the Mary River, and in the mid to late 1800’s Maryborough was a significant port town, where thousands of immigrants arrived to take up trades, farming and live in Queensland. The portside precinct in the centre of town next to the River has lots of heritage buildings dating back to that time, and you can visit the Customs House Interpretive Centre, the 1864 Heritage Gateway and Bond Store Museum and nearby the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum on Wharf Street.
Most interesting is the fact that the writer Pamela Travers ( 1899-1996) was born here in Maryborough, and although she moved away by age 7 to NSW, and then in 1924 to England, her stories and maybe the name of one of her famous characters, Mary Poppins may have been inspired by the town of her birth. In Maryborough there is a bronze life size statue of Mary Poppins on the corner of Wharf and Richmond Street, and in July the Mary Poppins Festival commemorates this famous nanny. The Disney movie starring Dick van Dyke and Julie Andrews came out in 1964, and in 2014 the movie “Saving Mr Banks” starring Tom Hanks was released, bringing to the screen the story of Walt Disney and Pamela Travers, and the making of the movie.
Hervey Bay – is 34 kilometres from Maryborough on the coast, and is very much a holiday destination, with a number of hotels, B&B, camping grounds, apartments and other holiday accommodation. Besides all the water sports, whale watching, cruises to Fraser Island and fishing, there is also a remarkable Historical Village and Museum (13 Zephyr Street Tel: (07) 4128 4804 www.harveybaymuseum.com.au ) which has around 18 old buildings and some 8000 exhibits to see. Right on the coast at Dayman Park is Reef World Aquarium (Cnr. Kent and Pulgul Streets Tel: (07) 4128 9828) which allows you to see close up some of the sea life in and around Harvey Bay. Harvey Bay has also around 14 kilometres of cycleways and activities such as horse riding, shopping, restaurants and spas.
Childers – is located 61 kilometres north of Maryborough on the Bruce Highway and is known for the red soils that surround the town, and the sugar cane, avocados and macadamia nuts that are grown here. Over the years backpackers have often headed to Childers to get short term work on the farms, and in June 2000 an arsonist set fire to the Palace Building which resulted in 15 backpackers dying in the fire. Today a memorial has been set up here to commemorate this tragedy. The town itself has many historic buildings lining its main street and it still attracts many backpackers to find work here on the farms. Just outside town there is the Apple Creek Free Flight Aviary – where you can see eagles and other birds in flight. There are also some wineries in the area too.
Bundaberg – is a little over 50 kilometres from Childers or 113 kilometres or about 1 ½ hours north of Maryborough. Bundaberg has been made famous by Bundaberg Rum, Bundaberg Ginger Beer and Bundaberg Sugar – all sold throughout Australia.
Bundaberg is surrounded by sugar cane fields and located just upstream from the mouth of the Burnett River and the coast, hence the reason why Bundaberg Rum started making Rum back in 1888. You can visit the Rum Bond Store on Avenue Street and find out all about the Rum making process (www.bdcbondstore.com.au Tel: (07) 4131 2999) or if you prefer Ginger Beer head the 147 Bagara Rd to see and learn about Ginger Beer.
Bundaberg is located on the Burnett River, so to get a good feel for the city, take a river boat cruise on the ‘Bundy Belle’ (www.burnettrivercruises.com.au Tel: 0427 099 009).
The city itself boasts a population of around 100,000 people, but has also been hit hard by Floods, one of the worst ones being in 2013.
Its most famous citizen is Bert Hinkler (1892-1933) an aviation pioneer, who in 1928 flew solo from England to Australia, first landing in Darwin and then in Bundaberg to claim a world record. He was born in Bundaberg, and is said to have been inspired to fly when watching Ibis birds flying here in Bundaberg. He had many adventures, and claimed a number of flying records, joined the Sopwith Aviation company in England in 1913, the company that built the famous ‘Sopwith Camel’ – that features in the ‘Biggles’ adventure books written by Captain W.E Scott, and was one of the early aviators flying in World War One. He ultimately crashed in the Italian Alps where he died aged just 41.
If you head to the Botanic Gardens in Bundaberg (Cnr. Mt Perry Road and Young Street in North Bundaberg) you will be able to visit the Bert Hinkler Hall of Aviation (Tel: (07) 4130 4400), as well as maybe see the Ibis on or near the lagoon that inspired him to fly. The Botanic Gardens also has the ‘Fairymead House’ sugar museum located in the gardens too.
Fourteen kilometres from Bundaberg is Mon Repos Beach (a conservation Park) and between November and March each year Loggerhead, Green, Flatback and South Pacific Turtles come to lay their eggs in the sand. You can take night tours to learn about turtles and see the turtles coming to lay eggs and then in later months to see the baby turtles hatching and racing down the beach and into the water.
Head to The Hummock to get a view over the city and country and to Bargara Beach where you will find a great beach for swimming, lots of accommodation options from Resorts to camping grounds. Bargara Beach has a population of around 6000 people, so there are all the amenities that you would find in a town of this size. ‘The Esplanade’ and the ‘The Promenade’ stretch along the coastline.
Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Waters Beach – are located about midway between Bundaberg and Gladstone on the coast. The name Seventeen Seventy or 1770 commemorates the fact that Captain James Cook landed here in you guessed it, 1770! Here you will find great beaches to swim at, one beach being 5 kilometres long, and lots of accommodation options from hotels to camping grounds. What makes 1770 special are its connection to Captain Cook and its closeness to Lady Musgrave Island and also Lady Elliot Island off the coast, as well as the beaches and National Parks that surround 1770. Day trips from 1770 to the islands head out from here – with a number of cruise boats making the trip. (See www.lmcruises.com.au Tel: (07) 4974 9077). Both islands are classed as being on the outer reef and swimming, snorkelling, diving, semi-submersible glass bottom boats allow you to gain a close up view of the reefs and colourful fish that inhabit it. You could also fly to Lady Elliot Island from Bundaberg and land on the island too.
In Agnes Waters take time out to see the Deepwater National Park and also Eurimbula National Park, and for something different take a motor bike ride with Scooter Tours (www.scooterootours.com.au Tel: (07)4974 7697); ride in an old Army Duck amphibious vehicle ( www.larctours.com.au Tel: (07) 4974 9422) to see out of the way beaches and also stop at Middle Island to sandboard down the sides of the massive sand dunes or hop into a kayak ( www.1770liquidadventures.com.au Tel: 0428 956 630) to explore the beaches and waterways nearby.
Gladstone – with a population of around 35,000 people is about an hour north of 1770 and 184 kilometres north of Bundaberg. The city has one of the busiest deep water ports in Australia and the biggest port in Queensland with massive investment in coal, liquid gas, power generation and heavy industry.
The Tourist Information Centre is at the Marina Ferry Terminal – 72 Bryan Jordan Drive, and it is possible to take a “Mine to Market” tour to see and understand the engineering skill that has enabled this industry to build into the industrial powerhouse that you see today. Book at the Visitor Centre. The main street of Gladstone is Goondoon Street and here you will find shops, restaurants, the Art Gallery and Museum, and nearby Gladstone Mall and Library Square where a lot of the nightlife is located.
To get a great view of the city head to Auckland Hill Lookout or 632 metre high Mt Larcom where the TV station antennas are located, and to get a feel for Gladstone head to the Marina and Spinnaker Park – where there is a 2.5 kilometre long walking track. Also take a 2 hour cruise of the Harbour with the Curtis Ferry Company called the Coffee Cruise ( See www.curtisferryservices.com.au Tel: (07) 4972 6990) Ferries also travel to Curtis Island and also Facing Island where you can spend the day or camp. The Coral Cay resorts of Heron Island and Wilson Island are also close to Gladstone.
Fish and seafood is very much a part of the Gladstone lifestyle, so a visit to the Fish Market (1 Pitt Street, near the Marina) is a must, as is a visit to the 107 hectare Tondoon Botanic Gardens on Glenlyon Rd, where there is also a Japanese Tea Garden. Close by on Bailiff Rd is Gecko Valley, where you will find wineries too.
Heading south from Gladstone, about 20 minutes away are Tannum Square and Boyne Island where the Aluminium Smelter is located, but also small beachside areas with cute names like Turtle Way, Wild Cattle Island and Canoe Point.
Another place worth seeing is Calliope River Historical Village (Tel: (07) 4975 7883) 21 Kilometres south of Gladstone on the Bruce Highway. The Village has a number of historical buildings, weekend markets, and contains the Mt Larcom Police Cell – a single cell building with its own veranda.
Also close by is Lake Awoonga, formed when the Boyne River was dammed. This large freshwater lake is stocked with fish, with a fish hatchery releasing fingerlings of Barramundi, mullet and Mangrove Jack each year to keep the Lake stocked with fish. Migratory birds also can be seen here too, and if you enjoy fishing this is one place to put on your list.
Heron Island Resort – is located about 80 kilometres offshore from Gladstone, and guests can get there by Helireef flights from Gladstone, or by daily boat trips from Gladstone too. Surrounded by reefs, the island is popular for scuba diving to see turtles, fish and the reef, as well as the resort’s spa, pool and restaurant facilities. The resort is for guest only, not day trippers. To book accommodation on Heron Island Tel: (07) 4972 9055.
Rockhampton – Often referred to by locals as “Rocky” is also sometimes called the “Beef Capital of Australia”. The city has a population of around 60,000 people and is 109 kilometres north of Gladstone on the fast flowing Fitzroy River, which has also flooded many times over the years too – the last major one being in 2013.
The city itself was first settled in the 1850’s and if you head to historic Quay Street you will be able to see a number of the stone and brick buildings that date back to this time, some of the most notable ones being Customs House where the Visitor Information Centre is located and the Post Office. If you get a chance take a look also at St Joseph’s Cathedral – a grand building with a stunning interior.
Throughout Rockhampton you will also see many Queenslander style timber houses some on stumps built this way to both suit the climate and also to hopefully be high enough to avoid being flooded in flood prone areas.
To get a feel for the early days, head to the Archer Park Steam Tram Museum (Rockhampton Heritage Village) at 296 Boundary Street (Tel: (07) 4936 8680) where you will be able to see old buildings, school house, clocks, machinery, and the amazing Purrey steam tram all on this 11.4 hectare site.
A great view of the city is from Mt Archer and the Frazer Park lookout, some 604 metres above sea level.
Large cattle properties lie outside of the city, with feed lots too, and if you can do a farm stay on one of the properties, you will no doubt enjoy a very memorable experience. One of these close to Rockhampton is Henderson Park about 15 kilometres north of Rockhampton (See www.hendersonpark.com.au Tel: (07) 4934 2794) and there are others at varying distances from Rockhampton.
In town the weekly cattle sales are at 16 Saleyards Rd, and if you have never seen a cattle auction in progress, this can be a lot of fun just listening to the auctioneer, or watching the buyers and cattlemen. In town too head to the Great Western Hotel which has an indoor arena called the Nissan Navara Arena ( See www.greatwesternhotel.com.au Tel: (07) 4974 9422) to see Rodeo riders practice their skills. The hotel is located on the corner of Stanley and Denison Streets, and the Rodeo riding in held roughly twice a week.
In town, the Botanic Gardens and Zoo are located on Spencer Street, with a great selection of tropical trees and vegetation, some more than a century old as well as a free Zoo to visit. In the city itself the Art Gallery (www.rockhamptonartgallery.com.au ) is located at 62 Victoria Parade has one of the best collections of paintings in Queensland. A number of events are staged in Rockhampton during the year, and the Walter Reid Cultural Centre may have a show to see, so it is worth checking out when you are visiting the city.
While in Rockhampton, take time out to visit the limestone Capricorn Caves, 23 kilometres north of the city, off the Capricorn Highway at 30 Olsen’s Caves Road. (Tel: (07) 4934 2883).
While beef may be the big attraction of Rockhampton, gold was one of the first reasons why people headed for Rockhampton and then to the nearby town of Mt Morgan in the 1880’s, where the mine continued to operate for over 100 years. Today the mine and the massive hole in the ground, where the miners and mine trucks worked is still here, but the mine has closed down. The town of Mt Morgan is still interesting to visit, with tours of the old mine and other attractions, such as the Jurassic dinosaur tracks, swinging bridge, Dee River and the old Railway Museum all possible. TMC Tours (Tel: (07) 4938 1823 at 45 East Street Extended) can show and tell you all about Mt Morgan.
Rockhampton is about 40 kilometres inland from the coastal towns of Yeppoon, Emu Park, and Zilzie all popular holiday destinations on the coast, with lots of accommodation options from camping and bed and Breakfast homes to holiday units, motels and hotels. This part of the coast is very attractive with the coastal waters and islands offshore making this part of the coast picture perfect. Tall Norfolk Pines and the tropical surrounds add to the enjoyment, with small boutiques, shops and lots of tropical fruit farms growing mangos, pineapples, lychees and other fruits are all here.
Also look out for the ‘Singing Ship Sculpture’ in Emu Park, and take a short 13 kilometre drive to the Koorana Crocodile Farm at 65 Savages Rd in Coowonga (www.koorana.com.au Tel: (07) 4934 4749) to see and learn about Crocodiles. This was the first crocodile farm to set up in Queensland, and it is fascinating to not only see the big crocs, but also if you are lucky also see baby crocs being hatched. The farm also makes and sells various products made from crocodile skins too.
Off the coast from Yeppoon are the Keppel Islands – some 20 islands of various sizes. The biggest island and most popular island here is Great Keppel Island, which has a resort, holiday homes, cabins, camping area and some seventeen beaches, great scuba and diving opportunities in and around the coral reefs.
Most of the islands are part of the Keppel Bay National Park – with camping allowed with a permit on a number of islands too – including Humpy Island, Miall Island, Middle Island, Divided Island, Pelican Island and North Keppel Island.
To get the Great Keppel Island head to Keppel Bay Marina just off the Scenic Highway that runs along the coastline past Yeppoon, Rosslyn and Emu Park. Here you will see lots of yachts and power boats in the marina ( www.keppelbaymarina.com.au), the Rosslyn Bay Fisherman’s Market, Rosslyn Bay Resort (www.rosslynbayresort.com.au) and Freedom Fast Cats (www.freedomfastcats.com.au Tel: (07) 4933 6888) at Pier One on John Howes Drive. The Freedom Fast Cats Company runs a Ferry Service to Great Keppel and has a number of boats that will take you to snorkel, scuba dive, see different islands and to Great Keppel Island, and you can also travel on their glass bottom boat, or even in their “Boom Net” lying back in the net as the water surges past you. Lots of fun! It is also possible to charter boats too, both sailing yachts and powered vessels. The local Visitor Centre can provide details to you.
Mackay is the next big town north of Rockhampton, roughly 4 hours or 335 kilometres of largely straight road north. It is a long stretch of road and drivers are advised to look out for kangaroos, particularly at dawn and dusk, and “road kill” (dead animals in the roadway that have been hit by cars or trucks). Mackay is located on the Pioneer River, with a large marina for pleasure craft, yachts and fishing boats, with the town based on both sugar cane and also coal mining, with the Hay Point Coal Terminal located here. The city has a great range of water based activities with Keswick Island and Brampton Island close by, and over 30 beaches up and down the coastline.
Mackay is renowned for its fishing – with off shore game fishing, beach and river fishing all here. It is said that this is where the warm waters from the north meet the cooler ones from the south, and with the river too, this provides the perfect temperatures for a really wide variety of fish types. There are fishing charters (See www.megaforcecharters.com.au Tel: (07) 4955 5290). Also to get a feel for what is available in Mackay see www.mackaymarina.com.au , the marina having a 5 lane boat ramp as well as all the other facilities.
There are also a number of water action sport activities in Mackay too – from jetboat rides (www.jetstorm.com.au), flyboarding (www.flyboardmackay.com.au), cable skiing (www.gowakemackay.com.au) and other sports, and of course swimming, scuba diving, snorkelling, paddle boarding, wind surfing – all in and around Mackay. One of the most unique experiences is to dive in the River and see Platypus in the wild – organised by the local PADI diving centre located at 55 Anzac Pde in Finch Hatton (See www.rainforestscuba.com.au) . This is just off the Mackay-Eurella Road that leads up to the Finch Hatton Gorge and the rainforest. The whole Pioneer Valley is a mix of sugar cane and other properties with the river being centre stage. It is also possible to stay in Finch Hatton too with cabins and a hotel there and take walks in the Eurella National Park that is located close by – with the gorge, rainforest, waterfalls and rock pools making it a great place to enjoy and a flywire also adding to the excitement.
In Mackay, there is the ‘Bluewater Trail’ walkway that takes you along the riverside and also to the Botanical Gardens – a nice way to get a feel for the city and its attractions. You can even hire a Segway here too, while in the city centre with its tropical palm lined streets you will find Artspace and the MECC on Alfred Street (see www.mackayecc.com.au Tel: (07) 4961 9777) The MECC (Mackay Exhibition and Cultural Centre) has stage shows and exhibitions throughout the year, and it is worth checking out to see what’s on while visiting Mackay.
Sarina – Did you know that Queensland has a third rum producer? You may have tasted Bundaberg Rum and maybe Beenleigh Rum – but yes, Queensland has a third rum distillery in Sarina – a coastal sugar town with about 6000 people, about 30 or so kilometres south of Mackay. In Sarina you will find a number of beaches, good fishing and boating activities, and also the Sarina Sugar Shed – a miniature sugar mill which produces its own rum. The distillery is located at Railway Square in the Field of Dreams Parkland, just off the Bruce Highway. (See www.sarinasugarshed.com.au Tel: (07)4943 2801). You will also find an art gallery nearby, and arts and crafts, while not far away are Lake Barfield and the Salonika Beach Bird Sanctuary where there are Egrets, white herons and black swans.
NORTH OF Mackay – Read about the towns up to Townsville on the Whitsunday Islands part of this website.