Part of the southern coast of Queensland is called Capricorn Coast. What is referred to is the area around the Tropic of Capricorn, which runs in line with Rockhampton. The city is an invisible boundary for the start of the tropics. Northward, the temperature climbs upwards and the high humidity makes the air feel thick and moist. This region is a mix of sun-kissed surfers walking along sandy beaches while the hinterland is dominated by farming cowboys. However, the coast sits on the area’s greatest treasure. Just outside is the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. And the shoreline is tens-of-kilometres long, far-stretched and golden. Queensland markets itself as the Sunshine State, which is no exaggeration. The state has almost 300 days of sunshine a year and a pleasant temperature regardless of season. You are guaranteed a high dose of vitamin D during a visit.
The southern part of the coast is not as popular as the north. Those with limited time in the country often skip Capricorn Coast. After a visit to Hervey Bay and Fraser Island, they are coached up to Airlie to end their trip in Cairns. But there are many fine stops in the south. Not least the islands. Seen from above, the islands look like small gems bobbing around in a deep blue sea. They fulfil the dream of a tropical paradise in gold and green, surrounded by crystal clear waters. Snorkelling is world-class. Be one step ahead of other tourists and discover the reef in the south instead of feeling too crowded in the north. Both Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot are perfect for a diving adventure. And from Heron Island you can snorkel just off the beach.
The three largest cities along the Capricorn Coast are Rockhampton, Gladstone and Bundaberg. The latter is located next to Burnett River. The city is built on sugar and one of Australia’s best-selling liquor-brands is being produced here, Bundaberg Rum. Visit any local pub and it will not be long before someone cries out an order for Bundy and coke. Outside the city, at the resort Mon Repos live turtles that crawls down to the water edge. These can be seen during a guided evening tour.
Rockhampton is not the most beautiful city but has close access to a fascinating cave system and a nice national park (wotif.com/discover/australia/queensland/rockhampton.d3022). Rockhampton is the Australian beef capital. At the nearby Mount Morgan, both gold and copper were mined until the resources were depleted in the 1980s. You can visit the caves on your own or through a guided tour (wotif.com/things-to-do/guided-cathedral-cave-tour-of-the-capricorn-caves.a423159.activity-details). In addition to the bigger cities, there are some quieter alternatives. Agnes Water is one of Queensland’s most reclusive coastal towns that is perfect for beginners in surfing. There are few who find it here so take the opportunity and enjoy the rare serenity along the east coast.
Sights and experiences
Discover and explore
Capricorn Coast’s biggest assets are the sea and the islands. A trip here without going out to any of them is like skipping the best. The Southern Reef Islands is the collective name of the many islands that belong to the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. The islands are of varying size and most are uninhabited. Some of the larger are Heron, Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot Island. These three can be visited, although it is not quite that easy and requires some planning. Your budget is the biggest obstacle. A trip to the islands leaves a big hole in your wallet if you don’t watch yourself.
Lady Musgrave Island is a paradisiacal coral island surrounded by a shallow reef. You can get here from the town 1770 using Lady Musgrave Experience (wotif.com/things-to-do/bundaberg-full-day-snorkelling-tour-to-lady-musgrave-island.a478196.activity-details). You can camp on the island provided you obtain permission first (npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/capricornia-cays/camping.html#lady_musgrave_island). All equipment including food and water must be brought back by you. There is no boat departing for Lady Elliot. The only means of transport is aircraft. But it also means that you get a wonderful view on the way. Lady Elliot is a coral island where the reef is so close that you can wade out to it from the beach. The island itself is sparsely green with low plants. But the beauty waits for you under the surface – the diving is fantastic. You are not allowed to camp, if you choose to stay a night you need do this at Lady Elliot Resort (ladyelliot.com.au).
If you want to visit Heron Island (heronisland.com), you can do so by boat or airplane from Gladstone. The island is only available to those who are willing to stay (or rather can afford to stay) at the resort. There is no mobile coverage, but life here revolves around the water. Coral after coral lies near the island, making it easy to spot. Yeppoon is a springboard to the Keppel Islands. Among the 18 islands, Great Keppel Island is the largest and easiest to visit. It takes just half an hour to get there by ferry and there are plenty of accommodation options. From budget to luxury. Several companies drive out to the island from Rosslyn Bay Harbour seven kilometres from Yeppoon, among them Keppel Konnections (keppelkonnections.com.au).
Discover sea turtles at Mon Repos Turtle Centre (npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/mon-repos/about.html). Follow Mon Repos Road until it runs out, then turn left when you reach the coast. Sea turtles lay their eggs at the beach and a few months later they hatch and begin their dangerous journey towards the sea. You can watch this natural event unfold at Mon Repos. The beach is an important place for the survival of this species. Mount Archer National Park (npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/mount-archer/about.html) is located just east of Rockhampton and is a green oasis. Wander along the trails and try to get all the way up to the top of Mount Archer.
Art and culture
You will find Bundaberg Rum Distillery (bundabergrum.com.au/distillery) at Hills Street in Bundaberg. If there is one thing the city is known for, it is rum. In Australia, a drink is synonymous with Bundy and coke. So why not visit the distillery where the alcoholic beverage is produced? Join in on a guided tour where you will visit the museum, the distillery and you may finish by mixing your own beverage.
There is a good selection of eateries within the cities. Rockhampton’s best cafe is Cafe Bliss, at 64 Bolsover Street (facebook.com/rockhamptoncafebliss). In addition to good coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. The food is affordable and there are many dishes on the menu. In the evenings you can order tapas to share. A café of similar calibre is Oodies (oodies.com.au/menu) at 103 Gavin Street in Bundaberg. They serve breakfast and lunch. Eggs Benedict, fresh salads, burgers and milkshakes are some options available on the generous menu. For a bit more fancy, visit Grunske’s by the River (grunskesbytheriver.com.au) at 11E Petersons Street in Bundaberg. Shellfish are their specialty, such as shrimp, lobster and oysters. The restaurant has a beautiful view of the waterfront.
Good to know
The website Capricorn Coast (capricorncoast.com.au) is helpful to use when planning. There is a Visitor Information Centre in Gladstone at 2/72 Bryan Jordan Drive, one in Bundaberg at 271 Bourbong Street and one in Rockhampton at Gladstone Road.
Warnings and preparations
Tourist peak season for the area is in summer, but one can visit here all year round. The subtropical climate provides warmth regardless of time of year. The risk of rain is slightly larger along the coast. But at the same time, the temperature is more comfortable thanks to the winds. It is as warmest and wettest during summer, between December and February. The driest period is autumn and winter.
If you do not have a vehicle, Greyhound buses (greyhound.com.au) is a safe card to play, they stop at many towns along the coast. To save you some money, buy a bus card if you plan to travel with them several times. For example, you can buy a card that is valid between Brisbane and Cairns.
There are airports in Townsville, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Hervey Bay and Mackay. The nearest international airport is in Brisbane (wotif.com/Flights). You can rent a car at the airports (wotif.com/Car-Hire).
Gladstone Backpackers (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Gladstone_Backpackers.htm) at 12 Rollo Street is an unexpectedly good hostel. All rooms have a fan. The kitchen is large and fresh with room for several to cook at the same time. The patio has several seating areas and a swimming pool. It is a family-run, small hostel that is constantly being renovated. There is a bar on site and a pool table. The owners have extensive knowledge of the local area and will happily help you with any questions. It is close to the harbour. If you are willing to pay a little more, you can stay with Camelot Motel (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/MAS_Country_Camelot_Motel.htm) at 19 Agnes Street. They have clean rooms, a swimming pool and a restaurant on site. A room costs from 99 dollars per night.
Rockhampton YHA (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Rockhampton_Backpackers.htm) at 60 MacFarlane Street has accommodation from 22 dollars a night. A good budget options. There is a spacious kitchen, washing machine, TV room, Internet access and tour arrangements.
Citywalk Motor Inn (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Citywalk_Motor_Inn.htm) at 129 William Street is a bit higher in price but still a budget accommodation. Here is everything you need. The rooms are spacious and clean. There is Internet, TV and air conditioning. Breakfast is included. A room in general cost from 140 dollars but keep an eye out for discounted prices on the web.
Bundaberg Spanish Motor Inn (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Bundaberg_Spanish_Motor_Inn.htm) at 134 Woongarra Street is one of the best accommodation options in Bundaberg. There is a large salt-water swimming pool in the area, and barbecue facilities are available nearby. Rooms include a TV, fridge, microwave and kettle. A double room costs from 115 dollars per night. There are plenty of parking spaces on site. Coral Villa Motor Inn (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Coral_Villa_Motor_Inn.htm) at 56 Takalvan Street is another good option. Both single and double rooms start from 115 dollars per night. They have a cosy courtyard with seating under parasols. There are a lot of plants which makes it a bit lush.