|Trip Length: 3 days Total Distance: 567 km Road Conditions: All sealed roads|
Travel along the Tropic of Capricorn on the Capricorn Highway for a journey of discovery, adventure, and surprises. Within this region that experiences one of the best temperature ranges with low humidity and only two seasons - wet and dry - you are in for a real treat!
The 567 kilometre fully sealed highway takes you from the Beef Capital of Australia, Rockhampton, west to mining communities such as the multicultural town of Blackwater where massive machinery digs out coal that keeps the lights of Queensland burning bright.
You will pass Blackdown National Park - a hidden secret and worthy of note for nature lovers or those looking for a quite camping location. Then it's onto lively Emerald, the centre of the gem fields and home to beautiful Lake Maraboon and Fairbairn Dam. Once the gem fever has subsided, continue to Barcaldine, the recognised birthplace of the Australian Labour Party and home to the Australian Workers Heritage Centre.
All along this scenic route, you will enjoy first class accommodation, the best prime beef on offer in Queensland and succulent seafood from the nearby Capricorn Coast. The drive could easily be accomplished in a day but why rush, denying yourself the pleasures and treasures on offer along the way?
The Capricorn Highway - a truly wonderful drive through one of the most highly productive areas of Queensland - don't forget to check out some of the smaller towns - you'll be glad you did.
|Rockhampton to Blackwater||2 hrs 45 mins||263 kms|
|Blackwater to Emerald||45 mins||73 kms|
|Emerald to Barcaldine||3 hrs 10 mins||304 kms|
The Beef Capital of Australia - Rockhampton - where the city, coast, and country all meet in one gracious city.
Built on the banks of Queensland's largest river, The Fitzroy, there is no doubt of its cattle title with statues of six prime bulls around the city. Gracemere Saleyards hold the title for handling the largest volume of livestock in the Southern Hemisphere. Visitors to the city can sit amidst the big hats of cattle barons and buyers, watching the auctioneers hammer slam on pen after pen of livestock.
However, Rockhampton or Rocky as it is simply known, is not all about cattle. This is a city vibrant, historic, artistic, and full of charisma - one you can easily spend a few days exploring. All palates are catered for in Rocky - you can be assured of the best of beef and with the Capricorn Coast less than half an hour away seafood lovers are in heaven. For sightseeing, a leisurely stroll through the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Zoo should be included in your itinerary. Recently heritage listed the 130 year old gardens have a magnificent tropical plant collection. Other gardens in Rockhampton of note are the delightful Scented Gardens and the Kershaw Gardens reflecting the natural bush. Walk along Quay Street, - a 'historical streetscape' - with glorious sandstone buildings and original delicate wrought iron lace work featured on many. At the Customs House - another fine example of colonial architecture - learn about the history and early life of Rockhampton.
On Sundays, ride on a Purrey Steam Train at the Archer Park Station and Steam Tram Museum. Open Sunday to Friday, view the large collection of railway memorabilia and for a greater insight into life around here from 1850 to 1950 visit the Rockhampton Heritage Village.
For sunset, lookout over this grand old city from Mt Archer and have your camera ready as sunsets from this vantage point can be spectacular. The mighty Fitzroy flows right through town so you can enjoy barramundi fishing from within the city limits or for a little more excitement catch a live bull ride at Lee Kernaghan's Great Western Hotel. Learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at the Dreamtime Cultural Centre and explore the Capricorn Caves north of Rocky.
At the extinct volcano of Mt Hay, 41 kilometres west of Rockhampton, fossick for thunder eggs. Duaringa provides a lovely spot for a rest and while there have a look at the water feature in town. Next stop west along the Tropic of Capricorn is Blackwater.
Within and around Blackwater - the coal capital of Queensland - you'll find six major coal mines, the unique Blackdown Tableland National Park, nationally recognised gardens and parks.
The town was built specifically to service the Blackwater Coal Mine, 20 kilometres south. The mine produces a massive six million tonnes of coking coal and four millions tonnes of steaming coal each year so you can really see where the coal comes from to keep the lights of Queensland burning on a tour of the huge open cut mine each Wednesday.
Near to the Information Centre and mining Museum is the Japanese Garden - a real delight with lanterns and bridges from Japan, over 800 trees and pond features. Make sure you take a look at the Lions Park with all the flags. They say in Blackwater, that to see more flags of the world in any one place you have to go to the UN building in New York! Each of the flags represents one of the 37 nationalities that worked in the first stages of the coal industry at Blackwater - what a show of comradeship!
Blackdown National Park, 55 kilometres south is another of those little treasures you come across on the Capricorn Highway. Camping is permitted, and the park features a high sandstone plateau, cliffs, gorges, caves, refreshing springs, even waterfalls! Wildflowers can be spectacular through this area along with other unique species like the bridled nail tail wallaby. If you're into any of nature's delights don't miss this park!
Then hit the road as Emerald, the capital of the central highlands is only 73 kilometres ahead.
Travellers will often see a huge dragline at work from the highway as they travel west from Blackwater. These multi-million dollar mining machines are several stories high and have a boom that extends hundreds of metres and carries a giant steel bucket. The bucket excavates the equivalent of five Olympic swimming pools in one scoop!
Emerald, a thriving vibrant town rich in gems, agriculture, and history, deserves at least a nights stop over. However, it's not the emerald gemstone that gives the town its name. That came from the lush colour of a hill near town when the area was first settled back in the 1800's.
Check out the new environmental straw Information Centre, the Mosaic Pathway depicting one hundred years of Emerald's history and at the end see the world's largest Van Gough sunflower painting standing 23 metres high. Around town, visit the much-photographed Heritage Listed National Trust Railway Station and the fossilised tree dated to around 250 million years old. Call in and see the teachers at the School of Distance Education transmit the daily lessons to children hundreds of kilometres away.
The award winning Emerald Botanic Gardens on the banks of the Nugoa River are a great picnic spot. Just 18 kilometres from Emerald is Lake Maraboon and Fairbairn Dam. Lake Maraboon holds three times the capacity of Sydney Harbour and the huge expanse of water is used for irrigated crops, coal mining, and domestic use. It's a great place to fish, relax, watch the birdlife, and catch a sunset, which can be absolutely spectacular over the water. Cabins and campsites are available.
Visit the gem fields, including the world's largest sapphire field 40 minutes drive to the west. Towns reflecting the vibrancy of the gems found below the surface - Rubyvale, Sapphire, and Anakie - are all good places to start a little fossicking and many visitors leave with rewards of sapphires and zircons from only a few hours of fun.
Then its off to Aplha, with all its building murals, via the railway settlement of Bogantungan with its cute railway station - try sounding the gong at the front. Through Jericho and into Barcaldine 304 kilometres west of Emerald, home to the Australian Workers Heritage Centre, the national tribute to the working men and women of Australia and the end of the Capricorn Highway.
Allow at least half a day to explore the centre then enjoy a picnic lunch in the manicured gardens complete with bore fed billabong, turtles, and fish. Sit under the famous Ghost Gum known as the Tree of Knowledge in the main street, regarded as the birthplace of the Australian Labour Party and watch the goings on in this charming and neat town.
With a fine supply of artesian water, you will soon appreciate Barcaldine's title as the Garden City of the West - all the streets take their names from trees. There is much to see and do in Barcaldine before continuing on your journey.
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