|Trip Length: 9 days Total Distance: 1696 km Road Conditions: Some unsealed roads|
The Central Queensland Outback itinerary follows the Tropic of Capricorn west from Rockhampton, the Beef Capital of Australia, through the Sapphire Gemfields into Queensland's Outback before returning to Rockhampton via Carnarvon Gorge and Gladstone.
Rockhampton, the Beef Capital of Australia, is located on the Tropic of Capricorn, marked by the Tropic of Capricorn Spire at the visitor centre on Gladstone Road.
There are quite a few things to see in town, so start at the top: the summit of Mt Archer. It's an easy drive to the lookout where you can picnic at one of the excellent BBQ areas or take a short walk along one of the marked trails. Nearby the magnificently restored Archer Park Railway Station makes history come alive as you learn about the Purry Steam Train, which once served Rockhampton's streets. The 'talking statues' will give you all the details.
Now travel west from Rockhampton through Duaringa to Dingo. This small town is famous for the World Championship Dingo Trap Contest held each year in July. The bronze statue of a dingo is a great rest stop.
A further 11 km west of Dingo is the turn-off to the Blackdown Tableland National Park. Rising abruptly above the surrounding dry plains, Blackdown Tableland protects spectacular sandstone scenery with gorges and waterfalls at the north-eastern edge of the central Queensland sandstone belt. The park offers spectacular lookouts, waterfalls and walking tracks.
Nearby Blackwater is the heart of coal production in Central Queensland. Blackwater is also Sister City to Fujisawa in Japan. As a tribute, the local community has built a Japanese Garden - one of the best in Queensland.
Just before arriving into Emerald, stop off at Keily's Farm and Animal Sanctuary, where you can take a tour of this working cotton farm and feed the farm animals. You can even try an ostrich burger!
With shady tree-lined streets, Emerald is the hub of the Central Highlands and the gateway to the Sapphire Gemfields. It offers great shopping, restaurants and a range of accommodation. Emerald railway station is noted for its beautiful cast iron lace portico. Other local sights include the Botanic Gardens, the Pioneer Village and Museum, the Art Gallery, Town Hall's fossilised tree and the huge reproduction of Van Gogh's Sunflowers
If it's a bit warm, take a short drive to the massive Lake Maraboon, formed by Fairbairn Dam (30 minutes drive from Emerald). It's 3 times the size of Sydney Harbour, so there is plenty of space for picnic and watersports. There are also cabins and a caravan park so you can stay overnight here or head back to Emerald.About the Drive
|Duration:||3 hrs 15 mins|
Best to get an early start for a morning at the gemfields. At Rubyvale and Sapphire, you're in the midst of the largest sapphire fields in the Southern Hemisphere; so make time to have the chance to fossick for your own gems.
Heading west from the Sapphire Gemfields, the Great Dividing Range is traversed at 444 metres above sea level between the townships of Alpha and Jericho. Alpha's striking street murals and art gallery are always popular attractions, whilst Jericho takes pride in its Crystal Trumpeters main street sculpture and Redbank Nature Reserve.
Barcaldine holds a significant place in Australia's history. In the great shearer's strike of 1891 Barcaldine became the rallying point, and that led to the formation of the Australian Labour Party. The Tree of Knowledge is a monument to these times, and the Australian Workers Heritage Centre plays a key role in defining our national character.
Bicentennial Botanical Park and the September Bougainvillea Garden competition compliments Barcaldine's title as the 'Garden City of the West'.
You can choose from camping, caravan or motel accommodation in town for the night.About the Drive
|Duration:||3 hrs 30 mins|
Today's drive will take you though Ifracombe, a small western Queensland township of less than 350 people, which was once one of Australia's great wool growing districts.
Onto Longreach, home of the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre, Qantas Founders Outback Museum and a wealth of entertainment and warm, country hospitality.
Stay overnight in Longreach. Longreach offers a wide variety of accommodation including caravan parks, motels and hotels.About the Drive
|Duration:||1 hr 25 mins|
Today's drive will take you along the Matilda Highway to Blackall, where a town tour reveals the original 'Black Stump' and a memorial to the famous shearer Jack Howe. Join a tour of the Blackall Woolscour where local characters bring the Golden Age of Wool to life.
Further south on the Matilda Highway is the township of Tambo, where you can step back in time on the Tambo Heritage Walk. Watch as sheepskin teddy bears are created - named after local properties Tambo Teddies make a great souvenir!
Turn off the highway and head east to Springsure. The town sits amongst a delightful valley with spectacular mountain range as the backdrop to the famous Virgin Rock, so named for its resemblance to the Virgin Mary. A visit to the Old Rainworth Fort will give you a chilling insight into the courageous and violent Aboriginal resistance to the encroachment of Europeans in 1860s.
Spend the night in Springsure. The township offers caravan park and motel accommodation.About the Drive
|Duration:||6 hrs 50 mins|
|Road Conditions:||Some unsealed and sealed (306 km are sealed)|
About 71 km south of Springsure is the tiny township of Rolleston which is the best access point to the remarkable Carnarvon National Park. The route from Rolleston to the park is 110 km which includes approximately 20 km of unsealed road.
You need to spend a couple of days exploring the 30 km chasm of Carnarvon Gorge with its white sandstone cliffs giving shelter to tropical plants including cycads and palms. Look out for Aboriginal rock art and see the rock pools and waterfalls of this stunning natural treasure.
Camping is possible in the National Park only at certain times of the year and must be arranged in advance with the park ranger. Campers must be fully self-sufficient and will need to walk 9 km from the car park into the national park.
For alternative accommodation, you can only take car and caravan as far as Takarakka where there are powered and unpowered sites.
Cabin style accommodation is also available.About the Drive
|Road Conditions:||Some unsealed roads|
The drive to Biloela will take you back to Rolleston, then east along the Dawson Highway. You will pass through Moura, originally a farming service centre that has been transformed into one of Central Queensland's most famous mining towns. Private visits to the Moura mine can be made by prior arrangement with the manager and the local taxi service conducts daily tours of the mine, which depart from the Eat Retreat Cafe.
From Moura its 45 minutes to Biloela, passing through the township of Banana. No not the fruit, the town is named after a particularly famous prize winning bullock.
This is the agricultural heart of Central Queensland. Crops including cotton, sorghum, wheat, herbs and spices. There is also a huge cattle industry with the largest number of cattle of any Shire in Queensland.
Accommodation for the night includes several motels; farmstays are also available in the local area.About the Drive
|Duration:||3 hrs 45 mins|
|Road Conditions:||Some unsealed roads|
There are plenty of things to see in the Biloela area, including Greycliffe Station, a beautifully preserved slab hut dating back to the 1870s which has been converted into a museum by the local historical society and The SILO, Australia's Primary Industries Exhibition offers educational tours and a chance to visit a variety of farm animals, ranging from donkeys to ostriches.
About 12 km to the south of town is Mount Scoria, a strange basalt formation about 150 m high with symmetrically shaped rocks which look like a giant staircase. Nearby, the Callide Power Station offers guided tours of the complex. There is also a museum at Callide B Power Station and a lookout which offers views over the complex, the dam, the town and the surrounding countryside. Just east of Biloela is Kroombit Tops National Park, worth a side-trip if you have a 4WD. Most of the road to the park is unsealed.
Originally a penal colony, Gladstone City is now Queensland's largest port. Take a drive up to The William Golding Memorial Lookout atop Auckland Hill for a bird's eye view over Port Curtis and the Gladstone Marina.
Take a walk through Gladstone's premier attraction Tondoon Botanic Gardens located south of the city centre along Glenlyon Road. Covering 55 ha, the gardens include lakes, cascades, an herbarium and arboretum and an interpretive nature trail.
Before returning to Rockhampton, stop and take a look through the Port Curtis Historic Village, located on the Bruce Highway. The village includes an old railway station, a church, homes, the original Clyde Hotel and a Colonial Railway Carriage.About the Drive