Where greatness begins – Capricorn region’s Top 10
WORDS: Paul and Katie Guerin, The Feel Good Family. PHOTOGRAPHY Paul and Katie Guerin, The Feel Good Family.
Queensland is #GoodToGo and we have just enjoyed another visit to the incredible Capricorn region. Brimming with some of the country’s best natural assets, we have fallen in love with this part of Queensland and we know you will too. Here are our Top 10 must see, must visit, experiences and destinations within the Capricorn region.
Carnarvon Gorge would have to be our No.1 destination in our first full-time year on the road. This spectacular national park boasts more than 298,000ha of Queensland’s Central Highlands. It is located about 720km north-west of Brisbane by road and directly south west of Rockhampton on the Coast. There are a number of short-walk options based around the main gorge track, with the full circuit Great Walk totalling 87km long. Many of the short walks are easily accessible and great for families. There is a rich Indigenous history – one of the major highlights for us. The ochre stencils at Carnarvon are some of the finest examples of this type of Aboriginal imagery in Australia.
Other highlights included the towering sandstone cliffs of the Amphitheatre; the Indigenous Art Gallery, showcasing rock wall art believed to be more than 3500 years old; the Moss Garden, with its waterfall and lush rainforest; and Wards Canyon, breathtakingly beautiful and a cool relief from the 38-degree day of our trek. Ancient king ferns grow beside
the crystal-clear waters of the Carnarvon Creek, the area brimming with wildlife. We were lucky enough to even spot a platypus where we camped at Takarakka Bush Resort. Carnarvon Gorge is a must – the No.1 destination on your Capricorn bucket list.
Pumpkin Island is located on the spectacular Southern Great Barrier Reef and is (was!!) Australia’s best kept secret. The island is 14km off the coast of Yeppoon, about 650km north of Brisbane and 1100km south of Cairns. The island is a tiny 6ha and you can literally walk around it. The crystal-clear, turquoise waters and secluded, relaxed atmosphere make for the ultimate get away from it all. There is an abundance of wildlife above and below the water and the island is eco-friendly, recognised as Australasia’s Most Sustainable Hotel. There are seven self-catering beach cottages scattered across the island, all powered by the wind and the sun. The island’s Sunset Lounge was a highlight and whether you are a family, a couple or even a larger group, you can hire the entire island for a special occasion.
More than 400 million years in the making, Capricorn Caves are an awe inspiring example of nature at its finest. Located an easy 30-minute drive north of Rockhampton, the caves boast the highest concentration of fossils found anywhere in the world. They offer a number of different tour experiences that cater for every member of the family including daily wheelchair-accessible guided cave tours, wild caving adventures that had our hearts racing and Paul’s knees feeling a little jelly, and for the very brave, abseiling down through the caves. Onsite accommodation options include self-contained cabins, the lodge and a great bush camp with powered and unpowered sites for tents, caravans and motorhomes. There is even a pool for those extra hot days.
Located in Queensland’s Central Highlands, the Sapphire Gemfields are an easy 45-minute drive west of Emerald and cover almost 900km square. We visited Rubyvale Miners Heritage – Australia’s largest underground walk-in sapphire mine experience – and had a fantastic time trying our hand at fossicking. There are plenty of accommodation options in the region including caravan parks and camping. We stayed at the Lake Maraboon Holiday Village just, south of Emerald on the Fairbairn Dam.
Be sure to stop into the Rubyvale Gem Gallery to meet the Brown family and view their range of bespoke jewellery featuring some of the world’s best gemstones, mined directly from their Rubyvale family mine.
Mt Hay Gemstone Tourist Park
Mount Hay is an internationally known destination for Thunderegg fossicking and the purchase of semi-precious Australian gemstone products, cut and polished in the Mount Hay factory just 30 minutes’ drive west of Rockhampton. This is a great, family friendly fossicking experience, with camping and caravan sites for overnight stays. Jasper, our four year old, especially loved this experience and it is safe for the kids to get dirty and have fun looking for their own unique piece of treasure!
Known as the Heart of the Capricorn Coast, Yeppoon is the spectacular beachside accommodation hub for the region. If you are a travelling family, Yeppoon is the perfect location to entertain the entire tribe. With a multitude of free activities including the Keppel Kraken water park and the stunning Yeppoon Lagoon, the fantastic foreshore play areas offer year-round swimming with first-class restaurants and cafes to keep you satisfied. You will need at least a week to relax, unwind and explore the best of this beautiful coastline.
Mt Archer National Park
Rockhampton’s highest peak is 604m above sea level and boasts incredible views of the entire city. It is the perfect vantage point to take in the surrounding ranges and a wonderful location to enjoy a picnic, a sunrise or sunset. The recently opened Nurim Circuit elevated boardwalk is world class. An easy 500m walk from the car park, it showcases the best views from multiple lookouts. There is a nature-based playground for the kids and a number of short bush walks. We enjoyed a toast with a glass of wine and cheese platter as a thanks and farewell to our incredible time in the region.
Rockhampton is jammed packed with family friendly experiences. Our favourites included the Archer Park Rail Museum, a beautifully restored 1899 railway station and museum featuring the last remaining purrey steam tram in the world. Jasper loved this experience. We also loved visiting Kershaw Gardens, known as Rockhampton’s ‘big backyard’. Every member of the family will love this space. There are spacious parklands, walking tracks, incredible play areas for kids, picnic areas and free BBQs. Another must visit is the free zoo and adjoining Botanic Gardens. With more than 60 species of native and exotic animals, the kids will love exploring the zoo and enjoy learning more from the free keeper talks.
Byfield National Park
Byfield National Park is a beautiful blend of rugged mountain ranges, massive sand dunes, remote beaches and campgrounds, pine plantations and rainforest fringed creeks. Located 40km north of Yeppoon, Ferns Hideaway Wilderness Resort is a perfect base to set up camp and explore the 15,000 hectares and surrounding conservation park. Whether you want to four-wheel drive, hike, fish or walk for miles on a secluded beach, your choice of activities here is endless. We loved taking the Canadian canoes for a spectacular paddle down Waterpark Creek and best of all, this is free to all guests of Ferns.
Great Keppel Island
Great Keppel Island is a 30-minute Fast Cat ferry ride from the Yeppoon marina and boasts 17 of Australia’s most outstanding secluded white sand beaches. With varying accommodation options on the island, The Holiday Village hosted by Geoffrey Mercer, offers self-catered ‘Budget Boutique’ accommodation for every style of traveller – from glamping tents to one, two and three bedroom villas. You can even pitch your own tent. Activities range from island hiking trails, fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving to lazing under palm trees in a hammock for the day. The sounds of the crystal-clear, turquoise water will lullaby you to sleep in this pristine island escape. It’s definitely not okay Keppel Island – it’s Great Keppel Island!
There it is. Our Top 10 must-see, must-add to your bucket list destinations within the Capricorn Region. We have loved our time here and can’t wait to visit again.
The Feel Good Family are proud Brand Ambassadors for Apollo Leisure and OZtrail Australia. You can follow The Feel Good Family on their journey around Australia by visiting their website www.thefeelgoodfamily.com.au and subscribing to their YouTube Channel.