Rockhampton was recently hit by disastrous flooding but, like all great country towns, it is rising again from the devastation writes Dallas Sherringham.
The best way to help this struggling city is to go there and spend some time, and money, exploring a fascinating region.
Rocky, as it is known to anyone who has put a Slim Dusty CD in the multi stacker and hit the open road, is a place many people pass through heading north but don’t stop for a city tour.
As a greater lover of Australian history, I went there recently for a two night stay, but I should have made it a week.
For starters, Rockhampton is actually named after a rock right beside town that blocks navigation on the mighty Fitzroy River.
Like virtually all country towns around Australia, it was built right beside a river and this major asset from the 19th century is now a devastating legacy in the 21st century.
Indeed, Rocky has been fighting floods since the first tent peg was driven into the riverbank in 1853.
The town naturally grew along the southern riverbank with the downtown area just a good cricket ball throw from the water. It grew rapidly and by 1880 it was a major region al town bathing in 300 plus days of sunshine every year.
Thankfully, many of the historic buildings have been saved including the impressive court house precinct and the stunning post office. These buildings were made to last and are a far cry from the crude timber dwellings of many early Queensland towns.
They are a testament to Rocky’s prestigious place in our nation’s history and its role in promoting growth to the north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Mount Morgan goldmines added to the wealth of this massive grazing region and Rocky became a very prosperous city. Civic fathers decided that the city needed a public transport system and in 1909 they donned their best clobber for the official opening of the steam tramway.
They used French build Purrey steam trams and miraculously you can still ride one today. Every Sunday at Archer Park Rail Museum they fire up the only Purrey “steam car” left in the world.
It rocks and rolls, snorts and sparks along 1.1km of track through downtown Rockhampton along tracks once used by all trains heading north and south along the eastern seaboard. Archer Park Station is still in use today as a rail heritage museum complete with a unique covered station. The museum is open Monday to Thursday and on Sunday.
One of the tramway routes used to service the renowned and much loved Rockhampton Botanic Gardens on a hill south of the city. This heritage listed attraction is well worth a visit. In the centre of the gardens you will discover the fascinating Rockhampton Zoo with its extensive collection of Australian species and exotic species from around the world.
In WWII Rocky was the centre of massive troop movements and also provided extensive installations and training areas which are still in use today. So, during your visit you are likely to see Army troops and equipment passing through town.
Rockhampton Heritage Village features historic buildings and classic cars from the period 1850 to 1950.And the city’s art gallery is regarded as one of the best regional displays in Australia.
For the sun lover looking for a relaxing day out, Rocky is only a 30 minute drive to the thriving beach resort of Yeppoon. The seaside town features good restaurants and some fun shopping opportunities.
I really enjoyed my brief time in Rockhampton: the people are relaxed and friendly, enjoying life under the all-encompassing tropical sun.
Rockhampton is in the tropical area of Capricorn, which presents some fantastic holiday destinations. For the full picture: http://www.capricornholidays.com.au/