An early start saw me out of the house and on the Bruce Highway headed north at 6:15 am.
I’d had one of those restless nights, where I constantly wondered what time it was, and calculating how much longer I had in bed before I have to be up.
Strange isn’t it… as I was not tied to any schedule or timetable in particular. However, that being said I did want to get on the road early to beat any traffic, and I guess that was actively playing on my mind.
I was headed north to “Rocky” as the locals call it. My first overnight stop on my epic outback adventure was far from the outback as you can imagine.
Much of the drive up the coast is through lush, green tropical forests and rolling mountain ranges. The road, although single lane each way has a generous number of passing lanes spread evenly along the highway.
The city of Rockhampton sits some 600 kms north of Newport, sitting close to the coast and is connected to the Pacific Ocean by the Fitzroy River.
In many ways this part of Australia reminds me of South Carolina in the summer with it’s heavy, sweetly scented and humid air. What strikes me as different is the abundant bird life the flourishes in this environment. Mostly noisy grass parrots, Ibis, crane, crows and magpies.
And like South Carolina there is a sense of faded glory to Rockhampton…
The city was founded in 1858, with gold being discovered in the nearby area of Canoona the following year. Almost overnight Rockhampton became the entry point to the gold fields, and a prosperous trading port to support its burgeoning mining industry.
During those gold rush years Rockhampton was nicknamed as the “City of the Three S’s”, of which were “Sin, Sweat, and Sorrow”. I’m sure there are some stories to be told from its colorful past. ❤️
It also attracted significant wealth and some speculation as to its future as a potential state capital, although it would have taken quite some effort to overtake Brisbane even in those days.
As I walked through around town it quickly became apparent that at one time this was a prosperous and vibrant city with significant investment being made in some of the finely architected capital buildings strewn around the city center.
Today, Rockhampton is known as the beef capital of Australia with some of the finest pastoral and agricultural lands for raising cattle. This combined with access to key transportation hubs – sea, air, rail and road networks ensures that its high-quality product can be shipped direct to anywhere on the world.
It’s also the jumping off point for one of the most beautiful islands along the Great Barrier Reef – Great Keppel Island. ❤️
As you know the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres (1,400 mi). In total the reef covers an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi).
Unfortunately, my current adventure is without a trip to the reef… perhaps on my next trip north.
As I neared the end of my drive today, I noticed a sign for Mount Morgan, which is located about 30 kms south west of Rockhampton.
Interesting family connection regarding Mount Morgan…
Grandfather Conolly worked at the Mount Morgan gold mine pre-world war I as a mining assayer. In fact, I have a photo of him, grandmother, and mum’s older siblings out front of their estate at Mount Morgan. ❤️
I wish I had remembered that Mount Morgan was so close to Rockhampton as I would have brought along the address and gone to see if the homestead is still there, albeit unlikely given that it was well over 100 years ago.
I feel pretty lucky that I have the opportunity to undertake this road trip and see a part of Australia that has been on my list for quite some time.
To give you a sense of scale, Queensland is 17% larger than Alaska, which is the largest US state.
Strangely, once you leave the confines of comfortable South East Queensland you soon realize how massive the state really is, in addition to how remote many of the towns are in the Outback.
So, what did I learn about the first port of call on my adventure?
Well, firstly Rockhampton has a vibrant and interesting past. It’s not on the coast per se (which I didn’t realize until getting here). In addition, it has a host of modern hotels and accommodation options if you want to explore the region or use it as a hopping off point for the Great Barrier Reef.
I stayed at the Quest Rockhampton which is a modern apartment complex adjacent to the Fitzroy River and close to downtown. It also comes with secure underground parking, and spacious rooms. Definitely recommend this hotel if you’re visiting.
Join me next week as I venture west into the Outback.