The Capricorn region has it all! From stunning cave systems, prehistoric discoveries, beachside campfires, pristine coral reefs and up-close wildlife encounters. There is such a variety of activities and sites to visit in close proximity, it’s the perfect place to explore.
The well known towns of Rockhampton and Yeppoon lie at the heart of the region, which also encompasses the Southern Great Barrier Reef as well as some amazing National Parks, Gem fields, and natural wonders like caves and ancient lava ‘thunder eggs’ dig sites – a trip here will definitely provide a great mix of adventure and relaxation for all the family.
We recently enjoyed a 2 week itinerary here and it has been a huge highlight of our Aussie travels. We started in Rockhampton, stopping by the Capricorn Caves then headed north to Yeppoon, Byfield National Park, then got sandy and salty as we island hopped to the sensational Pumpkin Island and Great Keppel Island.
We have all the details here as well as this helpful infographic to help you research and plan your visit to this region.
Click here to download the map in PDF format or take a screenshot, it’s a fabulous resource for your travels and see below for more details on each location.
Our Capricorn Coast ‘Must See’ locations:
1. Rockhampton ‘FREE’ Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
With more than 60 species of native and exotic animals, Rockhampton Zoo is a great day out for young and old. A highlight of our visit was meeting the newest member of the chimpanzee family, baby Capri. She is full of spunk and very entertaining as she climbs about causing mischief like all toddlers do! The kids also loved seeing ‘The Colonel’ a 4.5 meter salt water Crocodile, Henry the friendly Emu and a playful pair of Otters.
Just across the road you will find the gorgeous Botanic Gardens which is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch or a meal from the garden cafe.
The Zoo is open from 8am – 4:30pm everyday, with keeper talks held in the afternoon. Entry is free (with small donations appreciated).
The Botanical Gardens are open 6am – 6.30pm. Entry is free.
2. Mt Hay Thunder Eggs
A short 40 minute drive from Rockhampton takes you to Mt Hay Gemstone Tourist Park. This is a wonderful place for families to try their hand at fossicking and learn the wonders of the ‘Thunder Egg’. Thunder eggs or ‘volcanic birthstones’ are crystalline formations that occur when gas bubbles in molten lava solidify on cooling. They look like normal rocks but once cut in half they reveal beautiful patterns of semi-precious minerals inside that can be made up of quartz, amethyst, agate and jasper.
We loved our time here and couldn’t get enough of it. To find a 120 million year old rock bubble with your own hands then have it cut open right before your eyes is pretty special. This is a great science lesson for the whole family and you will love discovering all the different fossils, crystals and rock types on display in the gardens and souvenir shop.
Mt Hay is open daily from 8.30am – 4.30pm. Enclosed footwear must be worn. BBQ picnic and Camping facilities also available.
3. Capricorn Caves
These magnificent caves are located just 30 minutes north of Rockhampton and are another attraction that appeals to all ages. The Cathedral Cave Tour is the most popular and is also wheelchair accessible. It showcases the stunning formation and amazing natural acoustics within the Cathedral Chamber. As a popular venue for weddings and even underground Opera, it’s definitely a scene to behold.
For the adventurous there are ‘Adventure Caving Tours’ which had us getting down and dirty, crawling through all kinds of tiny rock formations. The newly added ‘Fossil tour’ was also a big hit for our family. We travelled back in time to discover the fossils of ancient creatures, met giant prehistoric beasts and even tried our hand at finding tiny fossils in their dig pit. The onsite visitor centre/cafe provides fascinating information about the local geology, the native bats, as well as a live display of lizards, frogs and crawly creatures.
To read more about what we got up to click here.
The Capricorn Caves are open every day 8am – 6pm. You can enjoy a day trip from Rockhampton or choose to stay in the onsite cabins or camp in the caravan park.
4. Yeppoon Lagoon
Set against the backdrop of The Keppels, the Yeppoon Lagoon is definitely a hot contender for the prettiest infinity pool in Australia. If the glowing turquoise water isn’t inviting enough to make you want to jump in, the swim-up infinity edge that overlooks panoramic views of the ocean definitely will. Once you have cooled off, you can kick back in a comfy sun chair with a coffee, ice cream or snack from the cafe. Check out the vibrant street art that you can find throughout the community too. We spent ages here and couldn’t get the kids out of the kids splash pool.
5. Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary
Ever wanted to cuddle a Koala or pat a Kangaroo? Hold a Snake or cuddle a Croc? You can do this and more at Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary. Located just 28 minutes from Rockhampton and 15 minutes from Yeppoon. The daily animal show at 1 pm showcases all their furry, slippery and scaled residents providing a great day for animal lovers. The park offers all kinds of animal encounters and zoo keeper programs. Your admission fee also gives you access to the onsite Swimming pool and barbecue facilities. After our visit here we continued on to Byfield National Park for a picnic.
6. Byfield National Park
Just 25 minutes north of Yeppoon you will find Byfield National Park. With outstanding coastal scenery, huge sand dunes, rugged pinnacles and remote camping opportunities. There is no doubt that this National Park and Conservation Park is a spectacular pocket of wilderness.
Whether you take on the 4×4 tracks, pitch a tent or enjoy a picnic and a dip at Upper Stoney Creek, this picturesque stretch of rainforest lined creeks, rugged mountains and pine plantations will definitely provide you with a well needed nature fix.
7. Fan rock and Turtle lookout
It is definitely worth the 600 metre climb up to Turtle Lookout to admire the flooded hill tops of the Keppel Bay islands and spot turtles swimming in the water beneath you. We tackled this walk just as the sun was setting and it was such a magical experience the colours and views were sensational. It was a short drive from our caravan park at the Discovery Coolwaters Yeppoon and a great way to end a fun day of adventures.
8. Pumpkin Island
Pumpkin Island, is a hidden treasure amongst the Keppel group of Islands off the coast of Yeppoon. A quick 35 minute boat ride will deliver you to this bare foot paradise. With only 7 funky beach cottages to choose from, the island can house a maximum of 34 guests. Powered entirely by the wind and sun, it’s Australia’s first carbon positive island resort and offsets 150% of its annual carbon footprint – how cool is that!? Speaking of footprints, it wasn’t long before our Blondie tribe was out and about exploring every corner of the island, combing for beach treasures and settling into our accommodation. As it’s a self catering island we packed our own food for our stay which suited us just fine by keeping costs down and allowing us to grab a bite to eat between activities.
Click here to read about what we got up to on our Pumpkin Island getaway.
9. Great Keppel
10. Emu Park
A scenic 20 kilometre drive along the coast from Yeppoon you will find the town of Emu Park. It’s an idyllic seaside village with plenty of character. Home to the famous Singing Ship sculpture that produces a musical sound through fluted pipes when the wind blows it is a great destination to explore. Our favourite element of this town was the beautiful street art and the boardwalk that hugs the coastline.
11. Koorana Crocodile Farm
This working crocodile farm is located half an hour drive from Rockhampton or Yeppoon. Koorana Crocodile Farm offers fully guided tours conducted twice daily, it’s a great way to get up close and personal and learn more about these ancient dinosaurs. You can hold a baby croc and if you time your visit right you may even be lucky enough to see a baby croc hatch out of its egg! We were lucky to experience this and it is something we will never forget.
The onsite restaurant serves an array of crocodile dishes from Croc Curry, Croc Burgers and Steaks, as well as standard meals. Crocodile leather products are also available from the shop.
Phew! Like we said there is loads to do so we hope this has been helpful. Please drop any questions you may have in the comments below.
Want to see all this fun in action? Watch our video –
Magical Southern Great Barrier Reef and Capricorn Coast
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