Escape the hustle and bustle of Queensland’s busy city streets and escape to the country, where you’re always greeted with a firm handshake and a friendly hello. Discover a world like no other, following Queensland’s Dig The Tropic Geo-Tourism Trail, unearthing the wonders of an ancient world.
Start your adventure in the heart of Queensland’s cattle country, Rockhampton. Treat your tastebuds to breakfast at Coffee Society where you’ll find fantastic coffee and delicious breaky bites like chilli scramble, ricotta hotcakes and sweet potato rosti served with perfectly poached eggs. Be sure to grab a sweet treat from the cake cabinet for later.
After breakfast, take a stroll down to Quay Street to the rejuvenated Riverside area where you can wander along the Fitzroy River, soaking in the morning sun and fresh country air. Along the way, you’ll be able to spot some of Rockhampton’s iconic heritage buildings.
Work your way along to the Rockhampton Art Gallery and step inside to discover an exceptional range of works from some of Australia’s premier artists like Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd as well as pieces from emerging and developing local artists.
A short drive will lead you to Rockhampton’s Botanic Gardens . Visit the Gardens Tearooms, finding a quiet spot under the canopy of ancient Fig Trees to enjoy a peaceful lunch or tuck into scones with jam and cream. If you’re lucky, you’ll make friends with a cheeky lorikeet or two.
Afterward, explore the impressive gardens, taking time to wander The Arid Gardens, home to cacti and succulents, and The Japanese Garden, a tranquil oasis. Next, visit the Rockhampton Zoo, where entry is free and visitors can say hello to kangaroos, emus, otters, chimpanzees, brightly coloured macaws, crocodiles, koalas and more!
Take a drive up to Mt Archer as the sun begins to get lower in the sky. A short, 250 metre walk will lead you to a picture-perfect lookout spot. Nab a seat on the wooden beam or BYO chair then settle in and watch the incredible Queensland sky put on a show, turning brilliant shades of pink, yellow and orange.
End your day the Rocky way at The Great Western Hotel . The pub’s heritage facade almost hides the incredible undercover arena next to it, home to the local rodeo. Entry is free but you might like to book a table so you can sit and eat a delicious country dinner while watching brave cowboys and cowgirls take on a few wild bulls!
Before you set out for the day, stop in at The Two Professors for breakfast. The coffee here is fantastic and it offers a welcoming space to sit and tuck into a delicious breakfast to help you fuel up for the day.
Once you’re done, make your way to the Capricorn Caves , a 30 minute drive from the heart of Rocky. Step back millions of years in time, exploring an incredible world of limestone caves, dinosaurs and fossils. The area has a unique and fascinating history, which your guide will happily share with you during your tour.
Climb back in the car and head to Mount Morgan, around 60 minutes from the Caves. You’ll be hungry, no doubt, so go directly to the famous Mount Morgan Hot Bread Shop for lunch. Everything is made fresh, on-site, including the delicious pies and pasties, cakes, salad rolls and sweet treats - be sure to try the vanilla slice.
Take a drive around the historic mining town after lunch or join a guided tour with TMC Tours, led by a local with invaluable knowledge. Be sure to visit the Mount Morgan Railway Museum where you can learn more about the town’s rich mining history.
It’ll take you 30 minutes or so to drive from Mount Morgan to the Mt Hay Gemstone Tourist Park. Here you can roll up your sleeves and fossick for thunder eggs. While they may look like potatoes on the outside, open them up and you’ll discover brilliant patterns of all shapes, sizes and colour formed by gas bubbles in molten lava.
Make your way to the Blackdown Tableland National Park and explore some of Queensland’s iconic bushland. The drive into Blackdown is gorgeous, taking you past herds of cows grazing along the roadside before winding you up to the heart of the National Park.
Make your way along the short, 200 metre Yaddamen Dhina track which leads you to a lookout offering stunning views of the local area. You can see for miles, taking in the jagged edges of rock jutting from the Earth, blue sky as far as the eye can see and, if you’re lucky, an eagle or hawk gliding expertly overhead.
You may like to delve deeper into the park, taking the Goon Goon Dhina track, a 2.5km circuit leading you through bushland. You’ll spot the bright and unusual blooms of flowering natives and hear the calls of native Australian birds too.
With so many tracks and sights within the National Park, including a waterfall and Aboriginal artworks, there’s something for every interest and ability level. Be sure to pack a picnic and enjoy lunch in the idyllic surrounds after your hike, the sounds of birds chirping in the background.
End your day in nearby Blackwater with dinner at 21 Doon where you can sample crocodile spring rolls, pork baby spare ribs and slow cooked lamb shanks.
Before leaving Blackwater, visit the beautifully manicured Japanese Gardens,
an unexpected oasis offering visitors peace and tranquility. Back in the car and it’s onto Emerald, a little under an hour from Blackwater.
On arriving into Emerald, be sure to stop at Morton Park to see the world’s largest Van Gogh sunflower painting . It’s a great place to sit for a while and enjoy a coffee while marvelling at the magnificent work of art.
Afterward, you might like to wander the Emerald Art Gallery or spend an hour exploring the Botanic Gardens. Follow one or more of the six walking trails leading your through different sections of the gardens like the rose garden, maze, rainforest and past sculptures.
It should take 40 minutes to get from Emerald to Rubyvale, the little town with a very big history. Make your way over to Miner’s Heritage , the largest underground walk-in mine in Australia and join a guided tour of the mine’s winding tunnels. Your local guide will share invaluable knowledge on the history of Rubyvale and the mine, including tales of local legends and insight into how the mine worked before machines took over.
No doubt you’ll be tired after a big day of exploring so head directly to the New Royal Hotel Rubyvale where you’ll be greeted with a friendly, country “Hello.” Inside, wrap your hands around an ice cold beer and strike up a yarn with one of the locals. Shoot some pool then wander into the restaurant for dinner.
Make your way to the Rubyvale Cafe for breakfast and sink your teeth into their bacon and egg rolls, washed down with a great cup of coffee. Once you’re
full, head next door to the Rubyvale Gem Gallery and
marvel at the range of impressive sapphires on display, expertly cut and polished to glittering perfection.
Now you’ve seen the beautiful gems the region is famous for it’s time to try and unearth a few for yourself. Visit the Blue Gem Tourist Park for a bucket of wash and a quick course in fossicking then get to work unearthing your very own sapphire’s.
Afterward, take your well-earned hunger over to Muggachinno’s Strudel Hut . Grab a seat in the lush, green, peaceful garden and sip a coffee while nibbling on absolutely delicious homemade apple, cherry or rhubarb strudel.
Take a drive through the local area, pausing to stop in and visit the shops of local gem merchants. With so many beautiful stones displayed throughout the town, it’s well worth visiting as many as you fancy, it’ll give you a great appreciation for what the locals have unearthed.
As the sun begins to get lower in the sky, drive up to Policeman’s Nob. You’ll need to carefully pick your way over the rocks to the top, so be sure to take your time. At the top, you’ll be treated to unbeatable views of the local area, the golden afternoon sun bringing the bushland to life and illuminating the mountains in the distance. Keep an eye out for a few cheeky wallabies bounding around the rocks.
Grab dinner at the Anakie Gemfields Hotel Motel & Cafe and hear the true story of local legend, Sparrow. Outcast from the only pub within 50km for falling off his bar stool one too many times, he decided to take matters into his own hands and attempt to blow up the pub. There’s a great mural painted on the front of the building and inside you can read the story for yourself and even sit in Sparrow’s Perch.
If you’re craving more adventure continue on the Dig The Tropic route along the Capricorn Way to Winton and visit the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum
or, if you prefer, head south on the Great Inland Way and visit Carnarvon Gorge with its towering sandstone escarpments and lush native bushland.