A City Girl’s Guide To Rockhampton

By Dinushka Gunasekara | 28th April 2024

I spent the last few years living in the Valley, where sirens lulled me to sleep and UberEats was available ‘til the wee hours of the morning. So, needless to say, moving to a small town was a bit of a culture shift. Rockhampton, your work was cut out for you to impress this city gal. 

But now that I’ve called the Beef Capital home for a few months, you can slap on a cowboy hat and call me a country bumpkin! Oozing history in its heritage architecture and all the breezy charm of a riverside destination, I’m officially converted to the regional way of life (although a Grill’d in town wouldn’t go amiss). 

So, what’s there to do in Rockhampton? Let me show you around:


From award-winning steakhouses to quaint cafes, Rockhampton is privy to an array of fresh produce and farmer’s best which the local restaurants certainly put to good use. Of course, the name of the game here is beef, but this vegetarian is going to insist you try that for yourself, sorry! 

Headricks Lane

Rockhampton’s resident gastropub is suave, moody, and the perfect backdrop for date night. On the right hand side, you’ll be greeted by the chic laneway restaurant, serving up progressive cooking in the form of elevated flavours centred around quality produce. Meanwhile, the left houses the atmospheric brewery, aka the locals’ go-to spot for a celebration as you ‘cheers’ with the tantalising cocktails. 

The Criterion Hotel

Oh, The Cri! In its 186-year history, The Criterion Hotel has hosted Queen Elizabeth II, the English cricket team, and me most Friday nights for knock-off drinks. Adorned in world flags and a smattering of disco balls, those fancying a pub feed need look no further than The Cri’s comprehensive menu. With a reputation for top-notch steaks and loaded servings, make sure to try the signature Cri fries – chunky potato chips covered in a secret bacon and creamy onion sauce, coated with mozzarella, and grilled until golden. 


This charming little spot is a vegetarian’s oasis – with a mostly plant-based menu, Kinsfolk makes brunch a refreshingly seasonal occasion. The white picnic tables and fringed umbrellas might have you thinking you jumped to Gold Coast, but the team of locals manning the cafe capture the laid-back and personable Rocky character I’ve grown to love. From the jam-packed nourish bowl to the invigorating house-made smoothies, a Kinsfolk feed always hits the spot.


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This Rockhampton institution is a family owned and operated Italian restaurant on the riverside, where conversation is buzzing and the vibes are immaculate. Complete with white tablecloths and eye-catching Renaissance-style decor, Pacino’s is a must-visit for an ambient and leisurely meal featuring pasta, pizza, and hearty mains. Just make sure to book in advance, as Pacino’s only gets busier as the week goes on! 


Pairing fresh seafood with panoramic views of the Fitzroy River, hop on Boathouse’s above-water deck for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The open-air restaurant is especially nice to beat the Rocky heat – simply order one of the delish house cocktails and the seafood board to enjoy crumbed calamari, prawn tacos, oysters and more, as you’re meant to do in the Sunshine State. 


Craving an authentic curry on the riverside? Then scurry on over to this bar and grill! The 10+ page menu captures the very best of Indian cuisine, taking you on a journey through the subcontinent via each region’s most beloved dishes. Start up north with aromatic rogan josh, before heading down south for spicy madras or jumping countries with the Sri Lankan devilled chef’s special. As for sips, their top-shelf whiskies are the tipple of choice.


While it might cause minor confusion in conversation (Where are you going? Oh, just some place), this sunny eatery and bakeshop is on my regular rotation. Beneath the soaring ceiling, you’ll find all-day brekky classics and a cabinet selection of drool-worthy salads and freshly made sweet treats that makes deciding your order difficult to say the least. The solution? Eat now and take home the rest! 


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While I sadly accepted next-day delivery probably wasn’t going to be a thing here, Rockhampton’s diverse shopping options means I barely miss it. From designer goods to artisan boutiques, there’s no need to fill my suitcase with the latest fashion and Aesop when I’m back in the city, because Rockhampton has the fix. 


The boutique of endless summer, you’ll find gorgeous labels and colourful pieces in this chic store. With the likes of Shona Joy, Nude Lucy, Ownley, Rhythm, Charlie Holiday, and more, the Summerland crew are always getting their hands on new arrivals so you can be the first to wear the trends with a distinctly Queensland twist. 

Something Different

The eclectic collection of designer fashion, homewares, and art makes this store the place to be when you’re looking for ‘something different’. From Alemais to Dinosaur Designs, In The Roundhouse, and more, each item has been selected with an eye for quality, design, and wow-factor, so you can always find a gift for a loved one – or a cheeky chance to treat yourself. 


A veritable vintage paradise, Bryher is proof that size truly doesn’t matter. Tucked next door to Kinsfolk, this tiny treasure trove is packed to the absolute brim with iconic finds and curated wares from local artisans and labels. From the stacks of statement tees to the denim collection that could rival any thrift store in Brunswick, Bryher’s ever-rotating roster makes it a must-visit on the regular. 


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Secret Girl Stuff

I’m spilling the secret – Secret Girl Stuff is a delightful reprieve for a fashion lover in this small town. The family-run boutique houses both national and global brands like Foemina, Alessandra, Bianc, and Rollie Nation, with a collection that has you planning your next long lunch simply so you can get your new piece out on the town. 

Rockhampton Mavericks

A country town at heart, it only makes sense that there’s a trove of western wear in Rockhampton, and that’s exactly what Rocky Mavericks has been for more than two decades. There are cowboy hats, western apparel, farmhouse decor, and boots aplenty, so scoot on over and grab yourself a yee-haul. 

Lilly and Lotus

Follow your nose via the sweet floral scent to this feminine haven of beautiful bouquets, carefully curated hampers, and small-batch Australian made products. Locally loved as the best wedding and event stylists in town, Lilly and Lotus’ breathtaking store celebrates all the pretty things in life, so naturally I’m obsessed!  


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While the main appeal of small town living is the slower pace, there’s quite a lot to do in Rockhampton to keep you busy. Besides a daily stroll along the Fitzroy River or searching the city for the six iconic bull statues, Rockhampton (and its surrounds) have got it going on.

Rockhampton Zoo

Fun and totally free, Rockhampton Zoo has more than 30 species of native and exotic animals for you to discover in the heart of the botanic gardens. Meet Mzuri the chimpanzee or marvel at their giant saltwater crocodile, The Colonel. There are also a bunch of animal encounters if you want to get up close and personal – think meerkats, otters, and even snakes. Oh, and did we mention visiting the zoo is totally free?!

Beauty In The Woods

When pamper calls, Beauty In The Woods has the answer. Offering an indulgent treatment menu of bespoke brows, lash lifts, luxurious facials, and massage therapy, glow-worthy skin is only an appointment away. Beauty In The Woods also stocks top-tier skincare brands like Grown Alchemist, Imbibe, and Gentle Habits when you need to restock your vanity. 


Less than an hour’s drive from Rocky is this easy-going coastal town, boasting beachside boutiques, tasty eateries, and street art accompanying your leisurely stroll. Book a stay at Yeppoon’s beautiful Surfside Motel, and start your day with an acai bowl at Lure Living, before taking a dip in Yeppoon Lagoon’s infinity pool. Take a pitstop at Hannah Jones for books, stationary, and kitsch homewares, then lunch is served zesty with margs at The Citrus Club. Golden hour is best spent at the new cocktail bar, Mr Jerry, while a reservation at The Rocks for dinner will see you enjoying world-class fine dining on the waterfront. Bliss!


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Mount Archer National Park

Up your step count by heading to the skyline at Mount Archer National Park. First stop? The treetop boardwalk, which extends 25 metres off the side of Mount Archer, so you can soak in spectacular views of the city and Fitzroy River. Pack a picnic to munch on while kicking back in the amphitheatre or stretch your legs with one of the many walking and hiking tracks weaving through the national park.  

Great Western Hotel

Saddle up for a rowdy night out! Dating back to 1862, the Great Western Hotel features four bars, a beer garden, an award-winning steakhouse, and a hefty event lineup to keep you on your toes. Most notably, the Great Western hosts rodeos (including PBR tours) to get your adrenaline racing, as well as live music, tribute shows, and line dancing. 

Great Keppel Island

Tick off the Great Barrier Reef from your bucket list with this conveniently close island getaway. Boasting white-sand beaches and aquatic adventures only a short ferry ride away, Great Keppel Island offers all the wonder and beauty of the tropics, without the crowds found on neighbouring locales. Don’t be surprised when you can’t get enough – simply book a stay at the beachfront resort of Great Keppel Hideaway and let the good times roll. 

Capricorn Caves

Fancy an adventure? Then explore the ancient Australian landscape hiding inside these limestone caves. Embark on a journey off the beaten track led by expert tour guides, who’ll lead you through a breathtaking network of caves while sharing the captivating stories they hold. Got some time on your hands? Stay the night to make the most of the tranquil bushland under a stunning canopy of stars. 

Rockhampton Museum Of Art

Get your culture fix at Rocky’s hub of art and inspiration. With an ever-expanding permanent collection tracking Australia’s modernist movement, the Rockhampton Museum of Art frequently collaborates with local creatives and First Nations people to platform the voices of Central Queensland. Open all week and free to visit, it’s an experience you’ll be thinking about long after you leave. 

By Dinushka Gunasekara A self-proclaimed Spotify connoisseur who plans her weekends on Monday, Dinushka’s least favourite time of the day is in between meals.




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