Classic road trip series: Brisbane to Rockhampton

The drive from the Queensland capital Brisbane to the city of Rockhampton on the Tropic of Capricorn is one of big skies, rolling green pastureland and the ever present undulations of the Great Dividing Range on your left-hand side. With periodic rest breaks, the entire trip would take you eight or nine hours, but we know you want to see more than just road signs along the way. So, break up the trip at your choice of the following stops, all of which offer something really special.

Sunshine Coast (119 kilometres)

The laidback Sunshine Coast is located an easy hour’s drive north of Brisbane. You could spend a week here and still have plenty to see and do, but here are a few attractions within easy reach of the Bruce Highway to save time. The legacy of famous wildlife warrior Steve Irwin and his family, Australia Zoo at Beerwah is a must-visit. It’s home to a menagerie of furry and feathered critters and has an acclaimed Wildlife Hospital on site. Book an optional tour of the hospital and directly support its vital work.

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Back on the Bruce, Aussie World will thrill all ages with its array of rides and entertainment. The revitalised Big Pineapple has been wowing passing tourists for decades, while The Ginger Factory just outside the town of Yandina will appeal to those with young children and of course, anyone who can’t get enough ginger!

Need a place to stay? Enjoy a dash of understated luxury at Breeze Mooloolaba, Ascend Hotel Collection. It’s close to a plethora of dining options and SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium is just a short stroll from the hotel.

Brisbane to Rockhampton
Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast. Image courtesy of Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

Maryborough (149 kilometres)

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down and the kilometres melt away as you journey on to the town of Maryborough – the birthplace of Pamela Travers in 1899, who would go on to write eight novels about an enigmatic flying nanny. Travers’ books later formed the basis for the Hollywood film Mary Poppins. Travers was born in a bank building in Maryborough, which is open to the public. There are plenty of other magical Mary touches to take in around town (hint: check out the pedestrian stop and go signs!). If you happened to be visiting in July, the Mary Poppins Festival sees umbrella-toting nannies take to the streets en masse.

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Need a place to stay? Comfort Inn on Main Hervey Bay has 28 newly refurbished, air-conditioned rooms, each of which features contemporary interior design and a beautifully presented bathroom. It’s a 30-minute drive from Maryborough.

Brisbane to Rockhampton
Look for the Mary Poppins touches around town in Maryborough. Image – Bigstock

Bundaberg (110 kilometres)

Bustling Bundaberg is roughly the half way mark on this Southern Queensland roadie and it’s a town that’s packed with things to do. Plane and train spotters should make tracks to the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens – home to the excellent Hinkler Hall of Aviation and Australian Sugar Cane Railway. You may also want to visit the birthplace of Bundaberg Rum or head out to beautiful Bargara for a day at the beach. And there’ll be plenty of ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ if it’s turtle hatching time on Mon Repos Beach.

Need a place to stay? Bundaberg’s Econo Lodge Park Lane offers a variety of good value room types, an onsite eatery and refreshing tropical pool. Walk to CBD cafes and restaurants with ease.

Brisbane to Rockhampton
Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Bundaberg. Image – Adam Ford

Gladstone (186 kilometres)

Your next major destination is the port town of Gladstone, but we’re going to send you a little way off-course first. The coastal enclave of Agnes Waters and Seventeen Seventy, so named for the arrival of Captain Cook’s Endeavour here in, yes, you guessed it, 1770, is well worth the extra time behind the wheel. Relax on gorgeous beaches framed by azure water, or get a bit more physical on a kayak tour. The sunsets here are also amazing, because you get to look back from the promontory across the water to the west. However, just remember, it’s an almost two-hour drive from here to Gladstone.

Once in Gladstone, head down to the fabulous East Shores precinct for a breezy evening stroll, before settling in for dinner and drinks at Lightbox Espresso and Wine Bar.

Need a place to stay? Comfort Hotel Parklands Calliope is 20 minutes’ drive from the heart of Gladstone and combines period charm with contemporary style.

Brisbane to Rockhampton
Hit the water in Seventeen Seventy. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

Rockhampton (108 kilometres)

A leisurely hour’s drive this morning will deliver you into the historic heart of Rocky.

Need a place to stay? Quality Hotel Regent Rockhampton occupies a fully restored former TAFE college (circa 1914), and no expense has been spared upgrading the interior to 21st century standards.

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About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.

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