What you soon learn about the coastal Queensland city of Gladstone is that this is a destination of contrasts. On the one hand, Gladstone is home to Australia’s biggest commodity port and one of the largest coal export terminals in the world. Coal, alumina, aluminium and more are all exported from the Port of Gladstone in mind-blowing quantities, and smelting towers dot the landscape around the city. On the other, the Gladstone region is home to several species of marine turtle and is the gateway to fabulous natural attractions like Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef. Somehow these two extremes manage to co-exist. It’s a balancing act well worth seeing.
Here are some ideas for how to spend 48 hours in Gladstone. Remember to book your Gladstone getaway with Choice Hotels.
9am: Hit the deck at The Dock for brunch
Stroll down Goondoon Street through the heart of the Gladstone CBD towards the East Shores waterfront precinct, stopping to admire the heritage-listed former Gladstone Post Office on your left and Kullaroo House on your right. The Post Office building dates back to 1932, while Kullaroo was constructed in 1911 and now houses the Gladstone Port Authority. Once you reach the waterfront, pull up a pew on the deck at The Dock at East Shores for brunch. What was once a gelato and donut bar has been transformed into a quirky bistro and bar. By the way, they still do killer donuts!
10am: Explore East Shores recreational precinct
Spend some time exploring the fabulous East Shores recreational precinct, stage one of which was completed in 2014 (and stage two is currently under construction). It’s seriously impressive. Meander along the promenade and watch boats departing from the Gladstone Marina, or just relax in the lush tropical setting. Those with kids in tow will love the water play park, which is open daily. If you indulged in those donuts, walk them off on the climb up to Auckland Point Lookout. From this vantage point, you’ll get a better understanding of the sheer scale of the Port of Gladstone. Head back down the hill and over to the berthed HMAS Gladstone II. It’s maintained by the Gladstone Maritime Museum, which offers tours of the ship on weekends (closed toe footwear is required).
1pm: Dine on the catch of the day at Gladstone Fish Market
There’s nothing quite like fresh fish and chips by the water, so head around to the Gladstone Fish Market. Their onsite food truck – known as the Hot Box – looks low key but serves up an awesome choice of cooked local seafood. The chips get rave reviews. The Hot Box is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sunday.
2pm: Get cultural at the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum
Back up in town you’ll find the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum, which occupies the heritage-listed Old Town Hall. Designed in free classical style and constructed during the Great Depression, the building has been the home of the gallery and museum since 1985. The gallery hosts a diverse program of exhibitions and community events throughout the year. History buffs will love the museum’s fascinating archive of historic photographs.
6pm: Glam up for dinner and cocktails at Lightbox
Frock up for an evening in Gladstone’s entertainment precinct, starting with dinner and drinks at the sassy Lightbox Espresso and Wine Bar – located in the forecourt of the Gladstone Entertainment Convention Centre. The stylish, industrial chic setting and the eclectic cocktail menu set the scene, while the charcuterie menu offers a delicious array of shared plates and mains. Leave room for a devilish donut rum baba, served with vanilla ice cream and toasted almonds.
8pm: See a show
The Gladstone Entertainment Convention Centre (GECC) is the region’s premier arts and entertainment venue and hosts everything from performances by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, to ballet, music concerts, musical theatre, cabaret and stand-up comedy. It’s well worth checking out what’s on during your stay.
9am: Enjoy a beach break in Tannum Sands
Start your day by making a break for the beach in the relaxed coastal enclave of Tannum Sands. The drive south from Gladstone will take you around 30 minutes. Stop by the excellent Truffle Pig for brunch (or burgers and craft beers if it’s later in the day), then head across to the Tannum Sands Surf Lifesaving Club and down onto the beach. It’s patrolled in spring and summer. Leave enough time to visit the community-run Ocean Breeze Gallery or enjoy a stroll along the shaded Millennium Esplanade. There are two public artworks to check out on the Esplanade that form part of the Boyne Tannum Turtleway Artscape – a bikeway and public arts trail that extends along both sides of the Boyne River.
12.30pm: Taste local tipples at Gecko Valley Winery
If a vineyard and cellar door in sub-tropical Queensland sounds way too intriguing, hang a right at Glen Eden on the way back to Gladstone and drop by the fabulous Gecko Valley Winery. The 100-hectare estate grows chardonnay, verdelho and shiraz grapes, and incorporates a winery, café and arts and crafts gallery in a magnificent rural setting. Enjoy Mediterranean-style cuisine matched with estate wines or craft brews from the boutique Baffle Beer Brewery.
3pm: Take a stroll in Tondoon Botanic Gardens
While you’re in this neck of the woods, it’s also well worth immersing yourself in the beauty of Tondoon Botanic Gardens – which have been recognised by National Geographic as one of regional Australia’s most impressive horticultural sites. Featuring tropical, sub-tropical and wet and dry rainforest species, the gardens overlook tranquil Lake Tondoon and incorporate an arboretum, Japanese garden, sculpture trail, play areas and more. You’re likely to encounter various furry locals as you explore.
7pm: Do a steak out
Gladstone sits right in the heart of Queensland’s cattle country, so wrap up your stay with a casual steak night. Hogs Breath Café opposite Econo Lodge Rusty’s gets top billing for its grilling on TripAdvisor, but there are plenty of classic pubs and other options dotted around the city centre.
Need a place to stay?
Comfort Hotel Parklands Calliope enjoys a picturesque rural setting around 20 minutes’ drive from Gladstone, and combines period charm with contemporary style. Choose from standard rooms as well as self-contained cabins (popular with families). The hotel’s onsite eatery serves up hearty home-style fare.
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.