The Capricorn Highway – formerly Australia’s Route 66 until it was renamed as the far less exciting A4 in the early 2000s – is your route inland to some of Queensland’s nicest outback towns, stunning scenery, and national parks. Starting at Rockhampton, you can drive west for nearly 600km until the highway finishes at Barcaldine. It runs alongside the Tropic of Capricorn (and the railway track) for the whole route.
Australia is famous across the world for its incredible coastline, stunning beaches, and tropical islands. Most people who do venture inland do so via plane to see Alice Springs and Uluru and nothing else. Now don’t get me wrong, Australia’s beautiful coastline is famous for a reason and I love exploring different parts of it! But if you never venture away from the beaches you really are missing out on a lot.
In terms of the Capricorn Highway, so far I’ve only done the 200km between Rockhampton and Blackwater. We are hoping to visit some friends out in Longreach soon which means we will have driven the whole route. I’ll add on the stops after Blackwater once we’ve been!
Rockhampton, or Rocky to the locals, is the biggest city in Central Queensland. It’s known as the Beef Capital, but if you look beyond the cattle stations you’ll find a vibrant city with incredible heritage architecture, gorgeous natural scenery, and a dose of country charm usually reserved for much smaller places. Read my blog on Rockhampton here. Also, it’s not strictly on the Capricorn Highway, but the coastal town of Yeppoon about 40km east of Rocky is well worth a visit.
A small town that makes up part of the wider Rockhampton Region, Gracemere boasts plenty of amenities if you’re looking to stock up before you go. There’s also some lovely parks – the new water play area at Cedric Archer Park is a must do if you’ve got kids. If you want to see why the area is known as the beef capital, be sure to make a trip to the Livestock Exchange at the Gracemere Saleyards.
The Mount Hay Gemstone Tourist Park is your reason to stop here, but unfortunately it was closed the weekend we did our trip.
Established in 1974 to allow visitors to dig their own 120 million year old thundereggs and spherulitic rhyolite, it’s a popular destination for fossickers seeking these curious volcanic formations. Head to their website for more.
About 110km from Rockhampton, Duaringa has a reasonably priced petrol station (last time you’ll see one of those for a bit, so get your tank topped up) with a pretty decent shop and cafe attached as well as clean and well maintained bathrooms.
Pop into Mackenzie Park to the adorable community run tourist information centre. It has limited opening hours but there’s signs along the outside telling the history of the area. Mackenzie Park is also home to an impressive flying fox colony. While I can imagine some locals are not best pleased that the protected species have set up here, it’s quite a sight for tourists.
If you’re going to Blackdown Tablelands and aren’t going to camp, this small (fewer than 500 people) town is the closest place to stay. There is a cute old post office, a statue of a dingo, and a saw mill. The reason for the name isn’t certain, but it’s said to be that the first European settlers heard so many dingos howling at night they named this area after them.
An absolutely stunning national park, set 900m above the Capricorn Highway. There’s a basic campsite (no showers and drop toilets), some stunning walks, and a beautiful waterfall you can swim under. There’s a full post on Blackdown Tablelands here.
About 40km further inland lies the mining town of Blackwater, home to 8,000 people and the largest place since Rockhampton. We stayed overnight before spending the day up at the tablelands – the full post is here.
We will be doing some more inland road trips in Australia, but until then check out the great Drive Inland site for more ideas.