Straddling the Tropic of Capricorn, ROCKHAMPTON was founded after a false goldrush in 1858 left hundreds of miners stranded at a depot 40km inland on the banks of the sluggish Fitzroy River, and their rough camp was adopted by local stockmen as a convenient port. The iron trelliswork and sandstone buildings fronting the river recall the balmy 1890s, when money was pouring into the city from a prosperous cattle industry and nearby gold and copper mines; today Rockhampton feels a bit despondent – the mines have closed, the beef industry is down in the dumps and the summers, unrelieved by coastal breezes, are appallingly humid. Bearing this in mind, the city is best seen as a springboard for the adjacent Capricorn Coast.
The city is fairly small and easy to navigate. Divided by the Fitzroy River, services are clustered directly south of the Fitzroy Bridge along Quay and East streets, and the Bruce Highway runs right through town past two pairs of fibreglass bulls (repeatedly “de-balled” by pranksters).
The Tropic Marker, 3km from the river at Rockhampton’s southern entrance, is just a spire informing you of your position at 23˚ 26’ 30” S, backed by a small visitor centre.