8 Hidden Gems in the Capricorn Region

Looking for things to do in the Capricorn Region? This guide covers 8 of the best places to visit!

The Queensland Travel Guide acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the various destinations mentioned in this guide are situated. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continued spiritual and cultural connections to Country. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.

The Capricorn Region encompasses a broad area starting from Yeppoon in the east on the Capricorn Coast, stretching westward through Rockhampton and extending further inland to Emerald in the Central Highlands. The region offers several hidden gems, including natural wonders, vibrant communities, and historical sites. 

The region is well-known for its proximity to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, particularly around the Keppel group of islands, which includes Great Keppel Island. Its beautiful beaches and island getaways contrast sharply with the rugged inland areas characterised by cattle ranching, mining, and significant agricultural activities.

The area is marked by a rich cultural heritage, including significant Indigenous history and sites, historic towns built during the gold rush and mining booms, and natural attractions such as the Carnarvon Gorge and the Sapphire Gemfields in the west. 

In this guide, whileI‘ll cover both the region’s more well-known attractions and a few of its hidden gems.

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1. Yeppoon

Yeppoon serves as a gateway to the wonders of the Southern Great Barrier Reef and offers more than just your average beach town vibe. 

Yeppoon Main Beach is a hit with families and sun-seekers, but for those looking to escape the crowds, a short drive or a stroll can lead you to hidden coves and quiet spots like Kemp Beach or the more secluded Cooee Bay. 

Yeppoon is also a launchpad for adventures on the Great Barrier Reef. Just off the coast, you’ll find Keppel Bay Islands, where snorkelling and diving are top-notch, with local operators like Freedom Fast Cats and Keppel Dive offering guided tours that let you swim alongside turtles and over coral gardens without battling the crowds found further north.

Back on land, don’t miss the Yeppoon Lagoon. This resort-style pool offers a slice of luxury with its infinity edge and views over the beach. It’s the perfect place to cool off without worrying about jellyfish or tides, and best of all, it’s free to the public. 

Adjacent to the lagoon, the Yeppoon foreshore area has undergone recent upgrades and now features chic cafes, playgrounds, and a skate park, making it a lively hub for locals and tourists.

For a taste of local culture, head to the Yeppoon Community Markets held every Saturday morning. It’s a vibrant mix of fresh produce, crafts, and ready-to-eat treats. And for a bit of a hike with a reward, trek up to Bluff Point at Capricorn Coast National Park, especially at sunrise or sunset. The panoramic views over the Keppel Islands are spectacular.

Click here for our full guide on things to do in Yeppoon.

2. Great Keppel Island

Great Keppel Island is just a 30-minute ferry ride from Yeppoon in the southern Great Barrier Reef. It offers the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. Whether you’re snorkelling over the reef, hiking to secluded lookouts, or just chilling on one of the 17 stunning beaches, you’ll no doubt find your perfect slice of paradise.

Great Keppel offers some of the best snorkelling and diving experiences on the Capricorn Coast. The coral around the island is vibrant and healthy, with dive spots suitable for beginners and experienced divers alike. 

Popular sites include Shelving Beach, Monkey Beach, and Clam Bay, where the underwater visibility is superb, and you’re likely to see everything from sea turtles to reef sharks. Keppel Dive offers guided dives and snorkelling tours that can help even the most novice swimmers get up close and personal with the marine life.

The island has walking trails that lead through native bushland to secluded sandy bays, perfect for a private picnic or sunbathing session. One of the less trodden paths leads to the island’s highest point, offering panoramic views of the surrounding islands and the vast coral sea.

Accommodation on the island varies from eco tents and cabins to more luxurious resort options and everything in between, so you can tailor your stay to either rough it or relax in style. 

To reach Great Keppel Island, take a ferry from Rosslyn Bay, just south of Yeppoon.

Click here for our full guide on visiting Great Keppel Island.

3. Capricorn Caves

Nestled in the rugged limestone ridges north of Rockhampton, the Capricorn Caves offer a spectacular natural escape. These above-ground caves are a rare geological phenomenon, formed over millions of years, and now serve as a destination for explorers of all ages.

The Capricorn Caves are famed for their stunning cathedral-like chambers, delicate calcite decorations, and the unique wildlife that calls these caverns home, including a healthy population of bats. The caves are accessible through various tours tailored to different interests, ensuring something for everyone.

One of the most popular tours is the Cathedral Cave Tour, which is suitable for all ages. This tour takes visitors through several massive, well-lit caves and ends with a visit to the Cathedral Chamber, renowned for its perfect acoustics. This natural amphitheatre is so acoustically pure that it regularly hosts concerts and even weddings!

For those looking for a bit more excitement, the Capricorn Caves also offer adventure caving tours. On these tours, you can squeeze through tight nooks and climb over rocky ledges, all under the guidance of skilled instructors. No previous experience is required.

The caves are part of a larger eco-system that includes walking tracks on the surface. These trails wind through the dry rainforest that surrounds the caves, offering opportunities to spot native wildlife and enjoy the tranquil bushland. 

Accessible by car from Rockhampton and equipped with a cafe and picnic areas, the Capricorn Caves is a great destination for all. 

Click here to book your Capricorn Cave trip today!

4. Emu Park

Emu Park, a quaint seaside town on the Capricorn Coast, offers a charming retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. With its laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural scenery, Emu Park is a hidden gem that deserves a spot on any traveller’s itinerary.

One of the town’s standout features is the Singing Ship, a unique and striking monument commemorating Captain James Cook’s exploration of the area. Perched on a scenic headland, the Singing Ship is designed to harness the coastal winds, which create melodic tones passing through its structure. 

Just a stone’s throw from the Singing Ship, you can stroll down to the ANZAC Memorial.  This beautifully designed memorial, with its dramatic gateway and walking paths, provides a solemn space to honour the sacrifices of ANZAC soldiers. The panoramic views over the coastline make it a must-visit for its historical significance and stunning location.

Emu Park also has some beautiful beaches. Main Beach, with its gentle waves and wide stretch of sand, is perfect for families and swimmers. For a more secluded experience, explore the smaller Shelly Beach, where you can often have it almost to yourself, making it an ideal spot for a peaceful afternoon by the sea.

If you like local history, don’t miss the Emu Park Historical Museum. Alternatively, indulge in some fresh seafood at one of the local eateries, where the day’s catch is always on the menu.

5. Byfield National Park

Byfield National Park, located north of Yeppoon and stretching along the coast, offers natural beauty and rugged wilderness. This park is a gem for those who thrive on outdoor adventures and seek to explore beyond the beaten path.

The park’s landscape is a dramatic mix of ancient dunes, sweeping beaches, dense forests, and wetlands, all teeming with wildlife. Its diverse ecosystems make it a fascinating area for nature lovers and environmentalists. You can spend your days bird watching, spotting everything from powerful owls to the elusive beach stone-curlew, or searching for the rare Byfield fern.

Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a multi-day camping adventure, Stoney Creek in Byfield National Park is a refreshing escape into nature. Here, you can enjoy the sounds of flowing water and the green beauty of the surrounding forest, which is ideal for a leisurely hike or a picnic by the water.

For the more adventurous, Byfield National Park has sandy tracks perfect for four-wheel driving, leading you through thick forests to hidden coastal spots. Water Park Creek is ideal for kayaking, where you might glimpse a shy platypus under a canopy of trees. 

For those who like to mix history with their hiking, the park’s old logging tracks can be explored on foot or by mountain bike, offering a peek into the area’s past.

Byfield National Park offers several campgrounds, ranging from the well-equipped Five Rocks campground, accessible by four-wheel drive, to more primitive beachfront sites at Nine Mile Beach. Each site offers a different perspective of the park’s vast beauty, from forest settings to ocean views.

Whether you’re up for a leisurely day trip or a few nights under the stars, Byfield offers a range of adventures for those who like to get off the beaten track.

6. Mount Archer Park

Image credit thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland

Crowned by Mount Archer itself, which rises 604 meters above sea level, Mount Archer National Park is the highest peak in the Rockhampton area, making it a fantastic vantage point for breathtaking views over the city and the surrounding countryside, including the Fitzroy River and the volcanic peaks of the Berserker Range.

Getting to the summit is a treat for those who enjoy scenic drives. Once there, you can choose from several walking trails, ranging from leisurely strolls to more challenging hikes. 

The Zamia Walk is particularly popular. It winds through native bushland to a lookout that offers expansive views. For those visiting with kids or who prefer a shorter walk, the Bracken Fern Way is a gentle path that offers plenty of scenic rewards without too much effort.

Mount Archer has recently added the Nurim Circuit Elevated Boardwalk. This boardwalk extends 25 metres over the cliff edge, giving visitors an almost bird-like perspective of the area. 

The area has several picnic areas where families and groups can enjoy a meal. These spots become particularly magical at sunrise or sunset, bathed in the sun’s golden glow.

Whether you want to stretch your legs on its walking trails, find the perfect picnic spot, or just soak in some incredible views, Mount Archer National Park delivers a memorable experience.

7. Blackdown Tableland National Park

In the highlands west of Rockhampton, Blackdown Tableland National Park is a distinct change of scenery from the coastal landscapes of the Capricorn region. Sitting atop a dramatic plateau, this park offers spectacular scenery with waterfalls, gorges, sandstone formations and Aboriginal rock art.

As you venture into Blackdown Tableland, the first thing that strikes you is the dramatic elevation change as the road winds up to the tableland. Once on top, you’ll enjoy stunning views that stretch far into the horizon, including landscape featuring deep gorges and striking cliff lines.

One of the park’s standout features is Rainbow Falls (Munall Falls). Visitors can enjoy a scenic walk ending at the falls, which cascade over a broad, rocky ledge into a clear pool below. It’s a perfect spot for a dip on a warm day. Along the way, watch for the park’s diverse flora and fauna.

Blackdown Tableland is steeped in the heritage of the Ghungalu people, the land’s traditional custodians. The park offers a glimpse into their rich cultural history through protected sites that feature ancient rock art and traditional meeting places, providing a reminder of the area’s significance long before it became a national park.

Munall Campground offers basic amenities and camping within the park. Nighttime here is amazing, with the remote location offering some of the best stargazing opportunities in the region. 

8. Carnarvon Gorge

Carnarvon Gorge, nestled in the rugged highlands of Central Queensland, is about a four-hour drive southwest of Rockhampton. Its spectacular blend of natural wonders and ancient cultural heritage makes it a standout destination in the Capricorn region. 

The main walking track (19 km return) winds along the creek, passing towering sandstone cliffs, sub-tropical rainforests, and a series of enchanting side gorges.  The path leads to hidden gems such as the Moss Garden and the Amphitheatre, a breathtaking natural cleft in the rock that creates an acoustic marvel. 

Sites like the Art Gallery and Cathedral Cave feature thousands of Aboriginal engravings, ochre stencils, and freehand paintings that date back over 3,700 years, offering a glimpse into the spiritual and everyday lives of the Indigenous peoples who have called this place home.

The gorge offers several camping options, from the more developed Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge to the basic facilities at the Takarakka Bush Resort and Campground. 

Nightfall in the gorge is an experience of its own; as dusk settles, the sounds of nocturnal wildlife fill the air, and the lack of light pollution presents a star-gazing opportunity second to none.

The ideal time to visit Carnarvon Gorge is during the cooler months from April to September, as the temperatures are more moderate and suitable for hiking.

Click here for our detailed guide on visiting Carnarvon Gorge (coming soon).

Hopefully, this guide excites you about visiting the Capricorn Region.

If you’re planning a trip, I highly recommend you check out our Capricorn Region guide, which provides links to everything you need to know.  

I’d also recommend you join our free Queensland Travel Guide Facebook community, where you can ask all your questions and find even more great trip suggestions.

While you’re in the Capricorn Region, you might also be interested in the following nearby destinations: