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 (though before they did, they managed to fund the fledgling BP company), 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.
It doesn't take long to look around. 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. Apart from a riverside stroll to take in the early twentieth-century architecture or the brown-stained boulders midstream that gave the city its name, there's very little else to detain you.
Recent reports of nasty incidents involving gangs of Aboriginal teenagers are unfortunately too numerous to ignore; there's no need for paranoia, but do follow local advice and don't walk alone at night.