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1. Firm favourites
Some watering holes never go out of style and the Keppel Bay Sailing Club, down on the Yeppoon Esplanade, is one of those places. Pull up a perch on the outside veranda and watch the light change over Great Keppel Island out on the horizon. Also, down at Yeppoon, the Strand Hotel is a retro relic. This stalwart has been around for 60 years and has undergone a facelift or two, but the stunning views over the ocean remain. A cool spot for a cold beer.
2. Cocktail hour
One of the cutest cocktail joints along the Southern Great Barrier Reef can be found at Pumpkin Island, in the Keppel Group. Not only does the island’s Sunset Lounge point west, so you can watch the sun dip over the Australian mainland, but it boasts an innovative cocktail menu. Try the Elderflower Sapphire – Bombay Sapphire Gin with elderflower cordial and sparkling mineral water; the Matsos Mule made from Absolut Vodka, Matso’s ginger beer, bitters, fresh lime and ginger; or the Watermelon Martini containing Absolut Vodka, Vanilla Liqueur, and fresh watermelon.
3. Make a goat of yourself
Housed in a former pub which was built in 1881, burnt down, and rebuilt in art-deco style, Rockhampton’s Saleyard Distillery is one of the newest entrants into the region’s drinking scene. The aptly-named couple, Cate and Warren Brewer, opened this distillery in 2017 and are already bagging awards with a gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for its gin and a bronze for its aged gin. There’s rum being brewed here too, but unlike gin, it takes several years to ferment. The gin is designed to be a reflection of the region, branded after a famous Rockhampton goat race, and because the distillery sits on the Tropic of Capricorn and the goat is the horoscope sign for Capricorn. One of only nine craft distilleries in Queensland, there’s plenty of citrus and floral flavours, from locally-sourced fruits, infused into these drops, including 16 different botanicals. You’ll also find six Crafty Fox craft beers on tap here.
4. Head to headricks
This slimline space, off of Rockhampton’s East Street, is being hailed as the ultimate in Capricorn cool with its café, bar, formal, casual and private dining downstairs, and function space upstairs. Pop in for a smart latte with breakfast, feast on a classy charcuterie board at the onsite brewery, or enjoy some fine dining in the Laneway Restaurant, while enjoying these minimalist surrounds.
5. This little piggie
Inconspicuously tucked away in an industrial area, Monkey Pig Brewing is Yeppoon’s only craft beer maker and sits side-by-side with Pigglettoes, the tasting space for the brewery. Husband and wife team Reg and Kat Taylor offer eight beers on tap including a local rosella beer made from rosella’s grown from a relative’s garden. You’ll find plenty of local flavours in their beer including Queensland vanilla, kaffir lime, banana and clove and New Zealand or Australian grains. Named Monkey Pig (after Reg’s obsession with the TV show Monkey Magic) and Piggelettoes (because the couple once had a house of straw, and it’s Spanish for “little pigs), the couple serves their craft beer in cans, instead of bottles, as they are recyclable and biodegradable. Try the Indian, Spanish, Asian, Tex-Mex, Tropical Style or High Tea share platters made by Kat.
6. Cruisy drinks
Plonked right on the Fitzroy River like a ship’s lido deck, Rockhampton’s Boathouse starts early with a great coffee and a breakfast menu serves which items such as the sugar date loaf with local honey. From 11:30am, it becomes a bar where you’ll find the likes of Queensland scallops with beef, washed down with classy cocktails like the Fitzroy Martini. Arrive for sundowners and one of the best sunset vantage points in town.