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Emerald is viewed as the gateway to outback Queensland in Australia. Many people heading west will spend the night to break the journey between Rockhampton and Longreach. This is a shame as the town has an interesting past and is a steppingstone to the gem fields of Sapphire and the aquatic pleasures of Lake Maraboon, famous for its fishing and red claw crayfish.
So, get ready to explore the things to do in Emerald Queensland (QLD) and let us show you why Emerald should be more than just a stopover.
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Where is Emerald QLD
Emerald sits on the banks of the Nogoa River in the Central Highlands of Queensland in Australia. The closest city to the town is Rockhampton which is 270km away on the Queensland coast. The Rockhampton to Emerald drive time is around 3 hours on the Capricorn Highway.
The Emerald to Brisbane distance is around 832km depending on what route you take. When travelling inland through the towns of Dalby, Miles, Taroom and Springsure the journey can take around 9.5 hours to drive.
Some like to take the Queensland coastal route from Brisbane to Rockhampton and then head inland to Emerald. This route takes longer but is one that many people enjoy as they can stop off at coastal communities such as Hervey Bay, Bargara near Bundaberg or Yeppoon near Rockhampton.
Longreach to Emerald is 417km with a drive time of around 4.5 hours and travels through the towns of Alpha, Barcaldine and Ilfracombe.
Map of Emerald QLD
For more information see our interactive Emerald map below.
Emerald QLD Weather
Enjoying a subtropical climate Emerald weather comprises of warm to hot summers and mild, dry winters. The average Emerald QLD temperature in summer is between 34 Celsius and 21 Celsius. It is not unusual to find summer days with temperatures reaching the late 40 Celsius.
Average winter temperatures fluctuate between 22 Celsius to 6 Celsius. When visiting just be aware that winter nights have been known to reach a low of -5 Celsius.
The Emerald Central Queensland region is the traditional home of the Gayiri people who have lived in the area for thousands of years. The first European to pass through the region was Ludwig Leichhardt in 1845.
The town was established as a base for the Central line from Rockhampton in 1879 and gets its name from the lush green pastoral lands of Emerald Downs, the property of early settler Peter Fitzallan MacDonald.
What to do in Emerald QLD
When visiting there are several Emerald tourist attractions that should not be missed, here are our top picks of things to do in Emerald.
Emerald Railway Station
If you are a fan of Victorian architecture your first stop should be to the railway station. This National Trust listed railway station was built at the end of the Victorian era in 1900 and was lovingly restored in 1986.
The railways station is decorated with the beautiful wrought iron lacework of the time. One of the popular things to do in Emerald is to take a holiday snap within this charming portico.
Van Gogh Sunflower Painting
The Emerald Van Gogh Sunflower painting is a reminder that region was once a major sunflower producer.
The painting holds the record for being the world’s largest Sunflower painting and sits on the Big Easel which stands at a whopping 25 metres high. The painting is a colourful addition to the town and can be found in Morton Park.
The sunflower painting, Emerald tourism office, Mosaic Pathway and Pioneer Cottage Complex are within walking distance to each other.
Pioneer Cottage Complex
This historical village gives a glimpse into Emeralds past and includes St Marks Presbyterian Church, the towns lead lined lockup and communications museum.
The Mosaic Pathway commemorates the Centenary of Federation (1st of January 1901 to 1st of January 2001) which united the Australian colonies to form one nation.
The pathway winds its way through 100 years of Emerald’s history with a colourful range of tiled discs depicting creation, the native Murri people’s perspective of the land, exploration, settlement, industry and the future.
Emerald Town Hall
At the entrance to the Town Hall you will find a fossilised tree which is estimated to be 250 million years old. The tree was discovered in 1979 while building the new railway bridge across the Mackenzie River for the Gregory Mine.
When exploring Emerald’s CBD make sure to visit Egerton Street. Here you can view a selection of public artworks which were chosen after a public competition.
Emerald Botanic Gardens
The botanical gardens sit on the banks of the Nogoa River and includes a rose garden, bush chapel, sculptures, maze, rainforest and so much more. The gardens are a green oasis and the perfect place to relax and get back to nature.
Emerald Aquatic Centre
If you are looking to cool off or just want some family fun, head on over to the aquatic centre. Adults can enjoy a dip in the pool while children are well catered for with a toddler’s pool and splash pad for water play.
Things to do around Emerald QLD
There are lots of interesting places to visit around Emerald, the town is the gateway to the Gemfields, the fishing of Lake Maraboon and the stunning scenery and history of Springsure.
Fairbairn Dam was built in 1972 and its primary function is farming irrigation. This impressive dam can hold 1.3 million megalitres of water and when full is three times the size of Sydney Harbour.
If you drive over the dam and take the road up to the lookout, you will find a well shaded picnic spot with stunning views of the dam and Lake Maraboon.
Lake Maraboon Emerald would have to be one of the best fishing and boating spots around. The lake is stocked with Barramundi, Murray Cod, Yellowbelly and Saratoga. Even with this great selection of fish the real star of the show is the Red Claw freshwater crayfish that Lake Maraboon is famous for.
There is a designated swimming area and the lake is popular for water sports such as jet skiing, kayaking and water skiing. While there are no restrictions on the lake there is a no boating and no fishing zone around the Fairbairn Dam wall.
**If you are looking to fish on Lake Maraboon you will need a fishing permit, you can obtain one at the Emerald Post Office or online at daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/recreational
Visit the Gemfields
When visiting Emerald, fossicking for gems would have to be one of the top things to do. The three towns of Sapphire, Rubyvale and Anakie make up the Gemfields and are with around a 42km drive from Emerald.
As you enter Sapphire you will notice many gem shops and fossicking parks. Here you can bring out your inner miner and experience the effort it takes to mine for sapphires.
We chose to try our luck at Pats Gems Fossicking Park. We discovered that sapphires come in a range of colours including blue, yellow and green with yellow being the rarest and most valuable.
First, we dug for wash (sapphire bearing gravel), shovelled it into a sieve to shake off the dirt before swirling it in water to clean the stones and help the sapphires fall to the bottom. Then we turned the sieve out onto a table and started the painstaking process of searching for sapphires.
We were excited to find many sapphire chips and a zircon, it was a fantastic day and so much fun.
A short drive from Sapphire is Rubyvale, where you can stop in for a meal at the New Royal Hotel or head underground at the Miners Heritage – Walk in Sapphire Mine.
The Rubyvale Gem Gallery
If you are looking to buy fine quality gems look no further than the Rubyvale Gem Gallery. The gallery has an outstanding collection of sapphires and designer jewellery.
The Rubyvale Gem Gallery also has accommodation with a selection of modern self-contained apartments and a charming historic cottage.
Miners Heritage – Walk in Sapphire Mine
Just outside of Rubyvale you will find the Miners Heritage – Walk in Sapphire Mine. Here you can take a tour down into Australia’s largest underground sapphire mine and fossick for gems.
This is an fascinating tour where you will learn how mining has changed from picks and shovels to large scale machinery, the geology of the mines and the cast of characters that have made Rubyvale the town it is today. After the tour try your hand at sieving for gems, it is a lot of fun and harder than it looks.
As you drive the 67km from Emerald to Springsure you will be surprised by the contrast between the lush green crops and the dry brown countryside.
Just when you get used to the endless flat terrain the craggy peaks of the Minerva Hills National Park stand majestically on the horizon and you are engulfed in dense bushland and the towering outlines of the hills.
The Federation Woolshed is a replica of the woolsheds of the early 20th century and houses a collection of antiques and historical photos depicting the history of the area.
Next to the Federation Woolshed is a park with a windmill and an interesting array of old farming machinery and buildings.
The Federation Woolshed also acts as the visitor information centre and is open from March to October.
The Wills Memorial Site
The Wills massacre took place on the 17th of October 1861. The Wills party were early pastoralists arriving in the area with over 10,000 sheep. Nineteen people were killed including women and children and it became the largest massacre of white settlers in Australian history.
Though the Wills party were innocent victims’ retaliation to this frontier conflict was swift with many aboriginals losing their lives, a tragedy for all involved.
A memorial headstone can be viewed at the site of the conflict north of Springsure on Cullin La Ringo Road.
Old Rainworth Fort Complex
The Old Rainworth Fort Complex is a 10km drive south of Springsure. The stone fort was built in 1862 as a store house for Rainworth Station and as a shelter against aboriginal attack following the Wills massacre the previous year. On site is the Cairbeigh homestead an 1800’s school which houses a collection of historical artefacts.
**The Old Rainworth Fort is open from 10am to 3pm and closed on Thursday’s.
Minerva Hills National Park
The Minerva Hills National Park is dominated by Mt Boorambool and Mt Zamia which offer panoramic views of the surrounding region. The mountains were once volcanoes, some of the oldest in eastern Australia.
To access the park, travel 4km on Tambo Road and turn right onto Dendle’s Road drive where you can enjoy panoramic views from the lookouts, hike the walking trails, or admire the local plants and wildlife.
**The road is mainly unsealed, windy and steep making it unsuitable for caravans.
The Virgin Rock from Lions Park
The Virgin Rock is on the eastern side of Mt Zamia and named for its likeness to the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus.
The best vantage point to see the Virgin Rock is from the Lions park just north of Springsure. The park is a great place for a picnic while getting the best views of the Virgin Rock.
Where to eat in Emerald
Although we did not get the chance to dine out often, we did come across this charming restaurant for coffee and cake.
Le Porte Rosse
Le Porte Rosse is an award winning Italian restaurant that can be found on a corner close to the railway station.
We dropped in for a morning tea of coffee and cheesecake which was delicious. When the waitress carried out lunch dishes, what we saw made us regret not choosing from the lunch menu.
The restaurant has a lovely atmosphere, a taste of Italy in Emerald Queensland.
While the town has many speciality shops just waiting to be discovered, for those wanting mainstays such as Coles and Woolworths there is a choice of Emerald QLD shopping centre to choose from including The Plaza @ Emerald and the Central Highlands Marketplace.
If you are heading west to Longreach on the weekend or stopping off at the smaller towns along the way our top tip would be to stock up on essential items at the shopping centre Emerald QLD as shops shut earlier on Saturday and are closed on Sunday.
When looking for accommodation you will be spoilt for choice of Emerald motels, hotels, serviced apartments, budget accommodation, cabins and caravan parks with powered and unpowered sites.
Here are just a few examples of what the town has to offer.
Motels in Emerald QLD
The style of motels you choose will depend on how long you are staying, and which type of motel suits your needs. Below is our pick of motels which give a choice of standard motel room accommodation or fully equipped motel apartments.
Emerald Central Palms Motel
The Emerald Central Palms Motel is situated in the heart of town, just off the Gregory Highway. With Deluxe Queen Rooms, Executive King Rooms, a Self-Contained Unit, Standard Twin Rooms and Family Rooms there is a room style to suit most travellers.
Each air-conditioned room has a patio, flat-screen TV with cable channels, tea & coffee making facilities and ironing facilities. All rooms feature private bathrooms which include a hairdryer and free toiletries.
This 4-star motel features a guest courtyard and an outdoor swimming pool. There is a restaurant next door which offers breakfast and evening meals and will deliver to your room.
The motel is across the road from the Twin Cinemas and a 5-minute walk to shopping centres, supermarket and local cafes. The Hospital is a 6-minute walk away.
Emerald Park Motel
Emerald Park Motel is located across from the Central Highlands Visitor Information Centre. There are a range of rooms including Queen Rooms, Twin Rooms and Queen Rooms with Disability Access.
All rooms come with a flat screen TV and fully equipped kitchenette which includes a microwave, kettle, toaster, fridge and Delonghi Coffee Machine. All cutlery, crockery and glassware are provided.
There is a table and chairs to enjoy the garden view and there is a fully equipped guest laundry with coin operated washing machines and dryers. The motel is a 5 minutes’ walk to the showgrounds, restaurants, cafes, and fast food stores.
Emerald Motel Apartments
This motel has an array of apartment styles including the Executive One Bedroom Spa Apartments, One Bedroom Accessible Apartment and Executive Family 4 Spa Apartment. These stand-alone fully self-contained apartments feature a fully equipped kitchen with an oven, stove and a microwave.
Each apartment has a living room with a flat-screen TV and boasts a spa bath and laundry facilities. There is also an easy access apartment with a roll in shower instead of a spa bath.
The apartments have a private patio with garden views and are just 500 metres from the town centre and the Hospital is directly across the street.
Emerald Hotel QLD
There are a few hotels in Emerald Queensland with some featuring Aparthotel accommodation. We have also included budget style hotel accommodation.
Direct Hotels – Villas on Rivergum
Offering one and two bedroom self-contained apartments the Direct Hotels – Villas on Rivergum is an 8-minute drive from the centre of town.
All the apartments are air-conditioned with a fully equipped kitchen, dining and lounge area. There is a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a DVD player. The bathroom has a hairdryer and free toiletries. The patio has garden views.
The hotel is a 6-minute drive from the botanic gardens and a 30-minute drive from Lake Maraboon and the Sapphire Gem Fields.
The Irish Village
If you are looking for cheap accommodation Emerald QLD, the Irish Village Hotel offer a range of budget accommodation.
The Irish Village is in the centre of town, directly across the road from the historic railway station and walking distance to restaurants and shops.
Attached to an Irish pub the hotel offers budget single rooms and budget rooms for 5 guests with shared bathroom facilities.
The refurbished rooms are air-conditioned and have a flat screen TV and are above the hotel’s restaurant and bar area. There is a self-service laundry and a communal kitchen with a microwave, tea & coffee making facilities and a dining area.
Emerald Caravan Park QLD
If you are caravanning or camping and looking for a caravan park accommodation look no further than the Emerald Cabin and Caravan Village.
The village is a short walk to the aquatic centre and Emerald Golf Club. There are a range of cabins and well shaded powered and unpowered campsites. Facilities include a camp kitchen, laundry and unisex suite bathrooms.
Caravan Parks Near Emerald QLD
Lake Maraboon is a popular boating and fishing spot which is a short 23km drive from Emerald. Lake Maraboon is famous for red claw crayfish and is well stocked with a variety of fish including Barramundi.
The holiday village has a range of cabin accommodation from Deluxe 2 bedroom Villas, Family Cabins, Lake View Cabins & Disabled Access Cabin.
Lake Maraboon Holiday Village offer powered and unpowered sites and if you are travelling with a dog there are pet friendly powered sites available. For meals you can use the camp kitchen or visit the seasonal restaurant.
Quick Facts on getting to Emerald
There are several ways to get to Emerald Queensland Australia, by car, train and plane. If you are travelling by car, here are the distances between a selection of popular Queensland destinations.
The distance from Brisbane to Emerald is 832km (depending on route)
Emerald to Rockhampton is a short 270km
The drive from Emerald to Longreach is 417km
The distance from Emerald to Winton is 596km
Emerald to Townsville is 613km (depending on route)
The journey from Emerald to Charters Towers is 478km
The drive from Emerald to Carnarvon Gorge is 239Km
Train to Emerald
The Spirit of the Outback travels to Emerald twice a week on its way to Longreach. The Brisbane to Emerald train departs from Brisbane’s Roma Street Station on Tuesdays and Saturdays, arriving on Wednesday or Sunday depending on which service you take.
Trains from Emerald to Brisbane depart from Emerald Station Monday and Thursday, arriving in Brisbane on Tuesday or Friday depending on which day you choose to travel.
Flights to Emerald
Qantas flies to Emerald Airport daily with multiple flight times to choose from, flights take around 1.5 hours to reach the destination.
Last Words on things to do in Emerald Queensland
As I said in the beginning Emerald is more than just a stopover. It is a place to discover Queensland’s pioneering roots, to experience the natural beauty of the region and to appreciate the hard work and dedication of the sapphire miners.
We have enjoyed our time exploring the things to do in Emerald and I am sure you will too! Have You been to Emerald? What was your favourite thing to see and do in Emerald Queensland?
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